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2023 City of Highland Park Awards Recipients Announced

2023 City of Highland Park Awards Recipients Announced
Award recipients honored at awards ceremony on April 27

April 28, 2023 – The City of Highland Park is pleased to announce the 2023 Highland Park Awards recipients. Presented annually, the awards recognize those who have made positive, sustained, and impactful contributions to the community in their respective category. The Arts Award, Environmental Award, Humanitarian Award, and the Character Counts Pillar Awards were presented by the City, North Shore School District 112, Highland Park High School, and the Park District of Highland Park at a ceremony on April 27, 2023 at the Highland Park High School auditorium. A livestream recording of the ceremony is available at

Arts Award Recipient: Rhoda A. Pierce
Rhoda A. Pierce is recognized for decades of public service as an arts administrator, advocate for the cultural arts, and community leader. Longtime Executive Director of the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Rhoda also served as President of the Highland Park Public Library Board, Chair of the Highland Park Human Relations, Cultural Arts, and Historic Preservation Commissions, and as the first President of the Highland Park-Highwood Sister Cities Foundation. As Chair of the Cultural Arts Commission during the creation of the city's first 5-year cultural arts plan, Rhoda was a major force behind this effort to create a comprehensive, multifaceted strategic plan to invest in Highland Park’s vibrant arts community, leverage the arts as an economic driver, and differentiate the City as the North Shore’s home for the arts.

Character Counts Pillar Award Recipients: Juliana Aragon, Amaya Bhamkar-Galan, Matthew Boiles, Michael Brusslan, Dylan Coleman, Stella Docks, Maya Edison, Aylin Nayeli Vinnie Everastico-Antunez, Tom Gindorff, Elizabeth Happ, Bobbie Hinden, Malinka Krowka, Kathy LaMorte, Alison Mark, Maddie McCann, Isabel Olshansky, Matt Pestine, Eli Rissman, Alex Saparevski, Theoni Soulakis, Brandon Weiss, and Cooper Wellen. Three leadership groups from North Suburban Synagogue Beth El were also recognized for their work: NSS Beth El Medical Advisory Task Group (Dr. Laurie Hochberg, Dr. Jeff Kopin, Dr. Arielle Levitan and Nurse Rone Weiss), NSS Beth El HIAS Resettlement Program (Margaret Cohn, Linda Kupfer, and Suzie Lampert), and NSS Beth El Thanksgiving Project (Co-Chairs Janice Aranoff, Marlene Halpern, and Fran Pine.)

The Character Counts Pillar Awards recognize community members who exemplify the six pillars of character in their daily lives: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

Environmental Award Recipient: Rebecca Grill
Rebecca Grill is honored for her more than 19 years of service as the Park District of Highland Park’s lone Natural Areas manager. During her tenure, Rebecca has improved and expanded our community's natural areas, engaged hundreds of residents through volunteerism and education, created nature education programs that have become standard curriculum for Dist. 112 & 113 students to have a better understanding of the importance of our ravine stream habitats, and partnered with state and national organizations to ensure Highland Park had a voice in important regional decisions and research. While Rebecca is retiring in 2023, her numerous contributions to the community will have a lasting environmental impact for generations to come.

Humanitarian Award Recipient: Highland Park Community
The Highland Park Community is recognized for the many individual and collective acts of service and generosity that emerged in the aftermath of the Highland Park shooting. Friends and neighbors rallied around community members impacted by the shooting, whether through donations, volunteerism, art & cultural projects, social service supports, and more. Mayor Rotering’s comments honoring the contributions of the community are available at

Poet Laureate: Laura Joyce-Hubbard
A longtime Highland Park resident, Laura Joyce-Hubbard is appointed the City of Highland Park’s first poet laureate. An exceptional writer who brings significant literary talent, programmatic ambition, and unique experience to this new role, Hubbard was selected by a jury of experts deeply connected to Highland Park’s literary community. A 24-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who subsequently served as a commercial pilot, Laura’s work frequently draws on her wartime service and resiliency journey, particularly her experiences as a woman veteran. Laura is also deeply committed to social justice and has proposed an ambitious program to elevate diverse voices and make poetry accessible to all levels of experience and interest. A video introduction is available below and provides information about Laura’s plans for public engagement through the new Highland Park Favorite Poems Project.