1001 S. Wright St., Champaign, IL 61820 | Summer Hours: M-F, 10AM-4PM |  hello.ymca@universityymca.org  |  (217) 337-1500

Distinguished Service Award

Belinda Guillen, Ross Wantland, Joaquin Lainson, 2022-23 Recipients

About the Honoree

Established by the Board of Governors, this award recognizes individuals who epitomize a core value of the University YMCA: service to others and the community.

About the Award

Presented to students, staff or community members who have shown involvement and commitment to programs and leadership at the University YMCA. The Distinguished Service Award will go to one Student, and one other person who stands out as extraordinary among those nominated. Nominations arise from involvement with any of the University YMCA programs and the University YMCA as a whole.

Belinda Guillen, Ross Wantland, Joaquin Lainson, 2022-23 Recipients

Belinda Guillen is the Community Outreach Manager for the New American Welcome Center (NAWC) at the University YMCA. From Puebla Mexico, she arrived three years ago to Champaign when her husband was relocated to Danville from the same company in Mexico. Belinda initially joined the NAWC team in February 2020, not as staff but as a volunteer Community Navigator. As a Community Navigator she was responsible for connecting with local immigrant communities and implementing the New American Welcome Center’s outreach programs, serving as an educator and advocate by engaging and mobilizing immigrant communities, conducting public educational sessions, and providing accompaniment to Champaign County’s immigrant community.

Her success as a volunteer led Belinda to her current position on staff, where she now equips and trains a team of Community Navigators from the Latinx community to educate and accompany families impacted by immigration policy. She is always looking for new ways to positively impact the lives of clients, community promoters and colleagues, bringing a human quality to her work and always willing to help anyone who needs it. She formed an excellent multicultural work team, where each community can show more about its culture and the others have the opportunity to receive it respectfully and learn more about each other.

From her work as a volunteer to her time on staff, Belinda has had an outsized impact on the New American Welcome Center, and our community.


Joaquin Lainson is a Senior at the University of Illinois, and the current President of the Philippine Student Association, one of the Y's oldest and most enduring student organizations, as well as one of the largest Asian-interest organizations on the University of Illinois campus. This fall Joaquin helped to organize the first in-person FACT conference since 2019. FACT is the largest Filipino American conference for college students in the midwest, and was attended by almost 1,000 students.

As a student leader at the Y, Joaquin has also served on the Student Board and as a member of the Board of Governors since the fall of 2021. Joaquin has been a regular, and active participant at Board meetings and a member of the Budget and Finance committee, bringing an important student perspective to a key facet of the organization. Joaquin has often taken a leadership role in the committee, presenting to the Board on its behalf, while also actively participating in conversations around the role of students at the Y and on the Board of Governors, and how the Board can support student needs.

Over the past several years Joaquin's thoughtful and diligent leadership, across many roles, has been critical, particularly during a period of disruption for students and our community. This leadership has helped to strengthen our Board, refocus our Student Programming after a period of remote learning, and has been instrumental in the growth of the University Y and our ability to serve the needs of students and our community.

Joaquin's service to the programs, community and mission of the University YMCA has been exemplary.


Ross Wantland is the Director of Curriculum Development and Education in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Illinois. During his time on campus he has been involved with the University YMCA in a number of capacities, and played a key role in the continued partnership between the University and the Y.

Working with Y Staff, campus units and community members he has participated in the planning of the Annual Interfaith Conference and the First Tuesdays program, and worked directly with students in Interfaith-in-Action. From leadership and advocacy training for student groups, to partnerships with Friday Forum he continuously supports student and community programming at the Y with his time and expertise.

Ross has also been a dedicated member of the Board of Governors of the Y. In 2021 he was asked to take over unexpectedly as Board Chair, and did so without hesitation, serving in the position for two years. As Board Chair he worked closely with Staff to lead the Y through a difficult period of remote learning and hybrid programming. He has also served on and led numerous committees, and currently is the Chair of the Development & Membership Committee.

Over his many years of involvement at the Y, Ross has shown a consistent dedication to the mission, programs and members of the Y. Whether serving on the Board, finding ways to volunteer or simply bringing his Banana Pudding to the annual Thanksgiving Potluck, he has been a constant presence in and around our building. Ross's skills, leadership and commitment have made him an exemplary leader and ambassador of our community.

Past Award Recipients

2023: Belinda Guillen, Joaquin Lainson, Ross Wantland

2022: Cassie Carroll, Sydney Curts

2021: Steve Rugg, Cheyenne Wendell

2020: Joseph Guyette, Joseph Vitosky, and elizaBeth Simpson

2019: Nishant Makhijani, Rebecca Vining, and Priya Vaikuntapathi

2018: Nancy Dietrich, Catherine Schmid, and MJ Oviatt

2017: Ricardo Diaz and Lorenzo Grego

2016: Ruta Rauber, Benjamin Daniels and Catherine Kemp

2015: Mauricio Salinas and Nate Lawrence

2014: Lorenzo Macedo and Sally Feng

2013: Geoff Merritt and Allie Wojtowicz

2012: Lucia Maldonado, Grace Kyung, and Laura Frasz

2011: Adrienne Harris, Rebecca Long, and Martha Webber

2010: Matt Rosenstein, Suhail Barot

2009: Walter Manske, Laura Gutierrez, Adam Reisberg

2008: Cassie Carroll, Michael Polito

2007: Tom Seals, Nikki Khan

2006: Sonja Kassal, Jacob Spendelow

2005: Glenn Stout, Meghan Sullivan, Queenie Tsui

2004: Walt McMahon, Matt Cheney, Jon Fisher

2003: Helen Sattherthwaite, Lori Kae Schwab

2002: Geoff Merritt, Andy Vaughn

2001: Ellie Kron, Danielle Marino

2000: Erin Krejci, Chantel Brennan, Aimee Rickman

1999: Mary Beastall, Jon Dolle

1997: Ray Leuthold, Keisha Williams

1996: Carl Bouton, Sonju Walker

1995: Stephen A. Douglas, Christopher Ramirez

1994: William Riley, Hazel Spitze, Joanne Lagattolla, Steve Frankel

1992: Tom Seals, Abbie Illenberger

1993: Jack Brighton, Tania Schusler

1991: Edith Buhs, Joanne Wells

1981: John W. Thompson