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Waukee Community School District’s Aspiring Professional Experience (APEX) program celebrated another successful year during their first Catalyst Award and Curriculum Review Luncheon at the Des Moines Social Club on May 26, 2016.

The Waukee APEX Catalyst Award recognizes individuals or organizations who have gone above and beyond to support the APEX program, instructors, students and programming.

“These recipients’ contributions have made a profound impact on the program and ultimately in the course of students’ futures,” said Michelle Hill, director of Waukee APEX.

The event was attended by 80 of the program’s business partners, students, instructors and administrators and featured APEX alumnus, Brandon Vacco as the keynote speaker. Vacco, a junior at Waukee High School, entered the Designing Communication Solutions course with no previous design experience.

“I am now exiting the program with technical expertise, an understanding of the professional environment, direction for my career, a portfolio of work and a network in the industry that is valuable for my future,” Vacco said.

Hill, thanked those in attendance for their continued support in providing mentors, professional development, value-added project opportunities, tours, resources and host site space in eight locations throughout the metro area.

“Partnering with APEX looks different for everyone. Without the support of our businesses this program wouldn’t be possible,” Hill said.

Since its inception in 2014, the Waukee APEX program has worked with close to 400 business partners, more than 750 individuals, completed 350 projects and served more than 300 students with immeasurable hours of learning and service given back to the community.

Each year the program works to provide new opportunities for students to learn and explore areas of interest. This year, Waukee APEX served 200 Waukee High School students and partnered with Johnston Community School District to offer APEX opportunities for their students. Next year, the program will also partner with Van Meter Community School District, offer four new courses and plans to serve an additional 300 to 400 students.

This year’s Catalyst Award Winners include:

Financial Economic Sector

  • Jeff Heng – FBL Financial Services
  • Jason Clausen – SFM
  • Ray Hansen – Kidder Benefits Consultants
  • Amanda Kinna – Lincoln Saving Bank

Engineering Economic Sector

  • Michelle Huggins – Shive-Hattery
  • Cindy Friedrichsen – On With Life

Agriculture and Value Added Bioscience Sector

  • Anne Shimerdla – Blank Park Zoo

Human Services – Medical Economic Sector

  • Brianne Sanchez – Des Moines University
  • Paige Jaeger Wallace – UnityPoint Health
  • Laura Kendrick – VA Hospital of Central Iowa
  • Dr. Idit Hazan – Grand View University

Technology Economic Sector

  • John Majeski – Beacon Hill Staffing
  • Nate Olson-Daniel – LightEdge Solutions
  • Jeremy Harrington – Voce Communications
  • Jim Swanson – Performance Marketing
  • DLR Group