Scott McLellan


Executive Director

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.


Gary Potter


Director of Finance
Gary is originally from Aurora, Illinois and after graduating from Illinois State University, moved to Lake County. He has worked in non profit auditing/accounting for over 35 years, as a Partner in a Waukegan CPA firm, and a Chief Financial Officer of a social service agency. He is married to Carol and has three daughters. Gary’s free time has been filled for the past 15 years with his passion for helping run, and coaching in, a girl's travel Fastpitch softball program. He is excited to combine his nonprofit finance background with this passion for helping kids realize their combined educational/athletic dreams at Heart of the City.

Dean Smith


Sporting Director

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.


Jennifer Ptak


Director of Operations

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.


Thomas Cahue


Director of Team & Football Operations

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.


Letisia Gutierrez


Director of Sporting Operations
Lety brings over 12 years of business administrative experience in the corporate environment to her role at Heart of the City. As someone who grew up playing soccer in Waukegan, Lety has a deep passion for giving back to this community and serving the youth who live here through the game of soccer. She earned her Associates degree in Arts Business Administration from Columbia College. In her spare time, Lety enjoys watching movies, playing softball, and spending time with her kids.

Yanelly Villegas


Director of College and Career Readiness
Yanelly has worked in higher education for over seven years, offering support to students in and outside of the classroom, emphasizing student coaching and success. She recently served as an Assistant Director of Residence Life and is excited to apply her skillset in a new way. She earned her B.A. in Political Science and M.A. in Communication from Northern Illinois University. Her excitement for Heart of the City stems from a passion and care for helping youth achieve their goals and take steps to succeed in their journeys. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new biking and hiking trails with her family.

Mayrani Rios


Sporting Operations Coordinator

Mayrani has worked in customer service roles for over six years. She studied early childhood education at the College of Lake County, and has two USSF national coaching licenses. Mayrani wanted to work for Heart of the City because of its focus on helping kids in need achieve better futures. In her spare time, Mayrani enjoys watching soccer and spending time with her daughter and family.


Rena Lee


Director of Development & Marketing
Rena has worked for a variety of nonprofit organizations over the last 17 years, including two public libraries, a domestic violence organization, a live event theatre, and cultural and art museums. Working as a Development and Marketing professional, she is passionate about finding new ways to engage and positively impact communities, and helping organizations grow through partnership building and creative storytelling. Rena earned her MA in History from Colorado State University and has been a resident of Waukegan since 2008, working for and with organizations in Lake County and the surrounding areas. In her spare time, Rena loves learning about history and culture, traveling, and has a new found love of kayaking.

Tanjay Pierce


Finance & Administrative Assistant
Tanjay has worked in customer service for just over 6 years now, gaining experience with working in an administrative role and is eager to bring her skills to Heart of the City. She has worked with Community Action Partnership of Lake County and really enjoyed seeing first hand what it looks like to serve people that live in the community that she grew up in. Tanjay wanted to seek out an organization that continues to give back to the community, that's when she found Heart of the City. She's excited to embark on this new chapter. Some hobbies of hers would be watching movies and traveling as much as she can.

Rob Kettle


College Soccer Recruitment Specialist
Rob is a former college coach and club director with over 25 years of coaching experience. His collegiate career includes head coaching positions at Benedictine University (IL), Miami University (OH), California University (PA) and Curry College (MA). He holds a Master's Degree in Physical Education and a US Soccer 'A' Coaching License. Since 2014, Rob has owned/operated a college soccer recruitment service – assisting soccer players (mainly from the Chicago-area) that are looking to get recruited to play in college and receive scholarships. He has helped over 300 players get recruited in the past 6 years. Away from work, Rob spends his time over dog parks with his 170lbs bullmastiff, Tetley.