Contact: Scot Marcotte,
Illinois Fatherhood Initiative
Mobile: (773) 425-7987



The Illinois Fatherhood Initiative announces its 23rd annual Father of the Year Essay Finalists for Father’s Day

CHICAGO (June 19, 2020) – Each year for the past 23 years, the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative has sponsored an essay contest on the topic, “what my father means to me.”  During that time, nearly a half million essays have been submitted by Illinois schoolkids, read by thousands of volunteers.  These essays capture the poignant stories of fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, and father-figures who are positively impacting our next generation – one life at a time.

In the face of major change going on around us, 2300 Illinois school children wrote compassionate stories about the men who influence them. More than 300 volunteers virtually stepped up to narrow those heartfelt submissions to 12 father-of-the-year finalists.

This year’s twelve finalists and their special role models include:

  • Talia Baker, De La Salle Institute; and Maurice Baker, Father of the Year
  • Herlinda Daza, Columbia Explorers, and brother Luis Daza, Father Figure of the Year
  • Emilia Dedic, Arbury Hills School; and Craig Dedic, Father of the Year
  • Maria Garcia, Rachel Carson Elementary School; and teacher Jorge Cruz, Father Figure of the Year
  • Emily Lopez, Columbia Explorers; and Carlos Horta, Grandfather of the Year 
  • Lanie McGuckin, St. Mary’s Pontiac; and Ryan McGuckin, Father of the Year
  • Ahriel Pringle, De La Salle Institute; and Ronald Pringle, Father of the Year
  • Rogelio Rivera, Jr., Columbia Explorers; and Rogelio Rivera, Sr., Father of the Year
  • Taiwo Sowemimo, Colin Powell Middle School; and Sotayo Sowemimo, Father of the Year
  • Jack Tepper, De La Salle Institute; and Dan Tepper, Father of the Year
  • Dominic Vittori, Bridgeport Catholic Academy; and James Vittori, Father of the Year
  • Dempsey Young, Mundelein High School; and Chuck Cranford, Father Figure of the Year

Finalist Taiwo Sowemimo writes, “The ideal father – or parent for that matter – is one that knows how to read their child and adapt to their behavior.” 

In this time of change, adapting is critical, as is being an inspirational presence in the lives of children.

IFI president Scot Marcotte reinforces the importance of that presence, “We dads have an obligation to make an impact in our children’s lives; to feed off the many teachable moments going on around us to give needed guidance and hope.”

Father of the Year Ryan McGuckin adds, “No matter the person, place, or idea, Lanie will continue to be taught manners towards similar and different viewpoints and backgrounds with an emphasis on coexisting.“ 

The country’s first statewide nonprofit fatherhood organization, the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative has a mission of connecting children and fathers by actively engaging fathers in the education of their children. The initiative was established in 1997 to address the increasing problem of father absence in society. 

The Census Bureau indicates that 19.7 million children are growing up in homes without fathers. Furthermore, children from fatherless homes are four times more likely to grow up in poverty and twice as likely to drop out of high school. These children are also more likely to commit suicide, run away, have behavioral disorders, abuse drugs and alcohol, commit crimes and end up in prison, according to the IFI. 

For more information on the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative, please contact Scot Marcotte at 773-425-7987. 


About the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative

The Illinois Fatherhood Initiative (IFI) is the country’s first state-wide non-profit fatherhood organization.  Founded in 1997, the IFI provides resources and programming to help dads take an active role in the education of their children and be actively present in their kids’ lives.