* * Distinguished Alum 2022 * *
Michelle Mekky, Class of 1989
Niles West graduate Michelle Mekky is a veteran broadcast journalist, public relations executive, Chicago-area business leader, Forbes writer and sought-after speaker. After a 20-year career as a TV news producer/writer and PR executive, she founded her own PR agency, Mekky Media Relations, in 2016. She started the company at her dining room table on her own, with little money and only one client. In just five years, she has led Mekky Media to record-breaking growth and revenue, delivering powerful publicity for businesses and nonprofits around the country and internationally. The company’s successful trajectory was especially significant in 2021 – Michelle doubled the client roster and size of her team (now made up of 12 PR pros). Fueled by Michelle’s drive, hard work, creativity, connections and strategic leadership, Mekky Media has become a seven-figure business serving clients that range from startups to industry leaders. Michelle also has established herself as a Forbes writer and speaker who addresses topics like leadership, entrepreneurship, workplace wellness, overcoming challenges and her cancer journey. She is part of the prestigious Forbes Agency Council and International Public Relations Network (IPRN). Michelle is a mentor to many young people, and an innovator in workplace culture and flexible staffing models. Michelle is also an ovarian cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in 2015 and feels incredibly blessed to have made a full recovery. This has inspired her energetic and grateful approach to life, as well as her desire to give back. She is a spokesperson for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and board member for Triage Cancer, and Mekky Media is a leader in representing nonprofits and elevating their messages and missions. Michelle and her company have been widely recognized. In 2021 alone, awards included Gold/Silver Stevie Awards, Ragan’s Workplace Wellness Award, Expertise PR’s Best PR Firms in Chicago listing, and the Ragan and PR Daily Communicator of the Year Award. Michelle also has been named a PR News Top Women in PR Honoree and Crain’s Chicago Business Notable Entrepreneur. Michelle says she discovered her passion for storytelling at Niles West, when students told her they connected with a school paper story she wrote about the impact of her grandma’s death. She was encouraged by her teachers to continue writing, with Mr. Orr convincing her to join the newspaper. Mr. Sweeney assigned a project of creating a video featuring book characters, which sparked her interest in TV journalism. Michelle won the English Department Award her senior year. She then headed to Northwestern University, where she earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the Medill School of Journalism. She worked her way through college and was proud to be the first in her family to obtain a degree.
Michelle still lives in the area (Mount Prospect) and is a proud Niles West graduate, often sharing how her high school experience helped her discover her passions and gave her a strong work ethic. She would be the perfect selection for the Niles West Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Niles West Distinguished Alumnus Award 2022-2023 Nomination
The Distinguished Alumnus Award is given to select Niles West alumni. The selection is made by a committee of current Niles West students and members of the Education Foundation, based on the following criteria:
1. graduated from Niles West
2. attended at least three years of high school at a District 219 high school (this can also include Niles East),
3. has made a significant contribution to his or her field and/or in the community, and
4. had a meaningful experience as a student at Niles West High School.
The recipient of this award will be asked to attend our annual Senior Accolades program to accept their award and give a brief speech about their experiences in high school and post high school. The accolades ceremony will take place on May 17 at 7:00 PM . At this ceremony, current students are also recognized for their accomplishments in areas of athletics, scholarship, and community engagement.
Previous nominations are taken into consideration each year. Nominations are accepted until February 28, 2023. Questions about this award, the nomination process, or selection process can be sent to Sarah Struebing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
(2010 to Present)
2022 - Michelle Mekky, '89
2021 - Amin Lakhani '07
2020 - Megan Goldish, '89
2019 - Brett Kopf, '05
2018 - Marcy Lerner Steindler, '77
2017 - Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, '63
2016 - Judge Merrick Garland '70
2016 – Dr. Robert A. Ganz, ‘72
2015 - Rich Beckman, '72
2014 - Tom '86 and Dita, '86 (Jusufi) Merkel
2013 - Howard Sandroff, '67
2012 - Dennis Hu, '07
2011 - Judy Hsu, '88
2010 - Dr. Steven Dayan, '85