Peoria Aspirations

The 2021 class of 40 Leaders Under Forty weighs in...

accessible playground equipment
The desire for accessible playground equipment is one example of how this year's class of 40 Leaders Under Forty emphasizes inclusivity.

“If you could bring one thing to the Peoria area, what would it be?” For Shalandra Burch, it would be “more educational opportunities for children.” Katie Cox suggests a kitten café: “Everyone should have the option to sit in a room full of purring kittens while sipping their favorite beverage or reading their favorite book. I also wouldn’t mind more rooftop dining/entertainment experiences!”

Inclusivity is a top priority of this year’s class. Katie Yocum Musisi would like to see “more public spaces that bring people together. I love the Interplay Park concept for its green and inclusive spaces that would be accessible by all.” Similarly, Gretchen Pearsall is focused on inclusive playgrounds. “I’d love for them to be the default equipment installed in parks and schools, instead of being specialty equipment.”

“I would bring an end to the negative self-talk that exists in our area,” declares Rachel Berchtold. “We love to complain about the state of our state, the lack of amenities, the high taxes, lack of resources in our schools, on and on. Yet we stay because we truly love these places, our hometowns. We have hometown restaurants and bowling alleys, the excitement in the air for a local festival, beautiful scenery, walkable villages with quaint and historic downtowns... I could go on...”

We also had three votes (Chris Watkins, Angie Ostaszewski and Zak Edmonds) for a Trader Joe’s—a perennial hope, year in and year out. Calling Trader Joe’s corporate...

Finally, we asked this year's class the following question: "What local figure inspires you?" Here were a few of their answers:

  • Dr. Rita Ali (Carita Bright)
  • Christine & Leland Deehring of Bump Boxes (Miles Colwell, Sr.)
  • My parents and Chuck Weaver (Leland Deehring)
  • McFarland A. Bragg II (Gregory Wilson, Jr.)
  • Marylee Nunley, founder of United Stroke Alliance (Kelly Schneider)
  • Jonathon & Nikki Romain of Art Inc. (Betsy Larson)
  • Denise Moore (Christell Frausto)
  • Monica Hendrickson (Katie Yocum Musisi & Gretchen Pearsall)
  • Dr. Dawn Jeffries (Chanel Hargrave-Murry)
  • Christine Zak-Edmonds (Zak Edmonds) PM