Julie Zara

Julie ZaraCurrent Location: Sherman, IL
Hometown: Born in Harvey, IL, raised in Hazel Crest, IL

UIS Degree: B.A. 1986 (Psychology)

Current Position
Co-Owner of Zara’s Collision Center

Career Highlights
Zara’s Collision Center was recently awarded the Diamond Lifetime Award (25 years plus in business) at the Springfield Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Awards on June 24, 2014. It was awarded the Small Business of the Year for businesses exceeding $3 million in 2003. Julie received the Security Bank’s Women of Influence Award in 2012 and has been nominated for this year’s Athena Award.

Memories of SSU/UIS 
“Brad and I got married on a Saturday and I had classes the following Monday. We couldn’t afford a honeymoon so Brad went to work and I took the day off from classes so I could get my driver’s license information and Social Security cards changed. One of my professors was giving a test that Monday, but gave me an ‘A’ on the test as a wedding gift.”

How did UIS change or prepare you?
“Sangamon State University was a great option for me at the time. I had gone away to Western IL University my freshman year and the first semester of my sophomore year. I was dating Brad at the time and missed him as well as my parents, so it was great to be able to transfer and live at home, work part time and get my degree. I also enjoyed attending classes with older students, many who were stay-at-home moms, or working women who were working on their degrees. I learned much from them about balancing family life, school and careers, which prepared me for that once I started teaching and having a family.”

Local Involvement
“Part of my responsibilities at Zara’s Collision Center is heading up our Benevolence Program. With this program, we refurbish at least one vehicle a year and give it away to a family in need. Over the past 15 years of being involved in this nationwide program, Zara’s CC has given away more than 25 vehicles. Brad and I are both very involved in the community and donate our time and money to several non-profit organizations. I have served on the board at Contact Ministries for 4 years, 2 of those years as president. I also teach parenting classes to the women who live in the homeless shelter there.”

Posted on July 22, 2014