CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The 10th class of the Edgars Fellows Program is meeting this week in Champaign.

The Edgar Fellows program, designed by and named for former Illinois governor Jim Edgar, is an initiative to inspire respectful and collaborative leadership to address the state’s major challenges.

40 emerging public policy leaders were chosen as this year’s class, reflecting Illinois’ political, racial, ethnic and geographic diversity. They include elected and appointed officials from all levels of government, leaders of nonprofit organizations and people making a mark in the business world.

“Each year, the Edgar Fellows Program brings together a group of leaders, with different backgrounds and different politics, from all over Illinois,” Edgar said. “They share and learn from those different life experiences, but they also find out that they have more in common than they have differences.”

“People who were strangers on Sunday become good friends by Thursday,” Edgar continued. “It has been gratifying to watch that happen with the members of the nine classes who have already been through this program. It’s what the Edgar Fellows program is all about, finding common ground and respect, so our fellows can work together throughout their careers to help shape a better Illinois.”

The program’s activities in Champaign this week include an extensive training program Edgar and his staff designed and will host. The fellows will engage with more than two dozen policy experts and experienced practitioners, but will also learn from each other in discussions of issues.

This year’s fellows are:

  • Shweta Baid, Aurora, Alderman
  • Representative Chris Bos, Lake Zurich
  • Christopher Brown, Mayor of Morris
  • Senator Terri Bryant, Murphysboro
  • Jacob Butcher, Springfield, Chief of Staff, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon and the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus
  • Representative Lakesia Collins, Chicago
  • Mimi Cowan, Naperville, Will County Board Member
  • Magda Derisma, Springfield, Legislative Director and Staff Attorney, Illinois AFL-CIO
  • James Donelan, Springfield, Alderman and Executive Director of Township Officials of Illinois Risk Management Association
  • Kelly Edwards, Bloomington, State Counsel, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Companies
  • Representative Amy Elik, Alton
  • Celeste Flores, Gurnee, Director of Community Building, Mano a Mano Family Resource Center
  • Representative David Friess, Redbud
  • Christy George, Chicago, First Assistant Deputy Governor for Budget and Economy, office of the Governor
  • Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Glenview
  • Representative Edgar Gonzalez, Jr., Chicago
  • Lanyea Griffin, Chicago, Executive Director, Illinois Tollway
  • Laura Hepp Kessel, Canton, Fulton County Board Member and Director of Telehealth Medicine, SIU School of Medicine
  • Patrick Hoban, Bloomington, Chief Executive Officer, Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council
  • Rory Hoskins, Mayor of Forest Park
  • Kevin “KJ” Johnson, St. Joseph, President and CEO, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association
  • John Kahl, Mayor of East Peoria
  • Erica Martinez, Chicago, Public Health Administrator, University of Illinois at Chicago Alumni
  • Jodi Miller, Mayor of Freeport
  • Jenna Mitchell, Springfield, Chief of Staff, Illinois Senate Republicans
  • Senator Laura Murphy, Des Plaines
  • Chris Nelson, Mayor of Village of West Dundee and Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs, Comcast
  • Jim O’Connor, Oak Park, Project Director at Advance Illinois
  • Cesar Orozco, Chicago, Assistant Comptroller for Chicago, Illinois Office of the Comptroller
  • Michael Reid, Jr., President of the Village of Hampshire
  • Leigh Richie, Chicago, Deputy General Counsel and Deputy Chief Compliance Officer, office of the Governor
  • Daniel Serota, Lake Zurich, Director of Public Affairs at Aon
  • Representative Dave Severin, Benton
  • Senator Mike Simmons, Chicago
  • Representative Dan Ugaste, Geneva
  • Roberto Valdez, Jr., Chicago, Associate Director of External Affairs, Latino Policy Forum
  • Don Villar, Chicago, Secretary-Treasurer, Chicago Federation of Labor
  • Jaclyn Vinson, Danville, Executive Director, Vermilion Housing Authority
  • Ben Winick, Chicago, Chief of Staff, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services
  • Asif Yusuf, Oak Brook, Trustee, Village of Oak Brook