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Table of Contents
Triple Threat Mentoring LIVE on The Talk with Marion Brooks
August 5, 2013...........................................................................................................3
Teens get once-in-a-lifetime trip to estate of Wrigley heiress
Stephanie Lulay, August 3, 2013................................................................................3
Police work, community involvement lead to murder-free Aurora in 2012
Matt Hanley, January 5, 2013.....................................................................................4
Celebs in Aurora Thursday for Youth Summit
Erika Wurst, September 21, 2011...............................................................................7
Aurora police chief analyzes latest crime fgures
Erika Wurst, March 23, 2014......................................................................................8
East High students discover superhero selves through art
Katlyn Belsha, November 28, 2013............................................................................10
Students let their lights shine in exhibit at Aurora Public Library
Amy Roth, November 27, 2013..................................................................................11
East Aurora students get a taste of Shark Tank
Katlyn Belsha, November 22, 2013............................................................................12
Aurora plans to buy La Salle Street building
Stephanie Lulay, November 20, 2013........................................................................13
Marc Zonca, November 2013.....................................................................................15
Triple Threat seeks volunteers for fall mentoring program
Stephanie Lulay, August 19, 2013..............................................................................16
3Ts Trip To Helen A Richs Estate Highlighted By NBC Chicago
July 8, 2013................................................................................................................16
Former Chicago Bear hosts free camp for East Aurora kids
Erika Wurst, July 3, 2013............................................................................................17
Aurora shooting victim fnds hope in communitys caring nature
Denise Crosby, May 17, 2013....................................................................................17
Donors, volunteers honored at annual United Way breakfast
Stephanie Lulay, May 16, 2014..................................................................................18
Pro wrestler Booker T connects with students at Urban League
Stephanie Lulay February 7, 2013...........................................................................21
PR frm lands client on Tampa Bays Fox 13
May 30, 2012 May 30, 2012....................................................................................22
Weisner to welcome publishing company to Aurora
Beacon-News Staf, December 8, 2011..................................................................23
Harper College student working on NASA project
Kimberly Pohl, December 30, 2011.........................................................................24
Celebs tout safe sex, or no sex, to teens
Erika Wurst, September 23, 2011............................................................................25
Triple Threat on Radio Disney
June 13, 2011..........................................................................................................26
Triple Threat Mentoring on WCIU segment, Inspiring U
June 8, 2011............................................................................................................26
Publishing CEO, Wrigley Heiress Speaks Her Word
Monica Nitschmann, December 17, 2010...............................................................26
Wrigley heiress talks poetry to Aurora students
Marie Wilson, December 14, 2010...........................................................................27
Tiny Candle concert hits ffth year
Andre Salles, November 27, 2010...........................................................................28
Kids from public housing get look at world of high fnance
Erika Wurst, April 5, 2010........................................................................................29
Dream come true
Scott Powers, February 23, 2010............................................................................29
East Aurora teens dive into pool experience
Linda Girardi, February 25, 2013.............................................................................19
Scuba training unique experience for Aurora teens
Marie Wilson, February 23, 2013.............................................................................20
Triple Threat Mentoring
LIVE on The Talk with
Marion Brooks
CEO Caleb
Luper and
My Story
participant Marqus Fultz talk live with Marion Brooks
about My Story.
The My Story program is a unique 3T offering
that rewards its graduates with a life-changing trip to
Florida to visit Wrigley heiress and key Triple Threat
supporter Helen Rich.
August 5, 2013
Teens get once-in-a-
lifetime trip to estate of
Wrigley heiress
By Stephanie Lulay
August 3, 2013
AURORA Out of the 5,000 kids Aurora-
based Triple Threat Mentoring programs help each
year, they were the chosen fve.
As participants of Triple Threats My Story
program, a few Aurora young men underwent a 16-
week intensive session with the goal of gaining the
characteristics necessary to become great men. And the
programs graduation reward was unforgettable, East
Aurora student Juan Cortez said: a once-in-a-lifetime
trip to the sprawling Florida estate of Wrigley heiress
Helen Rosburg.
Five teens were hand-picked to take part in the
My Story program this year: West Aurora student Jarvel
Briant and East Aurora students Cortez, Marqus Fultz,
Lemuel Heath and Kavon Wright.
This program goes deep, said Caleb Luper,
the founder of the non-proft that focuses on
mentoring through athletics, arts and academics. Most
of our programs are affnity based, or passion based,
but this one is unique. Its very much learning about
yourself and what it means to be a man, and it takes
a special kind of dude to want to commit to that and
want to grow as a person.
Fifteen-year-old Juan has been involved with
Triple Threat since fourth grade, is the team captain of
the Triple Threat BMX team and has future goals: Im
hoping and working to open my own custom car shop
when I get older.
He said that completing the My Story program
gave him good advice about manhood given by
amazing people.
The program is all about how to become a man, Juan
The teens learn about courage, compassion,
confdence and companionship, he said. The program
is headed by Doug McKinley, head of the Naperville-
based McKinley Group, a frm that focuses on
leadership development, and other area volunteers lead
some sessions.
Lemuel, 16, is from a family of seven. He said
the program helped him become more aware of his
place in the world. (It helped me) realize my potential
and how to take control of my life, Lemuel said.
Wrigley connection
Rosburg initially got involved with Triple
Threat at its inception 11 years ago. Adam Mock, chief
operating offcer of Rosburgs Aurora-based publishing
company, Medallion Press, is good friends with Luper.
Caleb was trying to make a go of it and asked
if I would give him some fnancial help, Rosburg said.
Its not my style to give money to things, but (when I
do), I come with it. Ive been very involved.
Getting involved with the Aurora mentoring
program just made sense. It ft in with her own
personal mission to care for Gods innocents, animals
and children. I could never give birth to as many
children as I wanted to have, said Rosburg, who has
three children and four grandchildren. So God sent
me Triple Threat.
The estate
This is the second year that Rosburg has fown
the My Story program graduates to her 130-acre farm
in Odessa, Fla. The boys went for the very special
weekend in June, said Jordan Wilson, Triple Threats
marketing director.
They come off the airplane in a big rush. They
just mobbed me. All of these children of color just
picking me up and swinging me around, Rosburg said.
They call me Momma Helen.
The weekend trip was flled with new
experiences for the Aurora teens. Marcus, 16, called the
estate Jurassic Park. Rosburg has 300 rescue animals
on her estate horses, cattle, pigs, goats, dogs and
It was Lemuels frst time fying, riding a horse
and swimming in the ocean.
Rosburg said she will always remember
teaching Juan and Lemuel how to play backgammon.
These kids are so bright. This is not an easy game
and they picked it up so fast, Rosburg said. To see
these children shine and believe in themselves, it was
absolutely heartwarming for me to see that.
It will be an annual tradition for her to cook
dinner for the latest class of My Story graduates, served
on her fnest china in her private dining room. They
become family. I always cook one Wrigley family recipe
so that the Wrigley story is intertwined with these
boys, Rosburg said.
Marqus said that the incentive to complete the
introspective program was worth so much more than
the trip. We got to meet this amazing woman who is
nothing short of an angel, he said.
Rosburg said that shes proud to support the
My Story program, that emphasizes reaching inner
city children and makes them responsible, accountable
I could never possibly give to them as much
love as they give to me, she said.
Police work, community
involvement lead to
murder-free Aurora in
AURORA Father David Engbarth slipped
the heavy bullet-proof vest over his chest, then put his
long robes on. Finally, he stepped out into St. Nicholas
Church. It was time to start the funeral Mass.
This was the second funeral Engbarth
offciated in two days for gang members shot in
Aurora. Police were stationed outside the church. More
offcers were standing inside. Word had spread: there
was a contract out on the life of the mild-mannered
priest who spoke out against violence.
Of all the terrible days in Aurora, this was the
low point for Engbarth. Not because he was in danger,
but because the city seemed out of control. Every time
he turned around, there were shootings and murders.
Every day, there was a loss of hope. And even in the
house of God, there was no sanctuary.
And so Father Engbarth dreamed of a new
Lord, he prayed, this is my greatest prayer for
Aurora: that someday we can have a year with no
Even for a man of great faith, this seemed like
a fantasy.
City in chaos
In the late 1990s, gangs had become a cancer in
Aurora. On a normal day, the city had at least one call
for shots fred. Many hit their target. In the mid 1990s,
the city averaged more than 20 murders a year.
Aurora had always been a blue-collar city: big
By Matt Hanley
January 5, 2013
heart, a little rough around the edges. In the 1930s,
John Dillinger hung out in downtown Aurora. In the
1970s, bar fghts and underground gambling were
common. But for the most part, random violence was
the exception. In 1987, there was a single murder in
Aurora. But over the next fve years, gangs invaded.
Turf wars broke out. Aurora became a hub for drug
sales. Murders peaked with 26 in both 1995 and 1996.
It was affecting morale in the neighborhoods,
said longtime Aurora minister, Rev. Dan Haas. It
was affecting real estate prices. It was affecting people
moving to Aurora. It was affecting businesses coming
to Aurora. It was defnitely having an impact that was
unjustifed. But it was happening, nonetheless. Many
people felt the situation was beyond repair.
But then came the news last week that Aurora
the states second largest city had ended 2012
without a single murder. No little boys shot sleeping
while at their grandparents house, no women killed
standing up to an abusive
boyfriend, no teenager gunned
down when a pool party was
sprayed with bullets, no honor
roll students with their pick of
basketball scholarships mistaken
for a rival gang member. For the
frst time since 1946, the city
was homicide free.
A year without murder
is certainly reason to celebrate,
but it is also a time to refect.
What changed? Dozens of people weighed in this past
week on how the city has transformed. Most agreed
three changes made the biggest difference: community
involvement, police strategy and opportunities for
Raising awareness
Perhaps the frst step Aurora had to take in its
road to recovery was to admit there was a problem.
While the number of dead and injured would seem to
force the perspective, it wasnt always easy convincing
people to talk about the violence.
Haas and Engbarth decided to start holding
prayer vigils wherever anyone was killed. Some
religious leaders, family members of the victim and
a handful of concerned community members would
gather to pray. The spiritual aspect of the vigils
was obvious, but the pastors also wanted public
acknowledgement of the deaths.
The Prayer Coalition for Reconciliation faced
pressure from the business community and some city
offcials to stop the vigils, especially for gang members.
I would invite community leaders to the vigils and
they would decline, said Cheryl Maraffo, who started
attending the vigils after her son was shot while helping
a neighbor fx a water heater.
Denial became anger. Everyone had a tipping
point: a burglary in their neighborhood, a friend killed
or just a sense of disgust. These people who grew
up in Aurora, they had an opportunity to leave but
they didnt, said Kane County States Attorney Joe
McMahon, who worked gang cases in the late 1990s.
Really, they fought back. You had a very proud
community with a very long history that said theyd had
Changing tactics
Aurora police offcers never had the luxury
of denial; they were too busy
running from call to call. It
became clear early on that they
would need to change tactics.
In the early 1990s, Police
Chief David Stover embraced
community-oriented policing.
Traditional police work had been
patrolling the streets, writing
tickets and reacting to crime.
We were really just policing
them rather than policing
themselves with our help, said Aurora Police Chief
Greg Thomas.
Under a community-oriented model, offcers
attended community meetings with residents. Offcers
heard frst-hand accounts of the root cause of
problems. And residents who might be hesitant to talk
felt comfortable with an offcer theyd met. The street-
level intelligence was priceless.
And the second crucial decision was when
Larry Langston, police chief from 1996 to 2002,
decided to bring in help. Langston knew the federal
government could bring in manpower, dollars and
technology. For instance, state law would only allow
Aurora police to secretly record a conversation if both
parties had agreed unlikely if youre investigating a
gang member. But the federal government needed only
one-party consent.
The FBI, ATF, DEA and IRS were brought
in to assist on long-term investigations and make
mass arrests. Violent people were targeted for federal
drug charges. While a county drug conviction might
merit a 10-year sentence (of which the suspect might
only serve half), the federal government minimum
on conspiracy charges was 20 years. After conviction,
inmates were shipped nationwide, removing them from
families and fellow gang members.
These steep sentences helped shift gang
members loyalty from the gang to their own hide.
They were willing
to talk about
other crimes,
which brought
more charges
and information.
The federal-
local sweeps
peaked in 2007
with Operation First Degree Burn, which charged
an incredible 31 men with 22 unsolved Aurora gang
The same way things spiraled out of control,
they spiraled back into control, Thomas said.
Helping kids
The police work and community groups
were short-term solutions. In order to truly turn the
city around to break a cycle kids needed more
options. School districts and local government offcials
helped get more funding for programs like Weed and
Seed, the Quad County Urban League, the Junior
ROTC, TripleThreat Mentoring and more.
For some kids in the neighborhoods, they felt
their only option was to go into the gangs, said Sal
LoPiccolo, today a prosecutor in Boone County, who
worked in the Kane County States Attorneys Offce
for two decades. Now, they have somewhere else to
For East Aurora educator Clayton Muhammad,
the eye opener was in a meeting at the Quad County
Urban League.
At that meeting, then Police Chief Bill Lawler
said that 150,000 people were being held captive by 12
gang leaders. Muhammad thought if 12 bad people can
have that big of an impact, what can 12 leaders do?
Muhammad, who is now the spokesman for the East
Aurora School District, formed Boys II Men, made
up of high school boys who wanted to be leaders. Ten
years later, its one of the groups giving kids another
Now you see the black and brown faces
they would have had these stories (of violence), he
said. Now we have a generation of kids removed
from the violence.
Going forward
Police tactics, community groups and
alternatives for kids. Three crucial changes that had to
move in unison to make Engbarths dream come true.
Making it through a year with no murders is
partly good fortune: Aurora had 61 shootings in 2012,
but none happened to cause a fatality. So, zero murders
in a town of almost 200,000 residents may be luck, but
trends are not arbitrary.
In 2011 (the most recent statistics available),
for every 10,000 residents in Aurora, there were less
than 32 violent crimes. Rates in Rockford, Peoria and
Springfeld were more than twice as high. Aurora had
fewer crimes committed in 2010 than 1978, when the
population was half what it is today.
Im exceedingly proud, said Aurora Mayor
Tom Weisner. That number (zero murders) is a
symbol of what weve been doing for several years.
The offcers stepped up and did what they
were committed to doing, Thomas said. Hopefully,
this is going to be the new norm.
For Thomas, there is still work to do. Sixty
one shootings are too many. People were robbed,
burglarized and raped in Aurora last year. Yes,
zero murders is a reason for joy. Engbarth calls it
miraculous. But it does not mean crime is solved.
One of the greatest dangers is that we could lull
ourselves into complacency, Engbarth said. Even
though there are less homicides thank God and
police this could change. Theres still many forces
of evil in the world.
Celebs in Aurora
Thursday for Youth
By Erika Wurst ewurst@stmedianetwork.
com September 21, 2011
A secret panel of celebrity guests will be
in Aurora on Thursday for Black Entertainment
Television and Triple Threat Mentorings three-day
youth summit.
Celebrities and athletes, including Bears receiver
Earl Bennett, will host an HIV/AID prevention panel
called Rap-It-Up from 6 to 8 p.m. at East Aurora
High School. More than 500 students in grades eight
through 12 are expected to attend todays event, said
Triple Threat Mentoring media director Jordan Wilson.
Wilson said students were given the
opportunity to attend the event by flling out a
registration form and getting parental consent. The
panel is not open to parents or the public, Wilson said.
The summit continues throughout the weekend with
a Youth Leadership Summit Friday, and a basketball
camp from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday. All of the events take
place at East Aurora High School, 500 Tomcat Lane.
Triple Threat Mentoring was founded in the fall
of 2007 by Aurora resident Caleb Luper. It is a non-
proft organization that strives to empower youth and
help them develop confdence, character and life skills.
Aurora police chief
analyzes latest crime
By Erika Wurst ewurst@stmedianetwork.
com March 23, 2014
Throughout the Aurora Police Department,
Chief Gregory Thomas is thought of as a numbers
However, he wants to correct that notion.
When looking at 2013s newly released crime statistics,
Thomas doesnt just see numbers, he said, he sees
Each number represents a crime committed
throughout his city a city he has sworn to serve and
protect and hes doing everything he can to ensure
those numbers dont rise. We tend to think about
these crimes as numbers, Thomas said. Every one of
those reductions is one less victim of crime, and thats
what we need to understand.
When Aurora released 2013 crime statistics
earlier this month, evidence showed that Thomas is
succeeding in his mission.
Total major crimes which include categories
of murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery, aggravated
battery, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson
decreased 13.5 percent over 2012. This number
translates to mean that there were 566 fewer victims of
crime throughout the city than there had been the year
It also means that major crime in Aurora is at a
historical low percentage wise, Thomas said. When we
see the numbers change for the better and crime going
down, that is a wonderful thing, Thomas said. But,
there were also some blips on the radar.
Property crimes burglary, theft, motor
vehicle theft and arson saw declines across the
board in 2013. In fact, burglaries were reduced by
nearly 40 percent. However, the category of violent
crime murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery and
aggravated battery actually rose 6.75 percent.
There were 38 more violent crimes reported in
2013 than were reported in 2012, the report showed.
This rise was driven by the number of aggravated
batteries, which rose about 14 percent from 2012 to
2013. Murders were also up, from zero in 2012 to three
in 2013.
Categories of criminal sexual assault and
robbery were both down. One year a trend does not
make, Thomas said when discussing the rise in violent
Instead, Thomas said residents must look at the
numbers over time, and those numbers show violent
crime has declined greatly in the past two decades.
Categories of violent crime are down 33 percent in the
last two decades, which equates to approximately 300
fewer victims in 2013.
The number has been reduced nearly 25
percent since 2003 and around 22 percent since 2008.
I think its not just a single year decrease or increase
(that is telling), Thomas said. It is the trend over time
that tells the most, and I think were trending well.
Addressing the blips
While almost all categories of crime saw
declines in 2013 over the previous year, the number of
shootings, aggravated batteries and murders rose. It
doesnt get lost on anybody that violent crime is more
serious than property crime, Thomas said. Obviously
if someone is murdered or sexually assaulted, those are
much more serious crimes, and are something we need
to deal with.
It is very frustrating, to say the least, to watch
those numbers go up, he said. There were 74 reported
shootings last year, up from 59 in 2012. Still, Thomas
said, that number is down by more than 100 compared
to 10 years ago.
In 2003, there were 179 reported shootings. In
2008 there were 110. We did see an increase (in 2013),
and we dont like that, Thomas said. We will look at
that very seriously and see what we can do over 2014 to
keep that number low ... that number indicates some-
thing, and we want to make sure it doesnt continue to
The number of murder victims in Aurora last
year also rose, from zero in 2012, to three in 2013.
You cant improve on zero, Thomas said. There was
nowhere to go but up. Ill take zero anytime, and were
doing our best to repeat that number.
Even with 2013s rise in murders, the long-term
trend shows the number of homicides to be down by
85 percent over the last two decades, and 76 percent
since 2003. These reductions have been sustained over
a long period of time, Thomas said.
Perhaps the most frustrating increase,
however, is the rise in aggravated batteries, which can
be incredibly diffcult to combat, Thomas said. The
number is still down more than 20 percent from where
it was fve years ago, but the number of aggravated
batteries actually rose 14 percent in 2013 compared to
In 2012, 373 aggravated batteries were
reported. That number rose to 425 in 2013, according
to statistics. Again, its very frustrating, Thomas said
of the rise. This is going to be a tough nut for us to
crack. So far, people that have looked at (the rise) have
not come up with any discernible pattern. Nothing
specifc has emerged.

Thomas said the offender, the victim and the location
of the battery are all examined when an assault occurs.
By doing this, offcers hope to fnd ways to combat
their occurrences.
Are the batteries occurring at homes, on the
streets, in schools? Do they involve certain victim types
or repeat offenders? If there is a pattern emerging,
we can do something about it, Thomas said. Last year,
that was not the case.
Were going to take a really good, hard, in-
depth look at it and fnd something we can look into
and go after, he said. When it comes to implementing
new procedures and crime-fghting techniques, Thomas
said there is often a lag in when results will be seen. If
I put a strategy in place today, were not going to have a
reduction tomorrow, he said. We make changes today
in order to see changes in the future.
One of those changes has clearly paid off
over the last couple years, and the reduction in
burglaries the city has seen is proof, Thomas said.
The department created a burglary task force several
years ago to target repeat offenders. Thomas said that
6 percent of offenders are responsible for 60 percent
of crimes, and if you can take those people off the
streets, you will see the number of offenses go down.
Thomas credited a city ordinance that passed
two years ago requiring thrift and pawn shop owners
to enter items being sold into an online data base.
This helped track down criminals attempting to sell
stolen property.
Aside from initiatives being taken within the
department, Thomas also credited outside agencies
like The African American Men of Unity, Triple
Threat Mentoring, and other youth-geared programs
for their crime prevention efforts. It has been a
tremendous partnership, and our relationship with
(those agencies) has helped move these numbers in a
positive direction, Thomas said.
Ricky Rogers, executive director of the
Aurora Area African American Men of Unity, began
his organization in 1999 to help combat violence
throughout the city.
Since then, Rogers has sought out some of
Auroras most vulnerable young men to help lift up
from a life of violence. Rogers goes into low-income
areas, targeting men who are without fathers, who
are at risk of joining a gang, committing a crime or
dropping out of school, and gives them opportunities
to overcome those odds.
Everything we do is solution oriented, he
said. We strive to change the conditions that cause
East High students
discover superhero
selves through art
By Kalyn Belsha kbelsha@stmedianetwork.
com November 28, 2013
AURORA The artwork of two East Aurora
High School students that explores inner superhero
powers will be displayed at the downtown Aurora
Public Library through the end of the year.
Maria Vargas and Lemuel Heath, both
16, worked on the exhibit, titled A Journey of
Undiscovered Heroes, through a pilot program run by
Light of the Heart and Triple Threat Mentoring, two
Aurora-based nonprofts.
Vargas and Heath, who are both East High
juniors, worked with two Light of the Heart clinical
art therapy interns to create fve pieces of art each,
including paintings, collages and three-dimensional
masks. The group met every Wednesday for two hours
over eight weeks to work on different art techniques
and projects.
Briana Colton and Carla DePalma, who are
working toward dual masters degrees in counseling
psychology and art therapy at Chicagos Adler School
of Professional Psychology, created the art program,
while Triple Threat provided the workspace and art
supplies. The group focused on exploring self-identity
and fnding their superhero selves.
Vargas, who has been creating art since she was
young, got involved in the program out of nowhere,
she said, after she saw Triple Threat talking about its
programs in the East High cafeteria. She was afraid to
ask about the art program, Vargas said, but with a
friends encouragement, she decided to sign up.
One of Vargas pieces on display is a
painting of a masked purple woman with blue
hair and big red lips. Vargas said she created the
image when she was thinking of herself and her
interpretation of the color purple.
It means that I am sensitive, creative, that I
think about other people before myself, that I care
about others and that I dont judge, she wrote in
an email. It also represents the love for art that I
have deep in my heart.
Heath, who has done programs through
Triple Threat for fve years, said when he heard
about the program from the nonproft, he was
kind of iffy about joining it. Though he loved to
draw and sketch cities, landscapes and battles, he
was afraid the program would be like a by-the-book
art class. He was surprised when the frst session
was the complete opposite, he said.
The students did free drawing each week in
journals and experimented with a mix of painting,
drawing and three-dimensional art. We wanted it
to be their program, Colton said. It wasnt like we
came in with this regimented approach. We wanted
them to be able to take some ownership over it.
At the start of the program, Colton and
DePalma thought theyd have the students work
on different pieces of a superhero costume, but
over time, the topic shifted as the students made it
their own. It
became less
literal and
more internal
for them,
Colton said.
was meant
to teach the
students about
art techniques, as well as be a safe space for them to
talk about their personal lives. It wasnt formal art
therapy, Colton and DePalma said, but it incorporated
many of the discussion techniques theyd learned in
I had a tough time painting, but they helped
me work on that, Heath said. They helped get me out
of my comfort zone of drawing.
It was a small group, but that helped give the
students more one-on-one time and made the group
more intimate, DePalma said. We were able to keep it
a little more low-key, Colton said. We didnt feel like
we were teaching, it felt like we were all co-creators.
At the end of the program, Vargas and Heath
received journals, acrylic paints and canvas paper
to continue their work at home. Triple Threat is
about empowering kids, and Light of the Heart is about
fnding your inner light, DePalma said. I really think
this program helped these kids with that 100 percent.
I think they discovered something about themselves
Students let their
lights shine in exhibit
at Aurora Public
By Amy Roth, Community Contributor
November 27, 2013
The frst few words in The Light of the Hearts
brochure say this: We view the community as our
That struck me as the perfect reason for the
Aurora Public Library to showcase artwork by two
East Aurora High School students who recently
participated in an art therapy program led by The
Light of the Heart interns and hosted by Triple Threat
The students work, with the theme, A Journey
of Undiscovered Heroes, is on exhibit on the Main
Floor of the downtown library at 1 E. Benton St. until
the end of the year.
The Light of the Heart: A Community Art
Therapy Project, is the frst organization of its kind
in not only Aurora or the state of Illinois, but in the
entire nation. The groups purpose is to provide art
therapy programming for people of all ages in the
Aurora area.
Never heard of art therapy? Its a form of
therapy administered by master-level art therapists
using the process of art-making to holistically make
changes to the mind, heart, body and soul that foster
growth, healing, mindfulness, connections, or whatever
you may need in that moment of time, the brochure
But for the two students who can now say they
have their own art exhibit, they got involved in the
program because they saw it as an opportunity to grow
their budding artistic talents, and, as one said, to have
Maria Vargas, 16, said she heard about the
program during lunch in the East High cafeteria one
day and decided to fnd out more about it because she
always loved to draw. But she also heard that the
program would be fun. And that was important to
Vargas, who would like to be a teacher someday.
Lemuel Heath, also 16, said he has been
involved in many programs at Triple Threat, and
decided to add the art therapy program to his list
because he really likes art and hopes to pursue graphic
Stefanie Evans, program director for Triple
Threat, said all the programs that take place in the
groups space at 100 S. River St. are developed by
volunteers in their areas of passion, whether its arts,
athletics, academics, baseball history, guitar or bike
repair.Because volunteers are passionate, the kids
become passionate about whatever program they are
involved in, Evans added.
Although Lemuel is almost a fxture at Triple
Threat, the art program was Marias frst encounter
with the organization, whose goal it is to empower
urban youth to develop confdence, character and life
Maria said it would not be her last program
at Triple Threat. She was thrilled to have her work on
display, and also to be the guest of honor (along with
Lemuel) at a reception in the multipurpose room at the
Maria is on cloud nine today, Evans said.
You can see it in her smile.
Also smiling were Briana Colton and Carla De
Palma, clinical art therapy interns with Light of the
Heart. They were the ones who led the program from
which a number of art pieces were conceived and then
created. The results paintings, collages and masks
are on display in two glass cases on either side of the
Circulation Desk on the Main foor, as well as hanging
over the balcony area between the cases.
Both Lemuel and Maria said that a blank sheet
of paper or canvas is extremely intimidating to a new
So, back to the opening lines of this
column. The library truly is a gathering place for our
community, and it is a place to share the talents of our
citys young people. If only we had a bit more space to
do it! As we watch the new library going up at River
and Benton streets, we are energized by the fact that
we will have more space to partner with our neighbors
in 2015 when the building is fnished.
In the meantime, stop by and see Marias and
Lemuels art.
East Aurora students
get a taste of Shark
By Kalyn Belsha kbelsha@stmedianetwork.
com November 22, 2013
AURORA Standing before a small crowd
at the offces of the Aurora nonproft Triple Threat
Mentoring, John Wightkin asked what Bill Gates, Steve
Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and Jay-Z have in common.
The question had an easy answer: Theyre all
successful entrepreneurs, said Wightkin, who directs
equity research for the Schwab Center for Financial
Research.Then Wightkin ticked off a list of four
other names: Bradley Gordon, Juan Cortez, Kavon
Wright and Evereth Hernandez. What do they have
in common? Wightkin asked. They are aspiring
entrepreneurs. These gentlemen here, perhaps, one day
will join that club of successful entrepreneurs.
Over the last eight weeks, Wightkin
volunteered to work with Gordon, Cortez, Wright and
Hernandez through a new program of Triple Threat
Mentoring called Business in Motion.
The program aims to help local high school
students develop a business idea theyre passionate
about and research ways to bring it to life. Its the
older brother version of Money in Motion, which
Wightkin used to teach at Jericho Circle. That program
focused on budgeting, investing, borrowing and fnancial
ftness. For the new program, Wightkin met once a
week with the students after school for about two hours,
delving into the world of brand positioning, analyzing a
feld of competitors, marketing and pitching a business
to investors.
At the end of the eight weeks, each student
made a presentation before a panel of local volunteers
who successfully ran their own businesses or worked
with entrepreneurs. The premise was modeled after
Shark Tank, a 4-year-old reality show on ABC that
lets aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a
group of discerning potential investors.
While on the TV show the best ideas get funded,
on Wednesday, the four students instead received
feedback about their business proposals so they can
continue to refne them and work on making them a
reality when the program starts back up in early 2014.
The panelists included: Drew Whiting, who
works at a Chicago-based law frm that focuses on
small businesses and often works with entrepreneurs;
Pete Cleary, who owns a bike shop in Aurora; Nick
Latko, a wealth advisor at a money management and
fnancial planning frm based in Aurora and St. Charles;
and John Wightkins wife, Kim, who runs a Naperville-
based bakery.
Sporting a red bowtie that matched his red
sneakers, Gordon told the panel about his idea to start
a phone and computer repair service that focused on
virus detection and elimination.
Gordon, who attends West Aurora High School,
said he was confdent he could undersell other chain
store repair services, like those at Best Buy and the
Apple Store by charging just $30 for his labor, plus
software expenses. He learned some of his skills from
his older brother, he said, and others from reading
books and researching on the Internet.
Im young, Im understanding and Ive been
told Im very smart, Gordon said. When me and
technology come together its like were one and I can do
this with the snap of my fngers.
The sharks had some tough questions for
Gordon. Would he have a storefront location? How
would people fnd out about his services? Would he
charge for consultations?
The panelists advised Gordon to partner with a
friend who can fx more complex viruses and to target
small businesses in the area to create a steady fow of
Wright, an Oswego East High School student,
pitched an idea to start a low-cost ironing service that
comes to clients homes. He would focus on busy
families and elderly residents, he said.
The sharks suggested that Wright consider
expanding to steaming and laundering to offer whole-
package services and to partner with a nursing home or
an assisted living residence.
East Aurora High School student Hernandez
said he wanted to start a repair service for phones with
cracked screens or that have sustained water damage. He
learned how to fx them after working on his own device
and those of his friends, he said.
Cortez, also an East High student, said he
wanted to start a bike repair and custom painting
service that he dubbed Pimp My Bike.
He learned how to fx bikes through another
Triple Threat Mentoring program, he said, so he has at
least four years experience on the job. My business
would be unique because Id be having a faster service
with a less expensive price, he said.
Because you go to most bike shops, and no
offense, he said to a roomful of laughter as he looked
at the bike shop owner on the panel, and its pretty
expensive and they take a long time to get your bike
Cortez said hed do his painting work for a
low price, maybe $15 to $20 a bike. But the panelists
encouraged him not to undervalue his work, since
few other local bike shops offer painting services. The
next step will be getting those business ideas ready for
There are plans eventually down the road that
well be able to provide them some actual support to
build their business, said Jordan Wilson, Triple Threats
marketing director. The panel was to get their feet wet
to see this is real.
Aurora plans to buy
LaSalle Street building
By Stephanie Lulay
November 20, 2013
AURORA The city plans to buy a LaSalle
Street building in the citys downtown to create an
East Side community center, city offcials confrmed
Wednesday. Under the deal, the city plans to purchase a
one-story building at 68-70 S. LaSalle St. from property
owner Larry Yellin. The deal has not been fnalized,
but the likely purchase price will be about $175,000,
according to Aurora assistant chief of staff Rick
Once purchased, the city has long-term plans
to combine the 11,000-square-foot 68-70 S. LaSalle
property with the 17,000-square-foot building next-
door at 62-64 S. LaSalle St., Guzman said. That three-
story building was donated to the Boy Scouts late last
year. The properties are contiguous; a 66 S. LaSalle
does not exist, Guzman said.
A lot of the puzzle pieces (to this plan) are
still forming, Guzman said Wednesday. But our
understanding is that (connecting the buildings) is
feasible. The city plans to partner with several Aurora-
based non-profts to form a non-proft collaboration
and community center, Guzman said. The majority
of the building would be used to deliver non-proft
services, but some of the space would be used as non-
proft offces.
Guzman confrmed that non-profts
Communities in Schools, Triple Threat Mentoring,
the Boy Scouts and Community 4:12 would be likely,
but not defnite, partners in the building. This is
not primarily a city-driven project. We are playing a
facilitative part in the project, Guzman said.
A 2014 budget plan calls for the building
to be outftted for six large training rooms and a
3,000-square-foot multipurpose ballroom and a
7,000-square-foot multipurpose rec center with 20-foot
In 2014, the city also plans to dedicate $350,000
in federal Community Development Block Grant
funding toward the rehab of the building. A total rehab
of the 62-70 S. LaSalle St. properties is expected to cost
$2 to $3 million, Guzman said Wednesday.
In addition to the federal funding, Guzman said
the city and non-proft partners will seek grants and
private foundation dollars to fund the renovation and
build out of the properties.
The city plans to sign long-term, joint venture
agreements with several non-profts who will maintain
the space in return for the citys one-time capital
infrastructure investment, according to 2014 budget
documents. Any signifcant capital projects over the
years would be eligible for CDBG funding, according
to the document.
The purchase of the building and commitment
of CDBG dollars would be subject to City Council
approval.Guzman said both of the buildings have been
substantially vacant for more than a decade. Both
buildings have been contributed very little to the tax
base, he said.
Matt Ackerman, executive director of the
Three Fires Council, confrmed the Boy Scouts are on
board with the citys plan for the two large buildings.
The building was donated to the National Boy Scouts
Foundation in December 2012.
The need
Guzman said the city sale of the Fred Rogers
Community Center to the East Aurora School District
left a void in the community. Non-profts have a special
need for large program space now, he said.
Caleb Luper, executive director of Triple
Threat, said that the LaSalle Street space will help the
mentoring group reach a lot more kids and foster more
collaboration between a group of like-minded non-
profts. We are super ridiculously excited about this,
Luper said. Our biggest obstacle to growth is available
space. Space for activities is always a challenge.
In addition to using the community space,
Luper said he would prefer to move Triple Threat
offces into the planned LaSalle street facility, too.
Triple Threat offces moved to 100 S. River St. in
November 2012 after the city sold the Fred Rogers
Community Center.
Community 4:12 also already rents offce space
on the LaSalle Street block, Guzman said. East Aurora
bought the Fred Rogers building in June 2012 from the
city for $3 million. It has since been converted into a
magnet school. The Vaughn and Prisco centers are on
the citys West Side and the Eola Community Center is
on the citys Far East Side.
Nearby plans
Aurora non-proft Emmanuel House is
currently rehabbing a property at 73 S. LaSalle St. The
non-proft bought the building for $63,000 to serve as
Emmanuel House headquarters and will also rent offce
space to non-proft World Relief.
Guzman, who is also co-founder of Emmanuel
House, said that the location of the citys planned
LaSalle Street community center is independent of the
Emmanuel House non-proft offces. The Emmanuel
House purchase closed in Nov. 2012, before the
building was donated to the Boy Scouts, he said.
Aurora photographer Jimi Allen is developing a co-
working space next to the Boy Scouts building at 56-
60 S. LaSalle St. The citys Finance Committee has
discussed a TIF-backed development deal that would
kick $457,000 toward Allens project, but at his request,
that deal is on hold. If the citys community center plan
is approved, non-proft partners would bring more than
40 professional employees to the LaSalle Street block,
Guzman said.
Combined with Jimi Allens Gravity Building
project, were now easily talking about 100 or more
professionals (working) out of just a couple of buildings
on the block, Guzman said.
The increased foot traffc and presence could
help the tax base by benefting other downtown
businesses, Guzman said.Collectively, these shared
investments could play a role in attracting other
businesses to the block and other nearby downtown
blocks, he said.
The city plans to tear down the small 64 N.
LaSalle property, which has not been used for a very,
very long time, Guzman said. It neighbors the Aurora
Fire Museum and Aurora Fire Department central
station and will be used for additional parking.
It made sense to negotiate the deals together
because of the common ownership, he said.
Additional property
Under the deal with Yellin, the city also plans
to purchase 64 N. LaSalle St., according to Guzman.
That deal also has not been fnalized.
By Mark Zonca
Appears in the November 2013 issue.
Having grown up in a low-income household,
Aurora resident Caleb Luper always dreamed of
breaking the cycle of poverty. He worked hard,
graduated from Greenville College with a degree in
Communications, and had a successful career in the
business world. Only to discover that his life was not
complete. Is this it? I soon realized that life is more
than just about money and stuff, said Caleb Luper,
president and CEO Triple Threat Mentoring. So he
sold everything and became a missionary facilitating
short mission trips and sports camps in the Dominican
Republic and Haiti. There he saw poverty frst hand.
His strong faith and passion to serve under privileged
kids inspired Luper to help kids back home in Aurora
where he pledged to help change the face of poverty.
Low-income kids have the same hopes and dreams
just like every kid in Naperville, said Luper.
In 2007, Luper founded Triple Threat Mentoring, an
Aurora-based nonproft that strives to empower under
privileged urban kids through mentoring programs and
events in Aurora and Chicago. Luper started mentoring
fve kids during after school basketball camps. Now, his
programs serve more than 20,000 kids with the help
of thousands of volunteers and partners. Many of the
kids come from low-income households with limited
opportunities for growth and development. Depleted
resources for education, extra-curricular activities,
staffng, and leadership leave many kids disadvantaged
and at risk.
Triple Threat Mentoring offers weekly
programming and special events in the Arts, Academics
and Athletics. The passion-based programming
connects adults with a passion in a particular area
of interest with kids who share that same passion.
Passions are meant to be shared, said Luper.
The Arts and Athletics programs help to
instill confdence and build life skills. The academic
mentoring programs are non-traditional programs
designed to encourage the love of learning and are
focused on such topics as gardening and cooking.
Volunteers who like to cook are paired with kids
who have an interest in cooking. We teach them about
proper nutrition and how to prepare a healthy meal,
said Luper.
Triple Threats
success comes
from its winning
of pairing adult
volunteers with
under resourced
youths. We are
not only about
serving the kids. We
are helping adults
discover their true
purpose in life. We
are helping them
(adults) answer the
question What am I
giving back?, said
Triple Threat relies on volunteers as the driving
force behind its programs. Luper says the volunteers
enjoy the programs and events as much as the kids
they serve. Any great thing we do is because of
our volunteers. They give us their time. We provide
training and support, said Luper. Volunteers commit
to an eight-week program customized to their area of
interest once a week for 1 to 21/2 hours.
The number one motivating factor for a
kid (to succeed) is building positive relationships
with adults. Kids need role models. We continue to
focus on building relationships with kids, families
and communities, said Luper. Triple Threat has also
developed strong partnerships with the community,
schools, and churches.
Aurora is our working lab. It has many of the
same social issues as big cities like Chicago, said Luper.
His goal is to continue offering programs and services
in Aurora and Chicago while also expanding the
program on a national scale in cities such as New York
and Los Angeles.
I have the greatest job on the planet. This is
my faith being lived out. Im lucky to be living the faith
and able to drag a few people along the way for the
ride, said Luper.
Triple Threat seeks
volunteers for fall
mentoring program
By Stephanie Lulay
August 19, 2013
AURORA Triple Threat Mentoring,
an Aurora-based mentoring group, is looking for
volunteers to help with its fall programs.
The group is looking for as many volunteers
as we can bring out, said Stefanie Evans, Triple
Threats program director. Most of the work the
non-proft does coincides with the school year, she
said. Were really looking for volunteers who will
be involved and prepared for an engaging time with
students, she said Monday.
A majority of Triple Threats mentoring
programs kick off at the end of September, Evans said,
and the group will work with hundreds of volunteers
each year.
Evans said they are looking for adults 18 and older who
have a specifc athletic, arts or academic-related passion
to share with the kids.
Triple Threats mentoring programs include
traditional athletics training and some less conventional
activities. Recent student programs included: Right
Track, a program that taught teens how to use deejay
equipment; a program that taught kids the skills to fx
bicycles and allowed them to donate a fxed-up bike
to Hesed House or Mutual Ground; and a cooking
program featuring cuisines from around the world.
No experience is needed to get involved in
our programming, Evans said. The volunteers can
come in and learn side-by-side with kids, which makes
for a less intimidating experience.
Caleb Luper, founder of Triple Threat, said the
non-proft helps 5,000 kids each year. Most kids helped
through Triple Threat programs are from the East
Aurora and West Aurora school districts.
Prospective volunteers will undergo a state and
federal background check and a two-hour volunteer
training program.
3Ts Trip To Helen
A Richs Estate
Highlighted By NBC
July 8, 2013
As part of Triple Threat Mentoring's 'My Story'
program, fve Aurora youth took a trip to Florida to
visit key Triple Threat supporter and Wrigley heiress
Helen Rich.
This is a story that ran on NBC Chicago on July
5 highlighting the trip.
Former Chicago Bear and MTV Made coach
Ray McElroy will be in Aurora next week running a
free football camp for East Aurora School District
Triple Threat Mentoring is hosting the camp,
which is open to students in grades three through fve.
Camp kicks-off on Monday, July 8, and ends on July
19. Kids will meet Monday through Friday, from 1 to 3
p.m. at the East Aurora High School practice felds.
When you combine Rays motivational
speaking his football background and his passion to
help youth, this is the perfect ft, said Caleb Luper,
president/CEO of Triple Threat Mentoring. Were
extremely lucky to have Ray run this camp, and its a
great opportunity for Aurora youth because it is a free
McElroy played for six seasons with the
Indianapolis Colts, the Chicago Bears and the Detroit
Lions. He is the current team chaplain for the Chicago
Bears football club and a full-time professional
motivational speaker.
Former Chicago Bear
hosts free camp for
East Aurora kids
By Erika Wurst
July 3, 2013
Aurora shooting
victim fnds hope in
communitys caring
By Denise Crosby May
17, 2013
Of all the powerful moments at the Fox
Valley United Way breakfast last Thursday and
there were many it was the testimonial of Theresa
Harden that received a standing ovation. She was a
34-year-old mom of two young kids, including a baby
celebrating his frst birthday, when a punk in a ski mask
approached her car that night in November of 1996
and put a gun to her head.
She begged for her life, but it did no good.
Thirteen bullets were fred into her car at close range.
Nine slammed into her body.
There were lots of shootings going on in
Aurora in 96. Harden, who was working as a nursing
assistant at the time, probably should have been
another murder statistic for that year. But 21 pints of
blood and a wonderful staff at Rush-Copley Medical
Center saved her life, if not her colon. Months of
recovery, much of it in a coma, were followed by years
of fear.
A suspect was identifed but never arrested, so
Harden turned into a recluse, venturing out into the
world only when absolutely necessary. In a wheelchair
and with little support, she felt like I had no one but
God to help me.
Her young boys changed, too, becoming bitter
and angry, especially her youngest, who she couldnt
seem to reach.
Hardens testimonial at the United Way event
was the frst time shes spoken publicly about her
ordeal. It was, in fact, one of the few times shes
even left her home since the shooting, except to get
groceries, said her eldest son Cameron, now 27. She
was scared. She always felt like someone was going to
come back and fnish her off, he said of the shooting
police believe was a gang initiation. It changed our
Harden was also terrifed as she stood in
front of those 400-plus people who packed the Pipers
Banquets room last week. But it was the United Way-
funded program, Triple Threat Mentoring, that helped
him get rid of all those destructive emotions. When
he got to West High, she said, he felt like he was
It was also when Hardens youngest began
opening up that she began to do the same. Harden
was shot around the same time 6-year-old Nico
Contrares was murdered; and fnding the childs killer,
she knew, was a top priority with police. With her
case, a car had been identifed, she added, but with the
shooter masked and his victim in a coma, no positive
I.D could be made.
And Harden didnt push it because, we were
just trying to get by, said Cameron, who was forced at
age 10 to become caregiver to his mom and parent to
his little brother.
Her eldest son admits he had his own issues
after the shooting. But when you look around a
community and see how much it embraces those in
need, Cameron admitted, it becomes easier to let that
anger go.

Theresa Harden and her family may have become
victims to the ugliness that can threaten our
neighborhoods. But she also realizes their recovery is a
testament to what is so beautiful about this community.
The generous, caring people who live and
work here, she said, reopened the doors to her heart.
Oh my God, it was such a struggle for me,
she told the crowd just before receiving that standing
ovation. Smile smile because things could be a
lot rougher. May God bless you all.
Donors, volunteers
honored at annual
United Way breakfast
By Stephanie Lulay
May 16, 2013
AURORA At the United Ways breakfast
Thursday morning it was all about the stories: changed
lives, the less fortunate helped and a difference made.
The breakfast, which serves as the
organizations annual update to the community, is a
chance for donors and United Way supporters to hear
the living testimonials from those who have been
helped by donated dollars right here in the Fox Valley,
said Michael Meyer, executive director of the Fox
Valley United Way.
He said the hundreds in the room at Pipers
Banquets donors, volunteers, corporate leaders,
heads of non-profts and those helped by United
Way donations have many great stories to tell of
transformation. We have worked toward the same
goal, to help those in need in our community, Meyer
Seven years ago, Don Phelps was on an ugly
fall when rock bottom hit: on Feb. 16, 2006, he was
arrested for drunken driving for a third time in a matter
of weeks. The then-alcoholic was estranged from his
wife and two children, his 10-year career in the ministry
was gone and he was sitting in a DuPage County jail
Phelps, of Aurora, was released to Hope
For Tomorrow, an Aurora social service agency that
operates six homes as part of a counseling program
to help those with substance abuse issues or mental
health issues. The safe, inviting, and supportive
environment was just the one he needed, Phelps said.
Today, Phelps is reunited with his family, is
again a full-time church worker and is working toward
reinstatement in the ministry.
Theresa Harden of Aurora struggles to this day
to overcome physical injuries she sustained in a 1996
drive-by shooting on the East Side of Aurora. Harden
was shot at a dozen times, and nine of the bullets hit
her. She spent two months in a coma.
Thats exactly why shes so thankful that
Auroras Triple Threat Mentoring program stepped in
to help her son in ways that she couldnt, she said. I
had no one to help me (at home), she said.
Her 17-year-old son struggled with anger and
spent time in alternative schools, she said, before Triple
Threat stepped in. I just thank God for Triple Threat
being there for him, she said. Her son is now working
toward graduating at West Aurora High School.
Another Fox Valley family was helped by the
Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry when they found
out they would soon be unexpectedly welcoming
triplets. My husband worried his income wasnt
suffcient to support such a large family, mother
Teresa said in Spanish through an interpreter. But the
food pantry was able to fll in the gaps for her family,
including her three growing 5-year-old boys.
The Fox Valley United Way helps support 54
social service agencies in Kane and Kendall counties.

Susan Bill of Castle Bank was honored with the 2013
Outstanding Community Volunteer Award at the
Thursday breakfast. Bill co-leads the Yorkville-driven
Castle Challenge, a Castle Bank-sponsored organization
that aims to raise funds for Yorkville Sports Boosters,
according to Meyer. She also serves on the Fox Valley
United Ways Resource Development Committee, and
volunteers at the Kendall County Food Pantry, the
Yorkville Chamber of Commerce and many other area
Meyer said Bills positive attitude is contagious.
Shes the kinds of volunteer you wish you had 10 of,
he said.
The Dunham Fund Board of Directors and
Mayor Tom Weisner were both honored with the 2013
Live United Awards for their support of Auroras
SPARK early education initiative.
The Aurora Fire Department Water Rescue
Team, City of Aurora, Hotel Arista, Exelon/ComEd,
the Fox Valley Buildings & Construction Trades
Council, Wrigley Corporation and Priscos Fine Foods
were all honored with Community Action Awards for
their support of United Way fundraisers during the last
The 2012-2013 Major Firm Top Corporate
Contributor title was awarded to Caterpillar; Financial
Institution Top Contribution title was awarded to
Old Second Bank; and Educational Institution Top
Contribution title was awarded to the Indian Prairie
School District.
East Aurora teens
dive into pool
By Linda Girardi For The Beacon-News
February 25, 2013
AURORA After bobbing in the shallow
end with 40 pounds of scuba gear, East Aurora High
School freshman Katia Carillo swam gracefully using
the fns on her feet to propel her halfway across the
East High pool.
I am actually an average swimmer, but today
I felt like I was gliding. It was really cool how the
equipment feels lightweight in the water, said Carillo,
14. I actually want to be a marine biologist one day,
she said, after an hourlong scuba session.
About 30 students on Saturday had a rare
glimpse into the beauty of the under-water world as
they straddled the bottom of their high school pool
looking for decoy marine life.
Two organizations passionate about giving
youth opportunities to positively infuence their lives
partnered with the East Aurora School District to give
kids their frst scuba diving experience.
Triple Threat Mentoring helps urban youth
realize their potential through programs and events in
athletics, academics and arts. And while STARS (Scuba
Training At-Risk Students) International provides at-
risk youth a positive outlet incorporating the sport of
scuba diving.
Groups of students were each assigned to
diving instructors and master divers to get acquainted
with the essential pieces of equipment including the
scuba mask, regulator, swim fns and compressed-air
For fun,
they dropped artifcial marine life into the water to give
the students an idea and an appreciation for what they
would have to swim around in a real-life scuba diving
Building confdence
This gives the youth an experience they
probably would never have a chance to do this is
a very high-end sport, said Kevin Vaughn, CEO and
founder of STARS International.
Vaughn, a longtime scuba diver, has brought
the Lake in the Hills-based program to schools,
social agencies and police departments in the area
to help build confdence, self-esteem and problem-
solving skills. The changes I have seen in kids have
been phenomenal, and it has changed my life forever
in seeing a whole other avenue that is possible for
positively infuencing our youth, he said.
Compared to the bone-chilling 20-degree
weather outdoors, the pool area felt around 90 degrees,
and the blue bottom pool water was warm to the touch
as well. The water quality is pretty much what you
would see scuba diving 100 to 200 feet under water
in the Caribbean, and the water temperature is very
close, Vaughn said.
Caleb Luper said he and his wife left the
corporate world when they realized their lives were
meant to be committed to helping others. They
founded Triple Threat Mentoring in Aurora. The
nonproft organization recruits adult volunteers and
builds partnerships with communities, schools and
churches. We believe people have gifts, talents and
passions within them, but a lot of times they do it
for themselves or it is a hobby, Luper said. When
they learn to give it away in love and service to under-
resourced children and families it is an experience
like no other.
Luper said they have worked with some
17,000 children in the past fve years. Scuba diving
is something usually reserved for a more affuent
community, he said. This is an unforgettable
experience for these kids.
Scuba training
'unique experience'
for Aurora teens
By Marie Wilson
A program that aims to
change the lives of at-risk
teens by teaching them
scuba diving got its feet
wet Saturday in Aurora.
S.T.A.R.S. International,
a Lake in the Hills-based nonproft that stands for
Scuba Training At Risk Students, gave basic lessons in
the East Aurora High School pool to about 15 teens
involved with Triple Threat Mentoring.
The teens -- some of whom never had been
Article updated: 2/23/2013
completely underwater -- learned the basics of
breathing with scuba equipment, strapped themselves
into 45 pounds of gear and gave it a shot -- under
the direction of S.T.A.R.S. International volunteer
instructors like Pete Livorsi and Phil Seils of Buffalo
"At frst, when I went in, I wasn't used to
breathing underwater," said Marcus Fultz, a 16-year-old
East Aurora High School student.
Not breathing, even for a few seconds, is
the biggest mistake novice scuba divers can make,
S.T.A.R.S. International CEO Kevin Vaughn explained
to small groups of teens before they entered the pool.
Injuries can result if a scuba diver holds his or her
breath and rises to the surface because air in the lungs
will expand as water pressure decreases, he said.
"Never, never hold your breath while diving --
that's the biggest rule of scuba diving," Vaughn said.
Neikos said he remembered to breathe, and although
the feeling was strange at frst, he enjoyed getting a
view from underwater and diving down toward the
deep end.
"I liked it so much," Fultz said. "It was
something I would want to do again, and I would want
to get certifed."
S.T.A.R.S. International has offered months-
long programs in the northwest suburbs and Kenosha,
Wis. to train students to become certifed divers,
Vaughn said.But joining the program requires quite
the commitment from teens who may be struggling in
school, cutting class, experiencing family problems or
being drawn toward gangs, he said.
Vaughn said students must commit to be in
school every day, keep their grades the same or better
and attend every session in the program, in which
they learn how to manage their equipment, keep their
ears from popping and stay calm when water enters
their mask. "They learn self-confdence from on-the-
fy decision making," Vaughn said. "It teaches them
accountability for their choices."
And suddenly, he said, science becomes
interesting. So does exercising. "You have to be
physically ft to scuba dive," said Sebastian Rivera, an
Elgin 20-year-old who helped out at Saturday's event
after completing a S.T.A.R.S. International scuba
certifcation program.
Saturday's event was a one-day course, and the
Aurora teens who got their frst scuba experience in the
pool did not walk away as certifed divers.
But Jordan Wilson, marketing director for
Triple Threat Mentoring, said it was a valuable
opportunity for urban students who otherwise may
never experience such an activity. "Scuba diving
is something usually reserved for a more affuent
community," Wilson said. "We're just as excited as the
kids to be able to offer them this unique experience."
Pro wrestler Booker T
connects with students
at Urban League
By Stephanie Lulay
February 7, 2013
AURORA In the crowd of Urban League
students Thursday morning, former pro wrestler
Booker T was talking to one. You may not even see
it in yourself, Booker T said to Urban League student
Rodrigo Reyna, standing at the back of the room. But
I can see you. You dont want to be one of those guys
on the block.
The former WWE champion wrestler and
SmackDown general manager had a message for
the Urban Leagues 65 at-risk students, part of East
Auroras alternative education program.
As a kid, Booker T grew up on a block
inundated with drugs and gangs. He saw people get
killed right in front of him. At 21, one mistake landed
him in the Texas Department of Corrections on an
aggravated robbery conviction, he said. Each and
every one of you has a choice. Do you want to live that
way, or this way? he asked.
Now 47 years old, Booker T said despite all of
the accolades, money and celebrity hes gained from
his decades-long career, when he looks in the mirror,
he still sees the man who didnt graduate high school.
Everything Ive gotten, none of that compares to that
one thing. I dont want to go to my grave without my
diploma, he said. Dont be stupid like me.
Booker T made other mistakes, too. First a
father at 17 years old, he said he had no clue how to be
a dad and his frst son, now 30, eventually ended up in
foster care. Booker T lost both of his own parents by
age 14.
That struck a chord with eighth grader
Yasmeen Contreras. Ive been through foster care,
too, she said. I wanted to tear up because I related to
it wanting to be special.
The connection prompted Contreras to quick-
fre questions at Booker T. When you talk about your
past, did you ever black out thinking about it? she
asked. When you were little, was there a phrase that
kept you going?
Shes gonna be someone, Booker T said.
As a teen, Booker T lived with no water, no
lights, while rats and roaches crawled the house. He
went from dragging eight half-gallon jugs to the gas
station so he could fush his toilet to being the general
manager of SmackDown and the most decorated
champion in wrestling, he said. Hes a fve-time WCW
I used to catch three buses, he said. I have
seven cars now. I will never catch the bus again.
Booker T offered all of the kids a phone
number where they could get in touch with him if they
ever needed to talk to someone. You can be in the
storm it can get really rocky, but I know that the
man upstairs has your back, he said. I need you guys
to know its not impossible (to make it).
Booker T also made trips to Paul Robeson
High School in Chicago and Cook County Juvenile
Detention Center in Chicago this past week.
The event was sponsored by Triple Threat
Mentoring, a non-proft that works with at-risk
youth in Aurora and Chicago, and Medallion Media
Group. Aurora-based Medallion published Booker Ts
autobiography, Booker T: From Prison to Promise.
PR frm lands client on
Tampa Bays Fox 13
May 30, 2012
When fve under-privileged boys from Chicago
arrived at Wrigley heiress Helen A. Rosburgs sprawling
lake house in Odessa, Fla., the PR frm The Publicity
Agency arranged for WTVT Fox 13 to be there to
capture their excitement.
Through the years, Rosburg has teamed
up with the Aurora-based nonproft Triple Threat
Mentoring to help mentor young Chicago teens. This
year as part of the My Story program, shes fown
fve young men from the rough streets of Chicago to
her home to reward them on their way to becoming
more well-rounded young men.
The Fox 13 crew did a great job in capturing
the immense joy she gives her boys and the delight
they give her in return, says Melissa Rogovin, project
manager with the PR frm, The Publicity Agency,
which represents Rosburg. Helen has such a big heart
and wants to tell this story in hopes of encouraging
others to join her.
Fox 13 joined Rosburg and her team in
welcoming the Triple Threat Mentoring counselors
along with the fve young men. During their three-
day stay in Tampa, they will explore their generous
hostess estate while creating memories and learning
My Story tools and concepts that will stay with them
She has a ton of activities planned for them,
Rogovin says. From horseback riding and canoeing to
cooking in the kitchen and learning how to run a farm,
these kids will have a very fulflling trip in Tampa.
AURORA Mayor Tom Weisner will
personally welcome publishing company Medallion
Media Group, the citys newest business, to town at
5:45 p.m. Thursday.
Medallion Media Group is moving its offces to
100 S. River St. in Aurora from St. Charles, announced
founder and executive editor Helen Rosburg. The
group plans to offcially move to the building Dec. 19.
Weisner will speak with Wrigley heiress Rosburg
and the companys staff about their new home, what
Aurora has to offer and how Medallion Media Group
will beneft new neighbors, according to the company.
Triple Threat Mentoring Chief Operating
Offcer Caleb Luper will also attend the event. Triple
Threat is Rosburgs youth-targeted nonproft and is a
new neighbor to her publishing company.
Mayor Weisner has always been supportive of
Weisner to welcome
publishing company to
Beacon-News Staf December 8, 2011
the goals and programs that Triple Threat Mentoring
offers the youth in our community, Rosburg said.
Im so glad that we get to show him and the entire
community what Medallion Media Group can do as
Harper College student working on
NASA project
By Kimberly Pohl
Some might say that the sky's the limit when it
comes to education, and that couldn't be more true for
Krysti Scotti.
In just two years' time, the 30-year-old
married mother of two will have made the leap from
contemplating getting her college degree to conducting
science experiments for NASA on a microgravity
This June, the Harper
College student will head
to Johnson Space Center in
Houston, don a fight suit
and take to the skies as part
of NASA's Reduced Gravity
Education Flight Program.
Of the 14 undergraduate
research teams selected to take
part in the Microgravity University program, the North
Aurora resident's crew is the only one made up of
community college students. The nine-person team,
called Illumi-Nation, hails from seven different states.
"We're kind of the underdogs, because a lot of
these other schools like MIT and Yale compete every
year and have a ton of money and support," Scotti
said. "But that only motivates me." Scotti, who also
works full time in Oswego and next week starts class at
Northwestern University in Evanston, said each team
proposes, designs, fabricates, fies and then evaluates
its own reduced gravity experiment over a six-month
period. But the highlight, of course, is the fight.
Known widely as the "vomit comet," the plane
will head to its own airspace over the Gulf of Mexico
Harper College student Krysti Scotti, 30, of North Aurora is
one of just a handful of community college students across the
nation selected for NASA's Reduced Gravity Education Flight
and make roughly 30 parabolic maneuvers -- picture a
roller coaster pattern -- that result in brief periods of
hypergravity and then weightlessness.
Scotti and four other fiers will have some fun
during the frst few parabolas, doing midair somersaults
and attempting not to slam into the plane's padded
insides as they adjust to the surreal environment. But
then it's down to business, with their focus turning to
"nanofoam" synthesis experiments.
A theory exists that these substances,
when created in a microgravity environment, have
antimicrobial properties. That's signifcant because the
foams could be used in biomedical implants, which
could potentially promote tissue regrowth without the
risk of infection.
The team hopes its experiment will later be
done on the International Space Station. "In our
critique, (NASA) said the strength of
our experiment is that there's a lot of
research pending the results of initial
research, and our research is that initial
research," Scotti said.
It's an opportunity Scotti never
dreamed of when, one summer night
in 2010, she casually mentioned to her
husband, Anthony, she was thinking
about fnishing her education. "He
said, 'well, why don't you?'" said Scotti,
a West Chicago High School graduate.
One of the frst classes the math major took
was astronomy, one of her passions. She excelled and
took to heart associate professor Bhasker Moorthy's
talk on NASA's undergraduate research opportunities.
"I noticed her work ethic right away, and she excelled
in every aspect of the course," Moorthy said.
Scotti happened upon NASA's Community
College Aerospace Scholars program. She was one of
180 students selected, and the only one from Illinois.
She spent the summer independently planning a
detailed mission to Mars. Her work earned her one of
48 spots in an on-site program at the Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where she spent three
days in November developing a prototype Mars rover
and presenting the project to NASA engineers.
Scotti believes the experiences and networking
have prepared her for the work she'll have to do
leading up to her microgravity fight.
She's also excited for the outreach required of
each team member. She and her husband, who's on
the team's ground crew, are working with Triple Threat
Mentoring to increase interest in math and science
among at-risk youth on the east side of Aurora.
Though she transferred to Northwestern,
Scotti will stay at Harper to take an ethics class online
and conduct the control experiments needed to
compare the data that will be compiled on the plane.
She'll soon meet with the chemistry department to set
it up.
"What Krysti is doing would be impressive
coming from any student at any college in the country,"
Moorthy said. "I think it shows that research can and
should be done at community colleges."
Scotti agrees, and said her time at Harper
helped put her on a path she hopes will lead to a Ph.D
program in math and physics at California Technical
Institute. "I almost don't have time to be excited right
now because there's so much going on," Scotti said.
"But I'm loving every minute of it."
Celebs tout safe sex,
or no sex, to teens
By Erika Wurst
September 23, 2011
AURORA Its a conversation most teens
dont have, but on Thursday, more than 500 kids
showed up at East Aurora High School to talk about
HIV and AIDS awareness. The conversation were
gonna have could not only change your life, it could
save your life, said comedian Joe Clair, who along with
several other celebrities, advocates and doctors joined
in a panel hosted by Black Entertainment Television
and Aurora-based Triple Threat Mentoring. This is
a very real topic, Clair said. People are dying, and
people are dying young.
Panelist Denise Stokes knows this fact well.
The frst time Stokes had sex, she contracted HIV. She
was just 16-years-old at the time, she told the students.
One day I was a virgin thinking about graduating at
the top of my class and going to UCLA, she said.
The next thing I know some guy is telling me, Ms.
you have
and youre
going to
die before
beat the
odds, and after living with the virus for 28 years has
become an advocate for AIDS awareness and safe sex.
It really is about that one decision you make, she
said. The stigma Stokes has felt over the course of
the past three decades has been immense. The name
calling and ostracizing were rampant as she tried to
live a normal life with the AIDS virus. I felt like the
world had kicked me out. I felt hate like Ive never felt
before, she said. Can you imagine what it feels like
knowing you might die, and hearing everyone talk bad
about you?
The panel was part of a three-day youth
summit put on by BET and Triple Threat at East High.
Students from across Aurora were invited to participate
Thursday evening where they could talk candidly about
sex, STDs and AIDS. I want you to be brave and ask
questions, Clair said. No one is going to judge you
On the panel were several recording artists who
shared stories about losing their virginity, STDs and
becoming parents at 17.
Rappers Tjuan, Sammie and Khalil, along
with gospel singer Jessica Reedy, all chimed with their
experiences. Reedy was on the verge of becoming an
R&B singer when she got pregnant at 18. Tjuan, who is
signed to the No Compromise record label, was forced
to drop out of school at 17 after getting his girlfriend
pregnant. At 25-years-old, he now is divorced with four
kids. When the panel came, we werent listening, he
said. But I dont allow my past to control my future.
Students were curious as to whether the
panels youngest member, 16-year-old singer Khalil,
was waiting until marriage before he becomes sexually
I did not wait until marriage, but Im not
saying I want you all to do that, he said.
The panel of doctors, however, said that its
never too late to put on the brakes when it comes to
pre-marital sex. You can take the season off, one
panelist said.
But if you make the decision to have sex, they
emphasized, its important to be safe and get tested.
You get one body, thats all, Sammie said.
Triple Threat on Radio
Triple Threat was recently featured on Radio
Disney, which broadcasts on 1300 AM. The half-hour
show covered everything you ever wanted to know
about Triple Threat, but were afraid to ask. Thanks to
Adam at Radio Disney for having us on the program.
June 13, 2011
Triple Threat Mentoring
on WCIU segment,
Inspiring U
Uploaded on Jun 8, 2011
A positive infuence in the community, Triple
Threat Mentoring provides fun opportunities for kids
to play sports, engage in the arts and learn new skills.
Publishing CEO,
Wrigley Heiress
Speaks Her Word
By Monica Nitschmann Dec. 17, 2010
The small
group of
students at East
Aurora High
School saw past
her name. It
wasnt about
her status, her
infuence or her
Rather, they
saw Helen Rosburg the CEO of a publishing house
and member of the famous Wrigley family as a
friend. A teacher. A mentor.
Rosburg returned to Chicago on Tuesday
to help the group of students along as they prepare
to be the frst-ever group from Aurora to compete
in Louder Than a Bomb, the worlds largest poetry
slam for teens. The group is ran by Triple Threat
Mentoring, a non-proft organization in a Aurora
dedicated to empowering urban youth through
different programs.
Youre all so in touch with who you are,
Rosburg said, pausing as she looked at the group of
fve circled around her in the small classroom. And
you have such an ability to express it. Rosburg
helped the students hone that ability. As an award-
winning author, poet and CEO of Medallion Press,
she intently lent an ear to the aspiring poets, injecting
short life lessons along the way.
If anyone, Rosburg knows. It took more
than a household last name to get her to the point
to where she is today. Rosburg told students of
her own life struggles, how she overcame them and
even recounted stories on how she worked less-than-
glamorous, odd-end jobs just so she could write for a
Students seemed to take notice. Especially Yolanda,
a senior at East. After receiving feedback on one
of her poems from Rosburg and others, Yolanda
Article updated: 12/30/2011 6:04 PM
delivered another performance from one of her
What do you see when you look at me?
Im not a book, so no you cant read me, she said
frmly, as volunteers, the mayor of Aurora and a state
representative listened in. Youre like a satellite, you
only get an outside look at me. do you see me
happy, full of possibilities? A young girl, short, with
big dreams. What is it, huh? What do you see when you
look at me?
Rosburg saw potential in Yolanda and the
other students. So much so that Rosburg said that if
students stuck with it, Medallion Press would publish
an anthology of their work.
Boy we have some talent in this room,
Rosburg said.
Wrigley heiress talks
poetry to Aurora
Article updated: 12/14/2010
By Marie Wilson
Helen Rosburg
looked into the
eyes of a group of
East Aurora High
School students
Tuesday afternoon
as she delivered
her message about
poetry and the power of words.
"I just want you to know how powerful poetry
can be. How powerful the written word is," said
Rosburg, a poet and a member of the well-known
Wrigley family. "If you can write it and you can speak
it, then you have double the power."
Rosburg spoke to fve students who are
preparing for a poetry contest by training with Triple
Threat Mentoring, an Aurora based nonproft where
she volunteers.
"Have fun with language. Have fun with
words. Make things up," Rosburg said. "Poetry can be
anything you want it to be." To help them get ready
for the Louder Than A Bomb: Chicago Youth Poetry
Festival in February, Rosburg read from her poetry
collection "This is the Book of Arabesque." She also
gave students two assignments: write a haiku about any
topic and to write rap lyrics.
Frederick Van Wilson fnished Rosburg's frst
assignment in mere seconds, writing a 17-syllable
poem based on his latest longer work. "Walk through
the endless halls of pain where you see no sun, no
happiness," said Wilson, a 15-year-old freshman,
reading his haiku aloud to the group.
Rosburg took each student's name and gave
them her e-mail address so she can critique the
products of their assignments later. She told them
the best way to get into writing is to practice every
day and remember it is a form of communication.
"You're going to get huge amounts of energy from
your audience if you communicate with them directly,"
Rosburg said.
Senior Yolanda Elizondo said she intends to
take Rosburg's advice and apply it to her own writing
and presentation of her poetry. "It's inspiring. I
learned a lot of things from her," Elizondo said. "The
way she portrays herself is just overwhelming."
If the East Aurora High School students keep
up their good writing, Rosburg said, then Medallion
Press, the publishing company she leads as owner,
president and CEO, may offer to publish an anthology
of their poems. "There's immense talent in our high
schools, enormous," Rosburg said. "We just need to
fertilize it and help it grow and harvest it."
Tiny Candle concert
hits ffth year
By Andre Salles
November 27, 2010
AURORA Five years ago, Benjie Hughes
decided to hold an intimate Christmas concert at
his downtown studio, Back Third Audio. Three
performers, one concert, close friends and family only.
Flash forward to 2010, and Tiny Candle has
become an annual tradition. The roster of performers
has expanded to a half-dozen (and sometimes more),
the number of shows has tripled and tickets routinely
sell out. Its grown larger and more popular than
Hughes ever expected.
So now, on the ffth anniversary of Tiny
Candle, Hughes is looking to get the Aurora
community more involved, and do some good while
hes at it.
Those attending this years shows, slated for
Dec. 10, 11 and 17, can pick up a newly minted CD
of performances from the frst four years. Theyll be
able to choose from fve different covers, each one
drawn by a student in one of Triple Threat Mentorings
art classes. And all proceeds from the sale will go to
beneft Triple Threat, a non-proft organization that has
worked with children in Aurora for three years.
The idea to create the CD as a fundraiser,
Hughes said, came from a roundtable discussion with
the Tiny Candle performers, a roster which includes
Aurorans Ben Thomas, Zach Goforth, Andrea Dawn
and Hughes sister Mandy. We decided wed like to do
something involved with social justice and community,
Hughes said. All of us thought of Triple Threat.
Last week, fve students from Waldo Middle
School and Bardwell Elementary School created their
covers, each one working to a specifc theme: light,
peace and collaboration. They worked under the
guidance of artists from Medallion Media, who teach
art classes through Triple Threat.
Caleb Luper, Triple Threats executive director,
said it was an amazing thing to watch. What surprised
me was their ability to describe what their feelings and
what their ideas were, he said. Im used to hearing
that from adult artists, but their ability to do that just
blew me away. Luper said it was the idea of students
drawing the covers and then seeing others value their
work and pay for it that sold him on the deal. The
organization works with about 3,000 students each
year, he said, and has never held a fundraiser before.
But thats not the only way Hughes has chosen
to involve the community. Those who pay extra for
the Dec. 11 show will get a meal catered by downtown
restaurant Chef Amaurys. Owned by Amaury Rosado,
the eatery is part of Restaurant Row on New York
Rosado, Hughes said, creates food the way
artists and musicians craft their art. He described it as
maybe the best food Ive had, and said involving him
was a way to share ownership of Tiny Candle and make
it an event downtown Aurora can be proud of.
No matter how much it grows, though, Hughes
said he would like to see Tiny Candle remain at Back
Thirds admittedly small performance space, which
can seat about 50. Part of the magic of the event, he
said, is the intimacy of the room and the ability of the
musicians to connect with the audience.
But in other ways Hughes isnt afraid to change
up the show. He said he has no idea what 2011s
Tiny Candle will be like yet, but if the new features
introduced this year work out, he may repeat them.
This is the ffth year, and we tried to make it more or
less the show youre familiar with, but bigger, he said.
I can see next year reinventing it.
Kids from public
housing get look at
world of high fnance
By: Erika Wurst
5 April 2010
AURORA -- Ten kids from the Jericho
Circle public housing project got a look at an entirely
different world last week when they traveled to
Chicago to soak up fnancial advice from national
The trip, put on by Aurora non-proft Triple
Threat Mentoring, was an eye-opener, said media
director Jordan Wilson, who accompanied the kids to
Charles Schwab, the Chicago Board Options Exchange,
Nikes Midwest Region Headquarters, and the Federal
Reserve -- where their jaws dropped at a display
showing $1 million in cash.
They were taking notes like there was no
tomorrow, Wilson said. These are really bright kids,
and I think their thirst for education, coupled with this
program, will do a lot for them.
Triple Threat Mentoring focuses on acedemics,
athletics and art, and includes programming of every
sort. Through its partnership with the East Aurora
School District, the non-proft organization has served
more than 1,500 elementary students.
One of those students is 12-year-old Joseph
Grimes, who made the trip to Chicago last week.
Jospeh lives in Jericho Circle with his mother and three
siblings. But he has called homeless shelters and his
familys vehicle home. Determined to break the cycle,
the pre-teen is making investments in his bank account,
and his future. I see my mom worries about money,
he said. Im not going to be like that. But were
going to make it through this and we wont be living on
the streets.
During the trip, Wilson said the kids were
inspired, not only by the fnancial lessons they learned,
but at the sight of the $1 million in currency at the
Federal Reserve.
You can tell a lot of these kids havent seen anything
more than a couple of dollars, Wilson said. They
were in awe to see that much money -- and eager
to start earning it. They talked about buying homes,
paying tuition, and keeping food on the table. Were
trying to do a lot for the kids at Jericho, and do all we
can to break the cycle, Wilson said.
According to the Triple Threats mission,
combining mentor relationships with programming
helps encourage kids like Joseph Grimes to pursue
goals and live out their potential.
Josephs mother, Alisa, is thankful her son will
have opportunities that she didnt. They need to learn
things at a young age to keep their credit up and not
start off on the wrong foot like I did, she said.
I hope they grow up to be successful and not
struggle like I have. Its been very hard.
Dream come true
Caleb Luper took a chance that has paid
of for him -- and area kids
By Scott Powers | Updated:
February 23, 2010
AURORA, Ill. -- East Aurora seniors Andrew
Fischer and Tramell Weathersby and three ffth-graders
form an imperfect circle on the hardwood basketball
foor at Gates Elementary School.
Fischer, Weathersby and the rest of the varsity
Tomcats just fnished leading a larger group of ffth-
graders in a set of basketball drills. The 30 minutes
spent playing hoops was painless for both parties.
The ffth-graders' eyes were opening wide as Ryan
Boatright, one of the state's top juniors, and others
dribbled between their legs, threw pinpoint passes
and elevated over the rim for easy layups. For the high
school players, they were doing what they loved.
East Aurora High School players run drills with
kids as part of the Triple Threat Mentoring program.
Now, it gets a bit more diffcult. The Tomcats have
been broken up in small groups with the ffth-graders
to talk about school, leadership, attitude, responsibility
and more.
The ffth-graders are shy. Fischer and
Weathersby read off questions from the provided
sheets, and the answers they get back are quiet and
short. The ffth-graders mostly nod, smile and look
away. Fischer and Weathersby aren't giving up. Both
begin sharing more about their lives and how the
questions pertain to them. Fischer talks about how
he didn't care much about his grades when he was
younger, and he now regrets it. Weathersby, the
Tomcats' team captain, gives examples of how to be a
As times passes, the ffth-graders get more
comfortable and begin opening up. Their answers
become longer. They talk more about their classes and
home lives. They laugh. Fischer and Weathersby sit
back and listen.
Sitting just outside the circle, Caleb Luper, 32,
smiles. This is beyond what he ever envisioned for
Triple Threat Mentoring. Luper took a risk two and
a half years ago and abandoned his well-paying IT
consulting job, gave up his pension and jeopardized
his family's fnancial future for this. He knew there was
more to life than making money and coasting. He and
his wife had been on mission trips to the Dominican
Republic and Haiti, and it had a lasting effect on him.
While he realized working 9 to 5, wearing a suit and
bringing in a salary was the smart and secure thing to
do, Luper couldn't stand it any longer. His urge to help
others was too great.
His solution was Triple Threat Mentoring.
Through athletics, academics and the arts -- where
"Triple Threat" comes from -- he sought to go into
Aurora's low-income neighborhoods and empower its
youth by developing their confdence, character and
life skills while also inspiring high school and college
students to become leaders and getting the adults in
the community involved. "[The mission trips] showed
me you can't change the world, but you can change
somebody's world," Luper said. "I kind of brought
that concept here. To be honest with you, I didn't even
know what I was starting. I felt so compelled to help
and do whatever."
What began as a one-man organization with
the basic idea of helping Aurora's youth through
athletics -- which at frst received a mixed reception
from the community -- has evolved into a multi-person
organization that reaches out to the area's kids through
everything from basketball drills to learning how to
paint to teaching them the basics of the fnancial world.
Schools throughout the state now approach Luper for
the organization's services, and it has received support
from hundreds of volunteers and partnered with Nike
and PowerBar.
"I pinch myself all the time," Luper said.
"There probably isn't a day that goes by where I don't
say, 'Thank you, God. This is amazing.' It is the most
incredible thing you can do. When you look into a kid's
eyes, and he's smiling, dude, it'll change you."
Weathersby has witnessed the impact he can
have. He sees how the ffth-graders hang on his every
word. He just wishes there had been something like this
when he was young. "When I was growing up, I was
basically on my own," Weathersby said. "I would go to
the park by myself. I was by myself. Triple Threat, we're
like big brothers to them. We help them, give them
hope and show them they can be where we're at. I tell
them to stay focused and never let down. 'If you have a
dream, keep going for it. Never let your head down to
no one.'"

message to
the ffth-
was the
He didn't
want them
to repeat
the mistakes he made. "This is fun," Fischer said. "I
don't have any little brothers or sisters, so it's kind of
fun meeting with little kids, teach them the right ways,
especially how my past has been. I kind of messed up
in the past. "My freshman year, I wasn't doing good.
I was like a little class clown in elementary and middle
school. I messed up on my grades. I try to teach these
kids now that grades are the most important thing
if they want to get somewhere in life. These kids are
young, so they got all the time in the world. You just
lead them down the right path."
This is exactly why East Aurora coach Wendell
Jeffries jumped at the chance to be involved with Triple
Threat Mentoring. He saw the opportunity to help
the community, but he also believed it would develop
his players' leadership. "I kind of smiled a little bit,"
Jeffries said. "I had them demonstrate a drill we do
almost every day in practice. Sometimes you wonder if
they're really listening to you. They were in the situation
where they had to lead the drill and show the kids. I
hear them saying the same thing we said, 'Put your right
foot forward and bend your knees.' It's teaching them
to be a teacher and has a nice effect on them."
Nike and PowerBar were just as eager to get
involved. They have donated apparel, equipment,
energy bars and nutritional handouts. "At Nike,
we believe in the power of sport and its ability to
enable young people to change their lives and their
communities," Nike spokeswoman Cindy Hamilton
said. "That's why we partner with Triple Threat
Mentoring, because the organization, through the lens
of sport, gives youth new opportunities and insights."
PowerBar sports nutritionist Tricia Griffn was
especially motivated to get involved because of her
own ties with the community. "On a personal level, I
grew up in Aurora -- fourth generation, actually -- and
had grandparents attend East Aurora High School,"
Griffn said. "I have a grandfather in the athletic hall
of fame there. My father, Al Pike, was very active
in the community, and it was his dying wish for our
family to help to establish programs to serve the
youth in our hometown. I am grateful to have the
opportunity to continue my father's legacy with Caleb
and Triple Threat. "After speaking with Caleb Luper,
and hearing his passion and vision for Triple Threat,
it was like a lightning bolt hit us both. There were so
many opportunities PowerBar could step in and help
out with. The community of sport that PowerBar
exemplifes is such a perfect ft with Triple Threat."
With such community and corporate support,
Triple Threat Mentoring has quickly grown at a pace
that Luper is struggling to keep up with. He has already
hired fve full-time staff members, and the number of
volunteers grows by the day. Last year, they had 300
volunteers participate in 44 events or programs, which
included about 3,600 kids.
Luper's plan is to expand Triple Threat
Mentoring throughout the country. Just as he tells
Aurora's youth, he isn't going to limit himself. "Dream
as big as possible because you can," Luper said. "So
many people have myths about what under-resourced,
low-income communities are like, but they're full of
awesome kids, seriously."
100 S. River St.
Aurora, IL 60507