Community Concepts Students for Our American Voice Project
Press Release AREA YOUTH RECOGNIZED FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT PROJECT A group of 13 young men headed to Lambert Field before dawn on Mary 15, 2009. For several, this was their first time on an airplane or visit to Chicagoland. Their destination was the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy in Libertyville. Their purpose was to join other young people who had participated in a pilot program to help students learn about the workings of democracy through community involvement administered by the Barat Education Foundation. The civic engagement project was a collaboration among the Barat Education Foundation, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, local service organizations and Community Concepts Inc. Fifteen youth met each Saturday for ten weeks to explore community engagement and civic participation. The trip to Libertyville was the culminating event of the program. Nicholas Jones represented the metro east program as part of the honor guard bringing the flag to start the event. Following a welcome by Sheila Simon, CEO of Barat Education Foundation, Adlai Stevenson III gave a key note address. He emphasized that citizenship should begin in homes and communities, illustrating his ideas with examples from his own life story. He encouraged attendees to keep up their involvement, quoting President Obama on the price and promise of citizenship. “What is required of us now in this era of responsibility…(is) giving all to a difficult task” and seizing that responsibility gladly. A video collection with contributions from each of the project sites was then aired. Brandon Rice represented the metro east program, explaining that their project’s purpose was to identify ways to change the attitudes and behaviors of young people to bring about a positive change in the community. He also discussed why that particular approach was selected just before their video segment was run. Other sites selected projects to stop gang violence, improve school lunches, reduce speeding on school grounds and promote recycling. After the video presentation an award ceremony was held where each site received a monetary award to support additional student programming. The metro east project facilitator, Ms. Christina Fisher of Community Concepts Inc, intends to follow-up on the initial work done by these young men. Their ideas will be passed along to the next group of participants for implementation. The thirteen participants received certificates of program completion as well as individual letters from Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Kirk commending them for a job well done and for getting involved in democracy at an early age. The young men also took a tour of the Stevenson home which is a combination museum and library. Accompanying the young men on their trip was Ms. Fisher as well as Cedric Mitchell from the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (one of the organizations that referred young men to the program) and Terry Scott, a parent representative of the Parent Teacher Organization of East St. Louis High School. Dr. Baker , University Professor from the Paul Simon Public Institute at SIUC and Shelia Smith Executive Director of the Barat Foundation commended Ms. Fisher of Community Concepts for an exemplary job in implementing the inaugural phase of this very important project!