With nearly 20 years experience at Boys & Girls Clubs, Scott is passionate about creating opportunities for young people to succeed in life. He is a firm believer that children who participate in sports programs receive skills that benefit them throughout their lives. Scott was awarded a scholarship to play basketball at Olivet Nazarene University, where he graduated with a degree in Social Work. Because of this, he is deeply tied to Heart of the City’s mission to create opportunities for youth to attend college through the game of soccer. In his free time, Scott enjoys playing golf and basketball and spending time with his family.
Maria has been in non-profit development for nearly a decade, working for both national and community-based organizations. Her passion is working closely with the Lake County community to make positive impacts on youth. Maria graduated from Augustana College with degrees in Business Management & Marketing and English Literature. Maria participated in golf, volleyball and competitive horseback riding throughout her childhood and recognizes the many benefits she received from those opportunities. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter and two dogs, as well as playing recreational volleyball.
Jennifer joins us as a seasoned administrative professional with over 20 years experience with an emphasis in project management, implementation and new business development. Jennifer’s love for Waukegan and Lake County really took a leap when she became active with the Waukegan Chamber of Commerce as a volunteer in 2018. Her youngest daughter became involved with the Summer Soccer Academy offered at Heart of the City, and that is when Jennifer decided she wanted to be part of Heart of the City and its mission. In her free time, Jennifer loves cooking, being outdoors, watching her oldest daughter compete in competitive cheer and her youngest daughter play soccer and tumble.
For Dean, soccer is a way of life. He has been involved in soccer all of his life and even played professionally in England. After his professional career, Dean began coaching at Derby County F.C. Academy and has since worked as a college coach, Director of Coaching, and most recently a staff member of Illinois Youth Soccer Association. Dean was drawn to Heart of the City because he saw an opportunity to help youth access a sport that he knows can make a positive difference in their lives. A fun fact about Dean is that he loves karaoke, especially classic 90’s British songs.
Thomas has coached soccer for over 16 years and has helped build highly successful soccer programs in Northwest Illinois. In addition to serving as the head soccer coach at Elgin Pumas S.C. and Chicago Mustangs, he helped launch the Elgin Pumas Recreational Program and the Lil’ Kickers soccer franchise for children 18 months to 12 years. He has coached all levels of soccer, including professional indoor and semi-professional outdoor (UPSL), and with IYSA in the Illinois ODP program. Thomas strongly believes in developing youth players and helping them discover their true potential; building a strong foundation and teaching strong values that will help youth achieve success in their future, on and off the field.
Shelley joins us from Minneapolis, MN, where she worked the last several years at a nonprofit called Haiti Outreach. With a degree in Social Work and an MBA in Finance, Shelley has always sought avenues of employment that utilize both her skills and her passion for empowering the underserved. She has a long history of playing and coaching soccer, so she is a believer in its benefits and thrilled to be part of the team at Heart of the City! In her spare time, Shelley stays connected to family and friends and remains active by walking her dog, running, biking, and practicing Pilates.
Va Shon Watkins
Va Shon has been coaching soccer for over 7 years. He holds several USSF national coaching licenses as well as a USC coaching diploma, and he played soccer at the College of Dupage. He was the assistant coach at Elgin Community College for one year. He is excited to create a positive impact in the lives of youth in Lake County through soccer. In addition to being a soccer fanatic, Va Shon is also a movie buff and enjoys watching movies from any era, from the 40’s to modern day, as well as foreign films.
Lenda holds degrees in Exercise Science and Coaching from UW-Parkside. She played collegiate soccer at Marian University before transferring to UW-Parkside, where she also was involved with the collegiate soccer team. She has experience in exercise science research, fitness assessments, program design and analytics. She has been coaching for five years now and holds several USSF licenses. She helps coach the HOTC Elite U14 and U17 girls teams in addition to her role as College and Career Advisor. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer, biking, and spending time with her family.
Board of Directors
Lake County Community Foundation
City of Waukegan
4SBay Partners LLC
Ombudsman Educational Services
Waukegan Park District
4SBay Partners LLC
LEARN 9 Charter School
Gurnee Community Bank
First Midwest Bank
College of Lake County
Volunteers are the backbone of our organization. Without a strong board of directors and committee members supporting our efforts, we could not keep building stronger players, families, and communities in Lake County.
Interested in becoming a committee or board member? Email our Executive Director at email@example.com.