Business

Best Under 40: Jill Ernst

Fitness and Wellness Director for the Sage YMCA in Crystal Lake

BIOGRAPHY

Age: 26

Occupation: Fitness and Wellness Director for the Sage YMCA in Crystal Lake

Current residence: Crystal Lake

Hometown: Marengo

Family: Husband, Andrew; no children but their dog Bailey, a 4-year-old yellow lab, provides "bountiful energy and an incessant excitement for everyday life"

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health from Northern Illinois University

What was your first job? I got my first job when I was 14 at HyperStitch Inc., a custom screen printing and embroidery company in Marengo. I started out cleaning, folding and packaging clothing garments, taking customer orders and doing mail marketing.

Favorite non-work related hobby? Road biking

Favorite book? "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

What’s one word that best describes you? Versatile

PROFILE QUESTIONS

What is your job and how have you found success with it?

I am the Fitness and Wellness Director at the Sage YMCA. In a nutshell, I oversee all fitness classes, small group training classes, the fitness center, personal training and fitness consultations. Additionally, I coordinate community partnerships to provide wellness offerings to our members and guests. I recently have delved into some fundraising, taking on the Sage YMCA Corporate Challenge – our largest annual fundraiser. I have found a lot of enjoyment in getting involved with the community. McHenry County has so many great people to know, places to see and services to offer.

How did you first get involved with your current job? Why have you kept doing it?

It was a bit of a winding road that led me to Fitness Director for the Y. I went to college with intent to continue onto medical school. After college, I took a job with a health care system in the realm of wellness and prevention while preparing for my medical school exams. It was there that I found a passion for fitness and preventative health measures that derailed my plans.

I also had always been interested in volunteering at the Y, but I wasn’t sure how to get involved. When the Fitness and Wellness Director position opened, I applied and interviewed. After I interviewed, I was hooked. There was so much excitement going on with a growing membership, new construction and renovation and an endless potential of what the Y could be for the community. The current prosperity, endless opportunity and future potential of the YMCA keep my job exciting every day and keeps me growing personally and professionally.

What's a recent accomplishment and innovation that you are most proud of? Why?

Resurrecting the Corporate Challenge has been a huge undertaking but a very rewarding one. After 12 years of dormancy, we brought the challenge back in 2014, engaging around 150 participants from six area corporations. This year, we had more than 450 participants from 12 companies who competed in nine events, and we engaged more than 50 volunteers.

It is such a fun event and engages local corporations in friendly competition for a great cause. All funds raised from the Corporate Challenge go towards the Sage YMCA Annual Fund, which provides financial assistance to children and families who otherwise could not afford the YMCA’s early learning, sports, fitness educational enrichment, aquatics programs and membership.

How do you give back to the community or your profession? What drives you to volunteerism?

I think it’s important to give back in ways that you feel personally and professionally connected to. Volunteering is fun, and it’s a great way to meet new people. I think it’s important for adults to volunteer to set a positive example and a precedence of volunteerism to our youth. I feel most compelled to volunteer for youth, fitness and environmental causes. The smile on the face of a young girl after she finishes the Girls on the Run 5K is priceless. Cleaning up the Prairie Trail to make sure it’s safe and enjoyable for runners and bikers is a small price to pay for having such a great asset in our community. Needless to say, volunteers make the world go round, and it impacts our local nonprofits far more than we will ever know.

What is the best career advice you have received?

“Suit up and show up” from Marcy Piekos, Executive Director for Leadership Greater McHenry County. I think of this often in day-to-day work. It drives me to rise to the occasion, put my best foot forward and push my boundaries.

Do you consider yourself one of the county's Best Under 40? Why or why not?

I’m not sure about this one. There are so many talented, spirited, ambitious young professionals in this community that I truly do feel honored to be selected for this year’s Best Under 40.

BIOGRAPHY

Age: 26

Occupation: Fitness and Wellness Director for the Sage YMCA in Crystal Lake

Current residence: Crystal Lake

Hometown: Marengo

Family: Husband, Andrew; no children but their dog Bailey, a 4-year-old yellow lab, provides "bountiful energy and an incessant excitement for everyday life"

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health from Northern Illinois University

What was your first job? I got my first job when I was 14 at HyperStitch Inc., a custom screen printing and embroidery company in Marengo. I started out cleaning, folding and packaging clothing garments, taking customer orders and doing mail marketing.

Favorite non-work related hobby? Road biking

Favorite book? "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

What’s one word that best describes you? Versatile

PROFILE QUESTIONS

What is your job and how have you found success with it?

I am the Fitness and Wellness Director at the Sage YMCA. In a nutshell, I oversee all fitness classes, small group training classes, the fitness center, personal training and fitness consultations. Additionally, I coordinate community partnerships to provide wellness offerings to our members and guests. I recently have delved into some fundraising, taking on the Sage YMCA Corporate Challenge – our largest annual fundraiser. I have found a lot of enjoyment in getting involved with the community. McHenry County has so many great people to know, places to see and services to offer.

How did you first get involved with your current job? Why have you kept doing it?

It was a bit of a winding road that led me to Fitness Director for the Y. I went to college with intent to continue onto medical school. After college, I took a job with a health care system in the realm of wellness and prevention while preparing for my medical school exams. It was there that I found a passion for fitness and preventative health measures that derailed my plans.

I also had always been interested in volunteering at the Y, but I wasn’t sure how to get involved. When the Fitness and Wellness Director position opened, I applied and interviewed. After I interviewed, I was hooked. There was so much excitement going on with a growing membership, new construction and renovation and an endless potential of what the Y could be for the community. The current prosperity, endless opportunity and future potential of the YMCA keep my job exciting every day and keeps me growing personally and professionally.

What's a recent accomplishment and innovation that you are most proud of? Why?

Resurrecting the Corporate Challenge has been a huge undertaking but a very rewarding one. After 12 years of dormancy, we brought the challenge back in 2014, engaging around 150 participants from six area corporations. This year, we had more than 450 participants from 12 companies who competed in nine events, and we engaged more than 50 volunteers.

It is such a fun event and engages local corporations in friendly competition for a great cause. All funds raised from the Corporate Challenge go towards the Sage YMCA Annual Fund, which provides financial assistance to children and families who otherwise could not afford the YMCA’s early learning, sports, fitness educational enrichment, aquatics programs and membership.

How do you give back to the community or your profession? What drives you to volunteerism?

I think it’s important to give back in ways that you feel personally and professionally connected to. Volunteering is fun, and it’s a great way to meet new people. I think it’s important for adults to volunteer to set a positive example and a precedence of volunteerism to our youth. I feel most compelled to volunteer for youth, fitness and environmental causes. The smile on the face of a young girl after she finishes the Girls on the Run 5K is priceless. Cleaning up the Prairie Trail to make sure it’s safe and enjoyable for runners and bikers is a small price to pay for having such a great asset in our community. Needless to say, volunteers make the world go round, and it impacts our local nonprofits far more than we will ever know.

What is the best career advice you have received?

“Suit up and show up” from Marcy Piekos, Executive Director for Leadership Greater McHenry County. I think of this often in day-to-day work. It drives me to rise to the occasion, put my best foot forward and push my boundaries.

Do you consider yourself one of the county's Best Under 40? Why or why not?

I’m not sure about this one. There are so many talented, spirited, ambitious young professionals in this community that I truly do feel honored to be selected for this year’s Best Under 40.

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