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District 15 Alumni and Current Employee Selected to Represent Illinois in the National RISE Award

January 16, 2024

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Governor JB Pritzker announced today the nominations of Mario Diaz Albarran, the head custodian at Lincoln School in Community Consolidated School District 15 in Palatine, and Lakinda Brown, a paraprofessional at Freeport School District 145, to represent Illinois in the 2024 Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Awards, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Congress enacted the RISE awards program in 2019 to honor classified school employees who provide exemplary service to their schools and communities. 

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will select a single classified school employee from the nominations made by states across the country to receive the national RISE Award in spring 2024.

“Ms. Brown and Mr. Diaz Albarran represent the indispensability of classified employees to building a positive school culture and climate,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Sanders. “They forge relationships with students, support the work of teachers and administrators, give back to their communities, and take on leadership roles. I am honored to nominate Mr. Diaz Albarran and Ms. Brown to represent classified employees in Illinois for the prestigious national RISE Award. I thank classified employees across the state for their outstanding contributions to Illinois schools.”

Mario with principal and students

Mario Diaz Albarran has served as the head custodian at Lincoln Elementary School in Community Consolidated School District 15 since 2019. His colleagues praise him for his dedication, attention to detail, and strong connections with students and staff. His work ethic and leadership of the custodial team ensures students have pristine and high-functioning facilities that inspire pride and allow them to perform their best. As a former District 15 student, Diaz Albarran also leverages his personal experiences to mentor students at Lincoln School. 

Michael Coleman, Lincoln School’s Interim Principal shared, “I have witnessed Mario in countless situations where he carefully analyzes every aspect of our school setting to ensure that our children will be safe. I can ask him for his thoughts about any situation that might pose a safety risk for our students and he immediately comes up with ideas and creative solutions. Mario will do anything to protect our children, even when it falls well outside of what would be expected of his roles and responsibilities.”

ISBE and Gov. Pritzker selected the RISE Award nominees from top-scoring Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards recipients in the educational service personnel category. The state of Illinois nominated Susan Naber of McLean County Unit District 5 and Johnyell Owens of New Trier High School District 203 for last year’s RISE Award.

The RISE award program defines a classified school employee as one who works in any grade from prekindergarten through high school in any of the following occupational specialties:

  • Paraprofessional

  • Clerical and administrative services

  • Transportation services

  • Food and nutrition services

  • Custodial and maintenance services

  • Security services

  • Health and student services

  • Technical services

  • Skilled trades

Nominees must, at a minimum, demonstrate excellence in the following areas:

  1. Work performance,

  2. School and community involvement,

  3. Leadership and commitment,

  4. Local support (from co-workers, school administrators, community members, etc., who speak to the nominee’s exemplary work), and

  5. Enhancement of classified school employees' image in the community and schools.

Find more information on the RISE Award on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

Congrats Mario!