Work and Learn Indiana Honors Excellence With 2024 Impact Awards

This press release was originally published on the Indiana Chamber web site.

February 22, 2024 (INDIANAPOLIS) — Fearless. Creative. Original. These are among the qualities that helped define excellence at the 2024 Indiana Work-Based Learning Conference, featuring the 18th Annual Impact Awards.

The event, hosted by Work and Learn Indiana (WLI), honored Hoosier work-based learners, employers, innovative programs, work-based learning supervisors and career development professionals today. A crowd of nearly 500 gathered for the luncheon celebration.

The 2024 Impact Award winners represent excellence across 10 categories. Nominations were submitted by the public, with winners chosen by a group of impartial judges.


  • Work-Based Learner of the Year (College): Jenna Carter: Purdue University (West Lafayette), Endress+Hauser (Greenwood)
  • Work-Based Learner of the Year (High School): Cristina Llamas-Gonzalez: Ben Davis High School (Indianapolis), Plastic Recycling, Inc. (Indianapolis)
  • Work-Based Learner of the Year (Adult): Chelsea Ort: Engage Mentoring (Indianapolis)
  • Career Development Professional of the Year (College): Andrew Peñalva: Indiana Latino Institute (Indianapolis)
  • Career Development Professional of the Year (High School): Sara Shaver: Franklin County High School (Brookville)
  • Career Development Professional of the Year (Adult Learner): Kara Webb: Greater Lafayette Commerce (Lafayette)
  • Work-Based Learning Supervisor of the Year: Robbie Page: E-gineering (Indianapolis)
  • Outstanding Employer of the Year: Thompson Thrift (Indianapolis)
  • Innovative Program of the Year: Commodore Manufacturing (Leopold)
  • David R. McKinnis Community Partner Award: Paul Perkins: Amatrol, Inc. (Jeffersonville)

Managed by the Institute for Workforce Excellence (IWE) – a subsidiary of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce – WLI’s free internship-matching program connects employers, learners, high schools, colleges and universities.

“Work and Learn Indiana is proud to cultivate the creation and expansion of high-quality experiential opportunities within the state,” remarks Todd Hurst, executive director of the IWE. “This annual event celebrates outstanding people and programs making an impact while bringing together thought leaders from across the state within workforce and education to help prepare the next generation.”

Highlights at the Work-Based Learning Conference included a keynote address by Project Lead The Way (title event sponsor) President and CEO Dr. David Dimmett; a work-based learning panel featuring the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s new president and CEO Vanessa Green Sinders, and representatives from Batesville High School and Victory College Prep; and moderated discussions with Impact Award winners. Gerry Dick – president of Inside Indiana Business, a division of IBJ Media, and host of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick – served as the emcee.

Access more information about WLI by calling (317) 264-6852 or at Read winners’ inspiring stories below:

College Work-Based Learner of the Year: Jenna Carter (Purdue University, Endress+Hauser)
You might call Endress+Hauser a “home away from home” for Jenna Carter, who spent the past two summers interning there. Next, her dedication and talents will take her to its Spain location this summer after studying a semester abroad. Problem solving is one of the key strengths Carter brought to the firm. In addition, she exhibited outstanding communication skills by speaking at an “Interning 101” seminar for other employers interested in hosting internship programs.

High School Work-Based Learner of the Year: Cristina Llamas-Gonzalez (Ben Davis High School, Plastic Recycling, Inc.)
Plastic Recycling cited Cristina Llamas-Gonzalez’s maturity, drive and passion for helping others are three characteristics that led her to make an impact. Accomplishments include modernizing and digitizing the organization’s HR information, building standard operating procedures for the entire HR department, conducting 360 degree debriefs with managers, onboarding new employees and executing open enrollment.

Adult Work-Based Learner of the Year: Chelsea Ort (Engage Mentoring)
Chelsea Ort thrived in the Engage Mentoring program. She gained wisdom by meeting with other professionals to learn about their experiences and implemented that knowledge within her professional role. Ort was a key leader in the development and communication for Engage Mentoring’s new health incentive program, which was rolled out between nine different states and teams within the company.

College Career Development Professional of the Year: Andrew Peñalva (Indiana Latino Institute)
in 2023, the Indiana Latino Institute’s Department of Workforce Development experienced unprecedented growth under Andrew Peñalva’s leadership. In a span of seven months, he placed over 60 college students at high-quality internships across the state, resulting in 9,000-plus combined hours of work at the various internship sites. He inspires, motivates and encourages students to pursue their professional goals.

High School Career Development Professional of the Year: Sara Shaver (Franklin County High School)
Brookville may be a small Indiana town, but that hasn’t stopped Sara Shaver from making a big impact connecting local employers with talented youth. Shaver is the college and career readiness coordinator at Franklin County High School (FCHS). Among key contributions are helping to implement and expand its internship program, serving on the Franklin County Early College Team (FCHS was formally endorsed as an Early College High School in 2023) and organizing the inaugural FCHS Employability Skills Day in 2023.

Adult Learner Career Development Professional of the Year: Kara Webb (Greater Lafayette Commerce)
Under Kara Webb’s leadership, Greater Lafayette Commerce (GLC) has become a key player in delivering impactful work-based learning experiences through the Greater Lafayette Career+ Ecosystem, a partnership between the GLC (community-based economic development and chamber of commerce), Ivy Tech Community College-Lafayette and Skyepack. Her communication expertise is evident in her strategic and passionate approach to connecting learners with the manufacturing and tech industries.

Work-Based Learning Supervisor of the Year: Robbie Page (E-gineering)
At E-gineering, Robbie Page exudes optimism and positivity. He provided opportunities for interns to gain experience in a variety of areas such as organizing work into concise deliverables, documentation, requirements analysis and estimating. Page prioritized fun as well as work and professional development by hosting a book study, meeting for weekly check-ins with each intern and more.

Innovative Program of the Year: Commodore Manufacturing
Commodore Manufacturing, a student-run enterprise, empowers and engages youth. Through a partnership with Perry Central Junior-Senior High School, it makes products for Waupaca Foundry, Boston International (BI) and runs its own product line. The immersive, paid experience revolves around hands-on training in a variety of areas (e.g., welding, CNC machining, laser engraving, quality assurance, safety compliance and communication). During their senior year, students can take part in an internship where they spend one full day a week with a local employer.

Outstanding Employer of the Year: Thompson Thrift
Thompson Thrift’s immersive 12-week summer internship program builds capabilities in construction, development, finance, human resources, accounting, leasing, marketing and more across three pathways: internship, co-op and early career rotational program. It’s driven by Thompson Thrift’s mission “to positively impact our team members and communities we serve.” Key touch points include site visits to multi-family residential properties with exposure to both construction and property management careers, cross-department meetings, participation in service opportunities and more.

David R. McKinnis Community Partner Award: Paul Perkins (Amatrol, Inc.)
Paul Perkins has an endless dedication to work-based learning and talent development. He’s shown leadership and vision during his time with the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet; the Indiana Chamber; and many other local, state and national initiatives. His commitment to closing skills gaps in the Hoosier workforce and community-oriented mindset have led to the benefit of not just individuals in his own community, but the state of Indiana as a whole.


The Indiana Chamber partners with 25,000 members and investors – representing over four million Hoosiers – to achieve the mission of “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity.”

Work and Learn Indiana, a program managed by the Institute for Workforce Excellence at the Indiana Chamber, is the catalyst for expanding the creation and use of experiential learning opportunities as a key strategy in retaining Indiana’s top talent.

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