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Gerald Brighton Young Alumni Award

Jose Sanchez Molina, 2022-23 Recipient

About the Honoree

Gerald (Gerry) Brighton first became involved with the University YMCA by participating in Freshman Camp in the late 1930s. A champion for civil rights, progressive civic leader, and professor of accountancy at UIUC, Gerry was a member and supporter of the Y for more than 70 years. He served multiple terms on the Board of Governors as a member and Chair, and later as a member of the Board of Trustees. In 1991, he was honored with the Ed Nestingen Distinguished Alumni Award.

About the Award

Presented annually since 2017 in recognition of the personal and professional accomplishments of young alumni. Awarded to alumni of the University YMCA's programs, 25 to 40 years of age, this award recognizes the noteworthy and distinctive impact of the individual's work in their community, in either a professional and/or volunteer capacity.

Jose Sanchez Molina, 2022-23 Recipient

Jose Sanchez Molina is a 2012 graduate of the University of Illinois, and was an active student leader at the Y,  serving as President of La Colectiva, a member of Amnesty International and a Bailey Scholarship recipient. As a leader in La Colectiva he was a key member in bringing the organization to the Y, where they continue to do impactful work today. Since then, he has dedicated himself to working for social justice in a variety of capacities.

Soon after graduating, he was awarded a "Claiming Our Democracy" Fellowship from the Greenlining Institute where he managed advocacy and public relations campaigns across California and worked alongside the California General Assembly to lead a record passage of 10 bills sponsored by the institute in the span of one year. He also created and implemented a grassroots and advocacy toolkit that is utilized by the institute and its coalition.

Jose later returned to his hometown of Chicago to be the Campaign Director for VOYCE (Voices of Youth in Chicago Education). In that capacity he directed public policy and public relations campaigns that resulted in passage of nationally recognized state policy. In 2016, Jose was hired by the Better Government Association (BGA) where he served as Policy Analyst for two years.

More recently Jose put his talents and communication skills to work representing several public officials. First he was hired as the Deputy Communication Officer for Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia before becoming the Director of Communication for Lt. Governor Julianna Stratton, and then the Deputy Press Secretary for Governor JB Pritzker. Currently he is the Communications Manager for NielsenIQ.

During his career, Jose has demonstrated leadership skills beyond his years and has persevered when others might have given up. Whether working with undocumented immigrants or high school students seeking a greater say in the policies that affect their lives, he has excelled at transferring skills and knowledge to empower those who he works with. As a recent alumnus, Jose has demonstrated work ethic, commitment, intelligence, and talent, in a career that has continuously worked toward positive change in our society. He continues to exemplify the leadership qualities and attributes that the University YMCA works to instill in our students.

Past Award Recipients

2023: Jose Sanchez Molina

2022: Grace Kyung

2021: Hans Lindahl

2020: Aditi Singh

2019: Kyle Williams

2018: Jenna Prochaska

2017: Molly (MJ) Altman