It’s been a busy couple of months for Riverside resident Julia Rhoads, the founder and artistic director of the Chicago-based dance company Lucky Plush Productions.

On Feb. 18, Lucky Plush was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, given to exceptional nonprofit organizations that demonstrate creativity and impact.

The MacArthur Foundation invests in the long-term sustainability of such organizations by awarding sizable one-time grants. Lucky Plush is receiving $200,000 from the foundation and will use the funds to increase its reserve fund. It will use a small portion for technology upgrades and marketing.

“Receiving the MacArthur Award is both an honor and financial grace for Luck Plush Productions,” Rhoads said. “It validates over 15 years of dedicated risk-taking, inspires a renewed sense of responsibility and purpose in fulfilling our mission and will deepen our efforts to create a sustainable model for our work.”

At the time the award was announced, the dance company, which is celebrating its 15th year, was putting the final touches on a new show, Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip, which will premiere on March 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

The show follows a group of washed-up superheroes attempting to reinvent themselves by starting a nonprofit think tank for do-gooders and combines Lucky Plush’s signature blending of nuanced dialogue, complex choreography and improvisation.

Lucky Plush is the first Chicago dance company that the Harris Theater for Music and Dance has both commissioned and fully presented.

For tickets and more information about the show, visit or call 312-334-7777. 

Welcome aboard

Natasha Alvarez, of North Riverside, has been hired as an account coordinator at SeyferthPR in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Alvarez has experience in social media and coordinating consumer engagement events in many communities in Michigan. She also volunteers for the Helen DeVos Dance Marathon, relay for Life, Young Life and Bethany Christian Services. She is a graduate of Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Syed U. Ahmad is the newest member of the Riverside Township Lions Club following his induction at the club’s February meeting. Diane Ceragioli was Ahmad’s sponsor.

On campus

Rachael Larsen, of Brookfield, a senior at Lyons Township High School, won three awards, including a Gold Key Award in the Art Portfolio division during the Scholastic Art Awards competition in February at Downers Grove South High School.

In addition, Larsen received a Silver Key Award and an Honorable Mention in Mixed Media.

Meanwhile, senior Claire Meany, also of Brookfield, won two Gold Key Awards in the Drawing division.

Gold Key Award winners advance to the Scholastic Art Awards national competition in New York.

Riverside resident Michael Buckley was awarded his diploma as one of 500 graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville after the 2015 fall semester. Buckley earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration at a ceremony at the university in December. 

Nadia Jasmine Torrence, of Brookfield, received a Bachelor of Science degree from Bradley University in Peoria during the school’s commencement ceremonies in December 2015.

Kathleen Maxwell, of Riverside, was named a 2015 St. Olaf College Svoboda Legal Scholar, which offered her an opportunity to perform intensive legal research and serve in a legal support role to social justice-oriented clinics at the University of Minnesota School of Law.

Maxwell, a junior and 2013 graduate of Riverside-Brookfield High School, is studying environmental studies, German and management studies at St. Olaf College.

Maxwell was also named to the St. Olaf College dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester, along with Riverside residents Brian Brown and Andrew Salij, for attaining a grade-point average of 3.75 on a 4-point scale.

Emily Andrulis, of Brookfield, was one of more than 200 Cornell College (Mount Vernon, Iowa) students named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester. Andrulis earned highest honors for attaining a 4.0 grade-point average on a 4-point scale.

Riverside resident Ian Clark, a sophomore at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, was named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester for attaining a GPA of at least 3.5.

Riverside residents William Hejna, Renee Kunkel and Matthias Witteman were named to the 2015 fall dean’s list at Dominican University in River Forest for achieving a GPA of at least 3.8.

Meanwhile, North Riverside resident Patrick Quaid was named to the fall semester honors list for attaining a GPA of at least 3.5.

Katherine Andrulis, of Brookfield, was named to the Wittenberg University (Springfield, Ohio) dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester for attaining a GPA of at least 3.5.

Riverside resident Bryan Reyes was named to the dean’s list at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for the 2015 spring semester for achieving a GPA of at least 3.75. Reyes, a graduate of Riverside-Brookfield High School is studying engineering and physics.

Brookfield residents Samantha Beilke and Estrella Gonzalez, Riverside residents Nicole Capone and Jacob Palka, and North Riverside residents Kelsey Dickeson and Larry Pottle were named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester at Ball State University for attaining a GPA of at least 3.5 during the semester.

North Riverside resident Gina Watylyk and Riverside resident Erica Fong were named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester at the University of Minnesota for attaining a GPA of at least 3.66.

Watylyk is a senior in the College of Science and Engineering. Fong is a junior in the College of Education.

Samantha Goldsmith and Kristin Tomecek, both of Riverside, were named to the dean’s list for the 2015 fall semester at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Dean’s list honors require a semester GPA of at least 3.4.

Tess Galvan, of Brookfield, was named to the dean’s list at Rochester (New York) Institute of Technology for the 2015 fall semester. Galvan, who is studying in the administrative support technology program, earned a GPA of at least 3.4.

The Riverside-Brookfield High School speech team won two medals during a competition at Willowbrook High School on Jan. 16. Sophomore Taner Guzeldereli won first place in Original Comedy, while Guzeldereli and Abby Schwarz placed second in Improv Duet Acting.

Magnus Urosev, of Brookfield, was one of 22 Lyons Township High School students who participated in the 68th Annual Illinois Music Educators All-State Conference on Jan. 28-30 in Peoria.

Urosev, a member of the All-State Band, learned under noted guest conductors and performed in a concert culminating the festival.