2017 Outstanding Americans by Choice Recipients

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Photo of Meb Keflzighi
Photo credit: Moose Peterson
Event date and location: May 10, 2017, San Diego, CA

Meb Keflezighi
Professional Long Distance Runner
San Diego, California

Meb Keflezighi is a professional long distance runner. He qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio and was considered the oldest Olympian distance runner at the age of 41. He won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and finished in fourth place in the 2012 Olympics in London. Mr. Keflezighi won the 2009 New York City Marathon and the 2014 Boston Marathon, becoming the first American man to win each race since 1982 and 1983, respectively.

Mr. Keflezighi was born in Eritrea in 1975. At a young age, he witnessed the ravages of conflict while also enduring famine and drought. He came to the United States as a refugee with his family at the age of 12 and settled in San Diego, CA. Mr. Keflezighi began running in junior high school where he ran a mile in 5 minutes and 20 seconds. He went on to win both the 1600-meter and 3200-meter races at the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships in 1994 for San Diego High School. 

Mr. Keflezighi received an athletic scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies. Mr. Keflezighi graduated from UCLA in 1999, where he received several athletic awards and accolades, and won four National Collegiate Athletic Association championships competing for the UCLA Bruins Track & Field team. The year prior to his graduation, Mr. Keflezighi became a United States citizen. Over a decade later, Mr. Keflezighi was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010, the same year he established the MEB Foundation which is committed to promoting youth health, education, and fitness.

Photo of Marisol Chalas
Event date and location: November 19, 2017, Gettysburg, PA

Major Marisol A. Chalas
U.S. Army Congressional Fellow; U.S. Army Reserve
Washington, District of Columbia

Major Marisol Chalas is a 2017 U.S. Army Congressional Fellow and as part of the program she is serving as a Legislative Defense Fellow for U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN). Major Chalas has served in various public and private sector leadership positions and is a decorated pilot with over 27 years of experience in the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard. She is also considered to be the first Latina National Guard Black Hawk helicopter pilot. Prior to her fellowship, Major Chalas was serving as an Attack Reconnaissance Battalion Operations Officer for the 1-158th Aviation Regiment in Conroe, TX.

Major Chalas was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States at the age of nine to join her parents in Boston, MA. In search of a better life, her parents immigrated to the United States having to leave their three daughters behind with their grandparents in order to find jobs and establish a new home for their children. Major Chalas credits her parents for her work ethic and perseverance. 

Major Chalas began her military career as an enlisted soldier in the Massachusetts Army National Guard in July 1990 and transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve in February 2008. In 2001 she received her commission as a Second Lieutenant in the aviation branch from Georgia Military Institute’s Officer Candidate School in Marietta, GA, and in 2002, she was among the top graduates at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence in Fort Rucker, AL. Major Chalas received her Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering from Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, MA, where she serves on the board of trustees. She received a Master of Business Administration degree from J. Mack Robinson School of Business at Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA, and completed her Masters in Legislative Affairs from George Washington University in Washington, DC, in May 2017. Major Chalas became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1994.

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