The Parkland College Blog

Parkland College Alumni Mixer at Worden Martin

June 20 event part of a networking series hosted with local employers

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The Parkland College Alumni Association will host an alumni mixer in partnership with Worden Martin, Inc., on Thursday, June 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the dealer's Ford City showroom, 701 W. Marketview Dr., Champaign. 

All former Parkland College students are invited to activate their free alumni memberships and to learn the benefits of staying connected with the college. Parkland's alumni association is open to anyone who has taken a class at the college; the public is also invited to attend.

The event at Worden Martin is part of a series the association is hosting with local employers around District 505, according to Tracy Wahlfeldt, executive director of the Parkland College Foundation and Alumni Association.

"We have found that when our alumni are able to identify coworkers who also attended Parkland, they create bonds that are beneficial for both employers and the college," she said. "We want to create local networking environments that celebrate Parkland, and we look forward to discovering and welcoming new alumni throughout our district." 

Worden Martin, Inc., a regional employer of Parkland College students from within the automotive department and beyond, has long been a supportive partner with the college, says Amanda Turner, human resources administrator at Worden Martin. 

"We want to encourage our employees to continue being involved," Turner said. "Bringing the alumni association to one of our locations allows employees to interact directly with Parkland College and with their alumni coworkers." 

Student Wins Inaugural CobraVenture Pitch Showcase

Elizabeth Allen of Mahomet receives $3,000 in seed money to launch Central Illinois Vinyl

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Parkland College announced its inaugural Student Entrepreneur of the Year Monday night.

Elizabeth Allen of Mahomet has won top prize at the first-ever CobraVenture Pitch Showcase, which took place in the school's Student Union. Competing with eight other Parkland students in her cohort during the event, Allen will now receive $3,000 in seed money to start her business, Central Illinois Vinyl.

“I felt happy to win, but the entire experience was rewarding from start to finish,” Allen said. “I enjoyed getting to know the people in my group as well as the folks at Parkland College who worked hard to make it happen for us.”

Through Central Illinois Vinyl, Allen plans to provide local and short-run custom-cut vinyl records for musicians in and around central Illinois. She plans to produce the records through a lathe-cut process instead of a pressed process, allowing for high-quality stereo sound with a short turnaround and no minimum order, according to Allen.

“Vinyl records are the only physical format growing in music sales currently, and we wish to serve our scene and community by providing an affordable service,” Allen said in her pitch statement.

Judges for the pitch competition were Dan Marker of Hickory Point Bank, Carly McCrory of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, Professor Julie Weishar, chair of Parkland's Fine and Applied Arts department, Joan Dixon of the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, Eric Wilson of Serra Ventures, and Marissa Siero of University of Illinois Gies College of Business.

Monday's contest highlighted students from the CobraVenture program's pilot student accelerator lab, which launched in January. The semester-long CobraVenture accelerator provides students with an avenue for networking and business mentorship. It features a collaborative workspace, topics taught by local serial entrepreneurs, and one-on-one guidance with business mentors.

“I really loved getting to put together all the building blocks of what it takes to run a small business,” Allen said about her CobraVenture experience. “I also enjoyed listening to business owners talk about their individual journeys toward opening their startups; they were inspirational.” Allen plans to transfer to the University of Illinois in the fall.

CobraVenture is funded through existing funds from the Parkland Foundation Entrepreneurial Founders Program, Murray Wise Associates PEN Program, and those raised through its annual Entrepreneur of the Year event. Parkland Community Education, the college's noncredit arm, is helping to plan and administer the workshops. The program is operating with oversight from an advisory committee comprised of community leaders and Parkland College faculty and staff, spearheaded by Stephanie Stuart, vice president for communications and external affairs.

 

[Top image: Elizabeth Allen displays business startup at showcase; lower image, l. to r.: Marc Changnon, program facilitator; Stephanie Stuart; Allen; and Foundation Executive Director Tracy Wahlfeldt.]  

David J. Downey Named 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year

Founder, president of The Downey Group, Inc., to be honored in June

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The Parkland College Foundation recently announced its selection of David J. Downey, founder and president of The Downey Group, Inc., as the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year.
 
Mr. Downey will receive the V. Dale Cozad Entrepreneur of the Year Award during Parkland College's 10th annual Entrepreneur of the Year Banquet, presented by SUPERVALU, Inc. An annual fundraiser for the Parkland College Entrepreneurial Program, the banquet will be held Wednesday, June 12, at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign. 
 
A Canton, Illinois, native, Mr. Downey has over 40 years' experience as a life insurance producer. He became an agent for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1962 and earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign a year later. In 1966, he earned his juris doctorate from the University of Illinois College of Law, was admitted to the Illinois Bar Association, and earned the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®) professional designation, one of the oldest and most respected credentials in financial services.

Today, Mr. Downey is one of fewer than 20 individuals in the world to have qualified for the Top of the Table (placement among the top life insurance and financial service professionals worldwide) for the entire period of its existence. A former international president for the Top of the Table (1980), he also has served as national president for the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (1984). He has represented the life insurance industry before Congress, the Treasury Department, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Financial Accounting Standards Board. His company, The Downey Group, Inc., became a member of the M Financial Group in 1983.

Mr. Downey is currently a board member of First Busey Corporation and a life member of the University of Illinois Foundation Board. Formerly, he served on the board of The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, Inc., was a member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, the University of Illinois Athletic Board, and the University of Illinois College of Business Board of Overseers. He is a former University of Illinois adjunct professor of finance.

While a student at the University of Illinois, Mr. Downey was a star basketball player; as part of the 100th Anniversary of Illinois Basketball Celebration, he was chosen as a member of the All-Century Team. In addition to being selected by his teammates as Illinois' Most Valuable Player three consecutive years, he was named All Big Ten and All American and won the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor for Proficiency in Scholarship and Athletics. He still holds the single game scoring record—53 points—set in 1963 when he led the basketball team to a Big Ten Championship. In 2018, Mr. Downey was inducted into the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame.

The Entrepreneur of the Year Banquet reception begins at 5 p.m., with dinner starting at 6 p.m. During the event, the foundation will also recognize John and Marge Albin of Longview Capital Corp. as the program's 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award winner. 

The Parkland College Entrepreneurial Program is the result of a partnership between the college and community members committed to developing strong, educated leaders for today's workforce. The program provides scholarships to students demonstrating potential for growth as future managers, leaders and innovators, for immediate entry into District 505 industries and companies. Ultimately, the Entrepreneurial Program aims to increase the number of graduates with a strong work ethic and commitment to excellence that supports existing industry, creating a more attractive community to future employers.

CobraVenture Pitch Showcase, May 20

Student entrepreneurs vie for $3,000 to help launch businesses

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Aspiring student entrepreneurs from Parkland College will soon pitch their ideas before local venture capitalists, startup experts and community members as they vie for $3,000 in seed money.

Parkland College’s Entrepreneurial Network (PEN) will hold its first-ever CobraVenture Pitch Showcase Monday, May 20, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Parkland College Student Union. The contest will highlight students from the CobraVenture program’s pilot student accelerator lab, which launched in January.

Free and open to the public, the pitch competition will include a half-hour reception and business showcase followed by the pitch event. Entrepreneurship Facilitator Marc Changnon will serve as emcee. CobraVenture’s pilot cohort includes students from a variety of academic programs who want to start their own businesses while still enrolled in college.

Judging their capstone competition will be Dan Marker of Hickory Point Bank, Carly McCrory of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, Professor Julie Weishar, chair of Parkland’s Fine and Applied Arts department, Scott Miller of Green Street Realty, Joan Dixon of the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, Eric Wilson of Serra Ventures, and Marissa Siero of University of Illinois Gies College of Business.

The semester-long CobraVenture accelerator provides students with an avenue for networking and business mentorship. It features a collaborative workspace, topics taught by local serial entrepreneurs, and one-on-one guidance with business mentors. Participants in the spring 2019 cohort have worked hard on getting started with their business plans to become their own boss.

CobraVenture is funded through existing funds from the Parkland Foundation Entrepreneurial Founders Program, Murray Wise Associates PEN Program, and those raised through its annual Entrepreneur of the Year event. Parkland Community Education, the college's noncredit arm, is helping to plan and administer the workshops. The program is operating with oversight from an advisory committee comprised of community leaders and Parkland College faculty and staff, spearheaded by Stephanie Stuart, vice president for communications and external affairs.

Join the #ParklandGivingDay Celebration

Special event at 11 am; any amount to this 24-hour drive leads to student success

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The Parkland College Foundation will hold a 24-hour "50th Anniversary Day of Giving" on Wednesday, March 6, at the portal www.parkland.edu/givingday, and will celebrate it with a special event in the Student Union.

During the 11 a.m. celebration, Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen and Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin will read proclamations of support from the Cities of Champaign-Urbana, and Parkland College Trustee Jim Ayers will read the proclamation from the City of Monticello. Foundation Director Tracy Wahlfeldt will read a special certificate from Senator Scott Bennett. WPCD-FM Radio will provide music. Special giveaways and sweet treats round out the festivities.

This inaugural daylong drive, which also marks the foundation's 50th "birthday," is designed to encourage alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff and friends to help raise $50,000 toward academic scholarships, program and facility support, and related benefits disseminated through the foundation.

"We're gearing up for 24 hours of sharing from everyone who recognizes what a tremendous asset Parkland College has been and is to our students, our workforce and our community," said Parkland College President Tom Ramage. "Our faculty, staff and administrators give of themselves—every day—to improve the lives of thousands of people, nationally and internationally."

Starting at 12 a.m. and running to midnight, individuals, businesses and groups are asked to visit www.parkland.edu/givingday, search for a fund they care about (scholarships, Athletics, etc.), and donate any amount. The foundation will use the funds to assist deserving students in need, such as Parkland College student Laura Wilson.

"Thanks to the donors of Parkland College, I am providing a brighter future for my daughters," Wilson said. "If we all gave just a little, it would mean brighter futures for a lot of people."  

Residents can view the progress of the Day of Giving's goal, and are invited to share personal testimonials on how Parkland College learning support has led to their success, at #ParklandGivingDay, according to Foundation Executive Director Tracy Wahlfeldt.

"Join us on this special day to help maintain Parkland College's status as a leader in program innovation, faculty-staff involvement and student support services among Illinois community colleges," Wahlfeldt said. "Every donation moves us all toward success!"

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