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Sponsor 7 Q+A: Heather Vazquez, Junior League of Champaign-Urbana

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The Junior League of Champaign-Urbana is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.

Junior League’s President, Heather Vazquez, answers the 7 Q+As with stories that will make you want to hug your computer or technology of choice for reading this!



What are you grateful for today?
Today, it’s a mixed bag of being grateful for on-time flights as I watch the sun rise from Seat 11a, the connectivity technology affords me so I can see my family when my work takes me to other time zones and my girls—Amy, Cherie, Loni—women I’m in constant contact with because they
leave me feeling assured we can get it all done and we have eachother’s back.

Tell us about one of your friends and what you love about her.
Does everyone have trouble choosing one person? My roommate from grad school lives in NYC. We maybe see each other once a year. Vivian knows everything about me—stuff no one knows—and still she stays. She will send me texts with lyrics of a song she just heard like “how bizarre” and I will immediately be on the road trip from Boston in 1997, when we sped home to DC in under 8 hours, teaching her to drive a manual on 95 and stopping in NJ to give my mom a surprise hello — all so I could begin working at the restaurant where, it turns out, I would meet my future husband a few hours later. Vivian is perfect for me, and when she signs off an email or our phone calls telling me “miss your face” or ” love you sista sledge” I am assured I have done something right in this world to have someone so good call me friend.

Describe one of the best days of your life.
Last winter, our then 10 year old son earned his first state cut time in an individual event for his swim team. He had been part of the state relays, but had never earned his own individual cut. It was a “last chance” meet, for swimmers close but not quite at the state times. Jack had just swam the 200 Free and he was still one second off. One second. He went to his coaches, asked if he could swim it again, after the meet was technically over, in the pool by himself. So brave, I thought. Who taught him that, I wondered. A small group was still there, including high school aged boys who needed to spend no time paying attention to some kid they didn’t know, but still they shouted his name as he completed his 8 lengths of the pool. His two best friends walked the length of the pool every lap, alternating watching him and the clock, but with him every second. When he hit that wall, earning the time, I think more than my husband was surprised I didn’t jump in the water. Coaches were beaming for him, bending down to celebrate. His best buddies went crazy! My girlfriends were hugging me back, tears in their eyes too, all three of them knowing he wanted this so badly. As he looked up at us, his coaches, his best friends, he smiled hitting the water with his little fist and told me with a grin, “I told you we would need that hotel room for State!”

What’s the best lesson you learned from your mother/grandmother?
My mom made sure I heard “when people show you who they are, believe them.” But I had to get to my 40s before I trusted myself enough to be okay with not being friends with everyone. To stop trying to get someone not worth getting back, because the people I need in my life are incredibly easy to make room for and the people who are a challenge to fit into my life are usually not worth it anyway.

We’re all unique. What is your special gift?
Volume. I am the loudest person a few of my friends know. I used to worry that was a not good thing—now I know it’s part of what makes me a leader. It’s not everything, but it’s definitely a special gift.

What could women be doing to make their community a better place?
We could be easier on one another. There is a too quick default to judgement too many of us are guilty of… Myself included. If we could come from a place of “yes,” give ourselves some slack, I’m betting we could get out of our own way and get even more done than we already do. And of course, join the Junior League. That’s where the real work is getting done in Champaign-Urbana.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
I would not care one more second about how my thighs look when I am working out, so I guess that means I would not wear oversized t-shirts to the gym.

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