RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — You could say Brianna Dixon lives her life in the fast lane, literally and figuratively. From serving as Rantoul High School’s track captain to volunteering as much of her time with two of her dad’s community initiatives. Not only does she strive to build on examples set by leaders in her life, but also demonstrates no matter your challenges, you can rise above.

Since the fourth grade, Brianna discovered her talent and passion for track and has pursued it full force. In 2021, she earned Rantoul High School its first gold medal and title in Class 2-A for track and field. From that history-making day, she went on to place second in high jump in a Sacramento meet. While the accolades continued to pile up, she suffered an injury during the past summer ahead of nationals. But credits her AAU Coach for instilling a “mental toughness.”

“At times it can be tough because you never know what a kid is going through. You just wanna take your time growing and molding them into the people they’re going to be. But also instilling that tough love. Me being from a military background my mom was always tough on me. I know her step-dad is from a military background so he’s tough on her as well. Just laying the foundation for her so she can be successful,” says Marques Lowe.

Marques, who Brianna has known for about seven years, has been instrumental in crafting the confidence and courage she now possesses to pursue her goals and dreams. Not only does he serve as President and CEO of the AAU Vipers Track Club (now in its 14th year) but he’s also the Director of Track and Field at Kankakee High School. Marques has made it his mission to be the guidance and motivation young high schoolers can rely on. Which is why his track club is one of the largest with over 100 athletes like Brianna. 30 of them are competing at the collegiate level.

However, Brianna’s most recent achievement is one she and Coach Lowe couldn’t be prouder of. After continuous acts of service to her community, she was nominated for her first scholarship by Dr. Evelyn Underwood called the “MLK Living the Dream Scholar” Award. Brianna has made time for nursing home residents through her church where she offers them song and scripture. She also gives back to the Bob Fulling Hope Center in Rantoul and Not on My Watch, both of which her dad, Herbert Burnett, has led the way on. A burden as a kid became a joy as an adult.

“I grew up going to church and my grandpa is now Pastor at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ in Danville. Growing up with him he always wanted to give back. Not really by choice when I was younger but they’d have us go to nursing homes over the holidays. Sing to them, give words of the bible. As I got older, it became I want to go.”

Of course, Brianna’s willingness to serve others outside herself has not gone unnoticed by Coach Lowe. When he discovered she earned an MLK Living the Dream Scholarship, he beamed with so much pride in knowing what that exemplifies. He expressed to me that she’s a testament to the values and qualities he encourages in his Viper athletes. Because families have seen the success he’s having with seniors like Brianna, Coach Lowe’s club now includes teens from Bloomington and Danville even though it’s based in Champaign. No matter the athlete, his advice is the same:

“There’s gonna be tribulations, there’s gonna be difficulties but at the end of the storm there’s gonna be light at the end of the tunnel. That’s important for our youth to hear. Never stop believing in yourself but always hold yourself accountable. It’s okay to make mistakes and fall down but pick yourself up and keep going.”

To learn more about Coach Lowe’s Vipers Track Club, click here.

You can also visit their Facebook page here.

Stay tuned for another “Celebrating Central Illinois” story next week as we continue honoring Black History Month. This time, we highlight a leader in Danville who encouraged the African-American communities to get vaccinated while also working to reduce teen violence. His story airs next Tuesday when we learn just how much his efforts have improved the lives of so many.