The house was packed at the Gaslite Manor in Aurora for Thursday's annual Phenomenal Man Awards.
Updated: March 3, 2014 5:19PM
Seven young men receiving recognition during the Boys II Men Phenomenal Man Awards ceremony in Aurora have shown it is cool to excel.
“Tonight is about the amazing examples of young men who despite the odds made it to where they want to be,” said Clayton Muhammad, founder of the mentoring group and the city of Aurora’s director of communications.
The seventh annual Boys II Men Phenomenal Men of the Year ceremonies cast a light on the academic and community achievements of young men who overcame adversity early in their lives.
This year’s recipients were David Ferrel, Eric Mangan, Qoc’avib Revolorio, Simon Rodriguez, Yuije Sansone, Gilberto Chaidez and Jomar Mendoza.
Two Year of the Achiever Awards were given to Alexander Perez and Ronald Sickles.
Muhammad told the packed house at the Gaslite Manor in Aurora Thursday night, these were real stories of young men that until now only those close to them have truly known.
Ferrel, a 2008 East Aurora High School alum and graduate of Aurora University, is now a financial aid counselor at Lewis University. Ferrel told the younger students in the room, “It is easy when faced with adversity to give up, but remember your hard work will pay off.”
Mangan, a 2009 Waubonsie Valley High School alum and graduate of Aurora University, coordinated the field marketing campaign for Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner’s successful third term election. “Tonight we celebrate our individual efforts, tomorrow is when the real work begins. Success is best when it is shared,” Mangan said.
Revolorio, a 2013 graduate of Aurora University and 2009 alum of Indian Creek High School, was recently appointed to the Aurora Human Relations Commission. He dedicated a poem he personally wrote to the men in his life.
“Growing up with not much knowledge of our father and my siblings can contend, made it hard to dismiss his absence ... phenomenal men who have had their own troubles and worries still had time to smile and to help me through trials, much of whom are in this room,” Revolorio said.
Weisner has been a chief supporter of Boys II Men since its inception 11 years ago.
“It is a testament to what our picture holds for us when we have young men as this doing what they have accomplished,” the mayor said.
Weisner noted Aurora was recently listed as one of the top 10 safest mid-sized cities in the country as further testament to excellence. The mayor recognized three individuals for having a part in that, Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas, former Aurora Police Chief William Powell and Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez.
Perez shared he saw those “darkest times” of the city and then pledged to do his part to bring Aurora back.
“I saw many of you when you were boys and now see the results,” Perez said.
He lauded the work of Muhammad for leading the way of change through Boy II Men.
“We see the future of Aurora and know it is in good hands,” Perez said. “The pride that was missing is now back and stronger than ever.”
Sansone, a 2007 graduate of Lejeune High School at Camp Lejeune, is finishing studies at Aurora University while an intern in the communications department in the city of Aurora.
“I am grateful for the leadership and it is beautiful to see the next generation,” Sansone said.
Chaidez is a past president of Boys II Men, graduated from West Aurora High School in 2009, studied abroad and is now finishing studies at the University of Illinois. “Seven years ago if you told me what I would do today, I would not have believed you,” Chaidez said.
Mendoza honored his late aunt, for the inspiration she bestowed within him to always look for ways to strive for excellence.
“She told me there was nothing stopping me, that all I had to do was work hard,” he said.
Rodriguez served in the U.S. Army, Illinois National Guard. he 2005 East Aurora High School alum graduated last year from Illinois State University.
“When I was in high school, the kids had their pants drooping to the ground and that was considered cool. Today, when you walk the halls of East and West Aurora high schools you see guys in suits not only looking smart but getting an education and good grades,” Rodriguez said.