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4 Rockstar Students

North Peoria Students Represent the Shining Stars in Our Community

Article by Angel Fuchs

Photography by Christine Andert—Picture Lady Photography LLC

Originally published in North Peoria Lifestyle

Meet four local young people making an impact in the world through tenacity, intelligence and passion for what they do. These four North Peoria students are balancing school and activities and they are rocking it! They represent just some of the amazing young people that are a vital part of our community.

Gracie Bartos, 17

Gracie Bartos is a senior at Glendale Prep. She is the Vice-Chair for the City of Peoria Youth Advisory Board (YAB), a group of appointed 8th through12th-grade students who represent the 40,000 youth in our city.

She is the middle child of Donna and Peter Bartos. Donna is the founder and CEO of BLOOM365, a non-profit violence prevention organization. Peter is the owner of State 48 Home Services, a local HVAC company providing installation and repair services. Gracie also has an 18-year-old brother and an 11-year-old sister.

“My mom inspires me with her heart for charity as a public servant and my dad with his dedication to serving his customers,” she says. “I am constantly inspired by my friends for their kindness, my teachers for their selflessness and my community for its strength.”

Gracie hopes to help cultivate a lasting culture of service on her school’s campus. “With the generous help of faculty and unwavering support of fellow students, I’ve been able to launch a Community Service Committee,” explains Gracie. “Our school bears the name ‘Great Hearts,’ and I find having a heart of service necessary to being ‘great-hearted’.”

Gracie is undecided as to where she will attend college but plans on majoring in theology, with the hope of pursuing a Master of Divinity in her graduate studies.

Jameson Oliver Proudfit, 15

A sophomore at Brightmont Academy, Jameson Proudfit finds inspiration in the literary character Pollyanna. “Reading Pollyanna in 4th grade changed my life,” recalls Jameson. “I loved how she was able to look on the bright side of any situation. I’m also really inspired by Walt Disney, because he created a whole world just out of his imagination and his willingness to believe in himself.”

Jameson has high-functioning autism but that doesn't stop him one bit. He currently holds a part-time job at Titan Alarm and enjoys bike riding, listening to stand-up comedy and video games. “There are a lot of great things about autism, like having a great imagination and a brain that can learn lots of facts easily,” he says. “But there are also challenges as well, like being able to focus in a room full of people, and it can be harder for me to make friends and connect with people, but I don’t give up.”

Last month Jameson went on a humanitarian trip to build houses and help people in the Blue Ridge Mountains. His short-term goals include graduating high school, learning to drive and learning to be more confident around people.

“In the long term, I want to become the first really successful autistic comedian, buy my own house and live life to the fullest.” Becoming a veterinarian or working with computers are high on his list of future job options.

Jameson has an older brother, Weston who is 17 (and Jameson’s best friend), and two younger sisters Lucy, 13, and Caroline, 9. Jameson's father is the CEO of Titan Alarm, and his mother is a writer, speaker and podcaster.

“I think autism is actually a superpower,” says Jameson. “I hope someone reads this and wants to get to know someone better who they might not understand. I think if we could all recognize the value each person we meet has, the world would be a better place.”

Bentlee Shafer, 11

Bentlee is an adventurous sixth-grader at Candeo Peoria. She's the middle child of Amanda, a work-from-home mom, and Peoria City Councilman Brad Shafer. Bentlee has two brothers, Bobby, 14, and Beau, 9.

“I've always been very active and adventurous,” says Bentlee. “My mom always says life is an adventure and my dad says that I am an adventure.”

Bentlee plays forward on her soccer team and enjoys watersports. In fact, she is ranked 13th in the US for Juniors Wakesurfing.

“I wanted to get better at surfing, so I had a lesson with a wakesurf coach at Lake Pleasant,” explains Bentlee. “She encouraged me to enter a surf competition last spring because I was already so comfortable on the board, and I really enjoyed it.” 

Bentlee started wakesurfing about two years ago, but she's been waterskiing and wakeboarding for five years. “I like it because it's fun, active and I like to be outside.”

As of right now, Bentlee aspires to be an actress or professional surfer. “That's a long way from now so that could change,” says Bentlee.

She attributes her successes to her parents. “My mom and dad always cheer me on. In soccer, I always worry that the other players are all bigger than me, but my mom reminds me that I am faster! And every day when I leave the house for school, my dad reminds me to go change the world. They call me 'Tiny but Mighty,' which helps remind me that I can do anything.”

Mason Forsberg, 14

Like Bentlee, Mason Forsberg is a competitive wakesurfer. A freshman at Liberty High School, Mason started competitive wakesurfing about a year ago but has been active in water sports his whole life.

“I like to wakesurf because it is a very unique sport, and I enjoy learning new skills,” explains Mason. “It’s also given me lots of time to spend with my parents. We go to the lake two or three times a week, just the three of us, and we are there for a couple of hours each time.”

Last year Mason placed second at Nationals for amateur men and was invited to the World's Competition where he placed in the top 10.

He also enjoys lifting weights and playing basketball with his friends. He plans to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints after he graduates from high school.

Mason has two older sisters, Reeslyn and Mallory. His mom, Katie, teaches gymnastics, and his dad, Russ, is a physician’s associate. The Forsbergs also owns Twisted Sugar in North Peoria, where Mason enjoys helping customers.

“I'm always striving to be the best that I can possibly be, so I can look back and say I left nothing on the table. That inspires me to be the best version of myself.”