Helping Kids Succeed in School and in Life

2015 Kids' Best Friend Awards Event Honors Ray Jones, Nicki Scott, Vicki Coletta, Brand and Mary Ann Bobosky

The Education Center achieved a significant milestone this year as the organization celebrates its 36th anniversary – with a record of helping thousands of local children successfully overcome obstacles and gain success academically, socially, and within their families. “Our kids may be struggling with a learning disability, the loss of a parent or sibling, or just need a helping hand to get through a difficult situation,” stated Dr. Michael Litow, executive director. “The mission has never changed for The Education Center since its inception in 1979 – that of helping every child succeed in school and in life.” The program consists of a unique “life-coaching” approach, which creates an individual approach for each child enrolled in programming and meets their specific needs.
At this year’s Kids’ Best Friend Benefit and Awards Dinner, The Education Center honored five local leaders who are dedicated to the well-being of children and families. Several of the award winners have been working with youth for more than 40 years.

This year´s awards and winners are:

  • Kid's Best Friend Award– Ray Jones
  • Outstanding Community Leader Award– Nicki Scott
  • Making a Difference Award– Vicki Coletta
  • George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award– Brand and Mary Ann Bobosky

Kids´ Best Friend Award
Ray Jones

"Our Kid's Best Friend Award recipient, Ray Jones, is well-known for his support of schools, spearheading fundraising events, and for his philanthropy," said Litow. "His kindness and generous nature have helped people of all ages." Jones, owner of Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home in Naperville, has been an active community leader for almost 40 years. Having lost his father when he was a little boy, Jones shares that he always wanted to be a funeral director. "It's a calling," he said. "It's also a community service." Jones believes that, if you're going to be in business in the community, you need to be involved in the community. In a recent NCTV interview, he explained, "I believe in reaching out to the youth in the community and to the seniors and the elderly." And reach out he does. This warm-hearted man has served on numerous boards, including those at Edward Hospital, Naperville's Little Friends, Little League, United Way, and Loaves & Fishes. He is currently a commissioner of the Naperville Police and Fire Board and a board member of St. Patrick's Residence. Each year, Jones serves as chairman of the St. Patrick's Residence "Gold Key Gala," a fundraiser that he originated. He also chairs the largest annual fundraiser and capital campaign for SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, "Light the Way" and "Pass It On." Sister Anthony Veilleux, St. Patrick's Administrator from 1994-2003 and current assistant administrator, thanked the Education Center for recognizing Ray's community efforts. "Ray has been an integral part of the St. Patrick's family since the days when St. Patrick's was at its original location in Joliet. When we relocated to Naperville 26 years ago, Ray made the transition with us and continues to serve on our board of directors. He has given us guidance and has impacted our facility with his friendship and the love he brings into our home."   Sr. Anthony added, "In 2004, he pulled together a committee of volunteers to organize a celebration, the Gold Key Gala, to recognize the 40th anniversary of St. Patrick's Residence.  The event was so well received that we continue to hold the Gold Key Gala each September.  The Gala has raised over $950,000 in net proceeds which have been used enhance the programs and services for our residents." Jones has shown a similar passion for efforts on behalf of youth. According to Judy Ellertson, executive director of the Fry Family YMCA, "Ray Jones has very quietly been an exceptional advocate for the YMCA and its work with young people in the community.  Ray understands and appreciates the importance of values, mentoring and leadership in the development of young people.  Ray's sponsorship of the youth sports program, the Y's annual Prayer Breakfast and many more civic endeavors is evidence of his ongoing commitment to building a stronger and more vibrant community.  Kids and families in the area are fortunate to have Ray Jones as a friend and advocate".

Outstanding Community Leader Award
Nicki Scott

A plane load of positive energy arrived in America in 1993 when Nicki Scott and her family arrived from England. With an attitude of "Happiness is giving back," Scott got involved in the community and quickly earned leadership positions that have impacted people around the world. She joined the Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise in August of 2000 and quickly immersed herself in club activities - leading community service projects, chairing fundraisers, and hosting Youth Exchange and team members from other countries. In 2007, she started a grassroots international project that took the family to Tikondane, Zambia in Africa. From 2009 to 2010, Scott served as president of her Rotary Club. In a remarkable commitment to children in other parts of the world, Nicki traveled to New Delhi, India, in 2012 and worked with thousands of other volunteers trying to immunize all children younger than 5 with the polio vaccine. This effort to eradicate polio worldwide has been done through a long-standing cooperative relationship among Rotary International, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the government of India. As a result of these incredible efforts, India is now polio free. Africa may soon be declared free of this dreaded disease. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries where polio is still endemic. Scott is now serving as District 6450 Governor for Rotary International. In this position, she has traveled to meetings around the world, has trained with 537 Rotarian leaders from 200 countries, and visits all of the 63 Rotary Clubs in District 6450 in the Chicagoland area. Among her goals as district governor are bringing younger generations into the Rotary family, developing skills in young entrepreneurs to build the next generation of leaders, and promoting the Rotary Foundation and all it does to help people across the globe. In addition to her work with Rotary, Scott served as board director with Samaritan Interfaith and the Millennium Carillon Foundation. She was also one of the co-founders of Artful IMPACT, a not-for-profit that was established collaboratively between the directors and faculty of The School of Performing Arts in Naperville and a small group of community leaders. Dedicated to making people stronger through the arts, Artful IMPACT serves schools, behavioral health organizations, seniors, special needs and at-risk populations. Scott frequently recites a poem attributed to Ashish Ram, modified slightly, that sums up her philosophy of life. It is entitled "The Power of One." The final stanza reads: One voice can speak with wisdom, One heart can know what's true. One life can make a difference, You see, that difference can be you!

Making a Difference Award
Vicki Coletta

Vicki Coletta is the highly deserving recipient of this year's Making a Difference Award. Nominated by Peggy McGuire, executive director of Project HELP, Coletta is a longtime volunteer with the nonprofit, as well as president of the board. Project HELP is a child-abuse prevention center in Naperville whose mission is to empower parents, nurture families, and strengthen communities. Project HELP is affiliated with the Exchange Club of Naperville, and the agency's flagship parent mentoring program is affiliated with the National Exchange Club. In 2014, Vicki Coletta received the National Exchange Club Parent Aide of the Year Award. For the past 15 years, Coletta has been a parent mentor volunteer and has worked with numerous families with a variety of issues. She has also taught parenting classes for more than 10 years and is certified to teach the active parenting curriculum which Project HELP currently offers to the community. Coletta explained, "With a licensed professional or parent mentor, we work with a family up to a year. We help them set goals and achieve them." She added, "Parents may need help to get stress under control. We help them learn to set limits in a nurturing way." Expected outcomes for the parenting program are to increase the parent's knowledge of parenting and child development, enhance their children's social and emotional development through improved family communications, build healthier parent-child relationships, learn effective problem-solving skills, build their natural support network within their family and community, and understand how to access available community resources. In describing the many ways in which Coletta makes a difference, McGuire said, "The amount of time Vicki volunteers at Project HELP is consistent with that of a full-time job. She has the ability to work with and manage many personalities and backgrounds to create a cohesiveness that allows us to be a successful child abuse prevention center." McGuire added that Coletta is very flexible when working with staff, volunteers, board members, and families that she has been assigned. "With her charismatic personality, she is able to engage the community in Project HELP at an elevated level. She rallies the local schools, neighborhoods, and businesses to come together to help improve the agency and support local families." McGuire continued, "Vicki approaches her families through a strengths-based perspective and always meets them where they are. She looks for strengths when helping to establish goals with the families and understands the importance of small successes. Vicki frequently reminds her families of the progress they have made, especially when the family is having a tough time seeing the progress for themselves." Being a parent mentor has also impacted Coletta's life. She has worked with families from all walks of life with many different family dynamics. "My family is the most important thing in my life. I have loved being a mom and watching my daughter grow up to become an amazing young woman of excellent character and strong values." She continued, "I believe my time spent mentoring families has helped me, as well as my family, to become more open minded and accepting of others. It has helped raise our awareness of needs that we have right here in our own community. To prove this point, my husband serves on the board of 360 Youth Services and my daughter has a degree in teaching and is currently getting her master's in social work. They both enjoy being able to help those in need."

George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award
Brand and Mary Ann Bobosky

Brand and Mary Ann Bobosky have served in many leadership roles in our community, both as professionals and as volunteers. They were inspired to give back years ago and set out to contribute to their hometown in a way that would exemplify Naperville's community spirit. Their efforts have helped children, families, and the community in many ways. Brand and Mary Ann, a sixth-generation native (with Meyers and Riedy's roots), are life-long residents of the Naperville area. They both served as chairs of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and as presidents of their Rotary Clubs, Brand of the Rotary Club of Naperville and Mary Ann of the Rotary Club of Naperville/Sunrise. A local attorney specializing in commercial, real estate, and business law, as well as estate planning, Brand has served as president of Little Friends' Board of Directors, the Naperville Jaycees, and the alumni association of Benedictine University. He has also served on the board of Edward Hospital. Nicknamed "Naperville's Idea Man," he spearheaded many Naperville initiatives, including the Little Friends Bid for Kids auction which now raises over $100,000 annually, and the Rotary Club's Oktoberfest. He founded Century Walk, Naperville's outdoor public art program, and has served as president of Century Walk Corporation since 1996. Through Brand's vision and determination, Naperville now has almost 50 sculptures, mosaics, mobiles, and murals throughout the city. Mary Ann was a member of the District 203 staff and worked in the education field for 38 years, serving in the roles of teacher, guidance counselor, and administrator. She worked with former Superintendent Jim Clark and Assistant Superintendent Gene Drendel to start The Naperville Education Foundation for the district and later became director of community relations, working with Superintendents Don Weber and Alan Leis. Her warmth, knowledge, and unlimited energy helped MaryAnn to effectively establish valuable business/community partnerships, bring senior citizens and veterans into the schools, and foster parental involvement. "The key is collaboration," she explained. Mary Ann founded Advocates Building Communities, helping districts across the nation build partnerships similar to those that are so successful in Naperville. She is on the board of directors of Naperville Bank and Trust and a distinguished adviser of the DuPage Children's Museum. She is also on the advisory council of Loaves and Fishes and KidsMatter, of which she is a co-founder. Harking back to her days growing up on a farm, Mary Ann also served as a board member of the DuPage County Fair Authority. This generous and dedicated husband-wife team has received numerous accolades over the years, including the Leadership Award from the State of Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Proud to Be 203 Community Award for District 203, and the Croagh Patrick Award from the Carmelite Sisters at St. Patrick's Residents. Married for more than 50 years, the Boboskys believe their greatest achievement of all is their family. They are the proud parents of Courtney, Whitney, Blake, and Shelby and grandparents of 11. According to longtime friend, Ed Channell, "I met Brand when he joined the Naperville Jaycees in 1969. He jumped right in and became one of the more involved members, even serving as president. I met Mary Ann through some of the projects we were involved in. She went on to be known as 'Naperville's Energizer Bunny!'" Channell added, "Little did I know how involved we all would become over the years. Most of us did our civic and community duties and retired. Not the Boboskys. They are more involved today than they ever were and seem to be enjoying it more. Naperville has a great asset in Mary Ann and Bo!"

More Information:

With a 97 percent success rate of graduating children who are facing a wide variety of issues that are keeping them from achieving success, The Education Center offers area families a place of hope and help. The annual Kids’ Best Friend benefit directly supports the many programs of The Education Center.

For more information about The Education Center, please contact the center at 630-420-7807.  The Education Center is located at 113 East Van Buren in Naperville.