We are so proud of our former employee/volunteer!…….


WOODSTOCK – A young man who adapted to language and cultural barriers as a boy in Woodstock has been recognized for his efforts to make it easier on others making similar transitions.

Rafael Castaneda, 22, was one of three honorees to receive the Matthew Freeman Social Justice award from Roosevelt University this spring, sharing honorable mention with another student. Castenada graduated from the school earlier this month.

“It’s a big honor,” Castaneda said. “Just to know that your work is being acknowledged by someone somewhere. Many times, you keep doing this, you keep speaking up, but with everything going on you might not see a change automatically.”

Castaneda received the award for his efforts to get a multicultural center put on campus, and for strengthening the school’s Latino studies and Spanish programs.

The multicultural center, Castaneda said, would provide a central location for groups of varying ethnic backgrounds to gather, whether to hold specific events or to spend time together between classes. He said the center would help with the school’s retention and recruitment rate of international students.

Students are currently scouting campus locations for the center and hope to get it going in the 2014-15 school year. Castaneda has stayed up on the process, but he’s more behind the scenes now that he’s back in Woodstock.

The Freeman award isn’t the first honor Castaneda has received. In 2012, the McHenry County Business Journal named him “best under 40.” He’s served on the McHenry County Community Foundation and volunteered with the Family Health Partnership Clinic.

He said those experiences have solidified his desire to give back to the community. But Castaneda credits his schooling for much of his involvement.