The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is proud to announce its nominee for the 2022-23 National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Heart of the Arts Award is Glenbard West High School senior Charlie Lettenberger (right).
The Heart of the Arts Award was developed to recognize teams or individuals associated with high school activity programs who have overcome incredible adversity or gone above and beyond their peers in actions or service.
The NFHS selected Lettenberger as its Section 4 winner of the award, making him the eighth individual from Illinois to be named a section winner. Section 4 includes the nominees from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“Charlie epitomizes the Heart of the Arts Award,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “His passion for the arts has helped him overcome and thrive despite facing substantial obstacles in his life. The IHSA prides itself on offering participation opportunities for all students, and it is students like Charlie that exemplify that mission.”
Charlie is afflicted with arthrogryposis amyoplasia, a very rare disorder that confined him to a motorized wheelchair with very limited use of his arms and virtually no use of his legs. His disability has not set him back one iota in in terms of being an exemplary student or participating in the activities he loves.
“Where many would see a disability that hinders participation, Charlie sees opportunity,” said Glenbard West Choir Director Andy Jeffrey. “Whether it is a trip to Disney with airline flights or singing in an honor choir and representing his school, Charlie meets obstacles to access with fierce determination and grace.”
Charlie is the co-President of Glenbard West’s Choir Club and Treasurer of the Theater Club. He has acted in four musicals in his high school career and directed two shows, in addition to performing in a variety of other choir and theater events. He is also a member of the National Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society, in addition to making the school Honor Roll all four years and volunteering at Glen Ellyn Children’s Resource Center.
“I have been involved in the arts for as long as I can remember and they have always served as an escape,” said Charlie. “When I sing or act, I never think about any of my limitations and just feel free and like no one is thinking of me any differently from other people. This award gives me validation that I am not just ‘the kid in the wheelchair.’ I am a valued member of the performing arts community that I have dedicated the majority of my life to.”