STERLING, Ill. — All over our area, there are people who are not just doing good - but "Multiplying Good."
Every year, we honor them with the Jefferson Awards - a nationwide foundation that celebrates amazing acts of public service. 2022 is WQAD News 8's 8th season of being a Jefferson Awards Media Partner, sponsored locally by Genesis Health System and Tyson Foods.
From Feb. 1 through March 22, News 8's Angie Sharp is introducing you to this year's nominees. To see all of our Jefferson Awards Nominees, past and present, click here.
2022 Jefferson Awards: Le Hartman
She taught high school students for more than 30 years, but Le Hartman knew she had more to give when she retired from the Eastland School District in Lanark, Illinois. Thirty miles south, there was a place - and a plan - for her.
She helped start the Whiteside Area Career Center's Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) Program, which helps high school juniors and seniors become entrepreneurs. There are no textbooks, no tests, no classrooms.
"I try to tell the kids, 'we're just going to focus on learning and not grades,'" explained Hartman. "It's a safe place. It's a safe place to fail is what we like to say."
In the WACC CEO Program, students create their own businesses and are paired with mentors in the community to help them turn a profit, which is then donated to nonprofits.
"Many times the students don't even know what's available in the community," she said. "So by the time they go on 40-to-50 business visits or tours, including nonprofits, by the time they meet 50-60 professionals who come into the classroom who teach the content, they're like, wow, I had no idea these things existed."
"We have a kitchen incubator, which is available for anybody who wants start a food business," she continued. "We have a business incubator. They don't know that that exists. And that's right here in their community."
As a Facilitator, Hartman gets to experience and help these young adults grow and succeed. In fact, it was one of those former students who nominated her for the Jefferson Awards:
"When you work really hard at something, you don't do it for a recognition," she said through tears. "But when someone who was in your class and who is also on the Board overseeing what you're doing makes the choice to recognize that this is something, that's very good."
"I know that teachers are role models, but you don't really think about that when you're interacting and working. I don't mean this to sound the way it does, but what I do is important, and if it doesn't work, then that's kind of on me. I have to work hard here. It was a great new challenge for me."
Hartman is "Multiplying Good" through her selfless acts of public service - which is why WQAD is honored to recognize her as one of our 2022 Jefferson Awards Nominees.
The CEO Program started in Effingham, Illinois. To learn more, click here.
To see Hartman's entire interview with News 8's Angie Sharp, watch the video below.
Watch more Jefferson Award nominee stories on News 8's YouTube channel