September 17, 2004

Teens participate in leadership retreat

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - About 50 teens from the Metro East area are participating this weekend in a retreat at Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Touch of Nature Environmental Center that focuses on enhancing leadership qualities of African-American young men.

The objective of the second Paul Simon Leadership Conference is to reinforce the positive qualities of the participants and build upon their leadership skills, along with career awareness education. Simon, former U.S. senator and founder and director of SIUC's Public Policy Institute, died in December.

The Public Policy Institute is sponsoring the conference, which is Saturday, Sept. 18, and Sunday, Sept. 19.

The keynote speaker is Ron Harris, a reporter with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, whose work includes reporting on the war in Iraq.

Simon and Public Policy Institute interim director Mike Lawrence used a 1994 report by the Illinois Commission on African American Males, chaired by former Illinois Attorney General and SIUC graduate Roland W. Burris, as inspiration for the weekend. That report offered recommendations in several areas, including economic development and employment, education, family life and African-American manhood, health and housing.

The Institute received funding from the Illinois Community College Board and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to support leadership development for African-American males from the East St. Louis area. "Our Institute truly wants each and every one of the young people joining us for this important event to reach his full potential," Lawrence said. "We believe it is crucial to develop leadership qualities among young people in communities that face significant challenges."

Touch of Nature staff will facilitate three hands-on activities that combine leadership development and career information.

Missy Dunn, an information technology support specialist at Shawnee Community College, and other staff will help teams of young men build personal computers. Each team will nominate and then vote on a non-profit community organization in the Metro East area to receive the computer they built.

One participant will receive the inaugural Paul Simon Leadership and Character Award on Sunday.

The conference includes team-building exercises that demonstrate leadership, discussions on current societal issues and talking with current SIUC students on preparing for college.

Jane Radunzel, a consultant with the Public Policy Institute, said organizers last year received positive input for this year's event to include more time to network with one another and talk informally with college students and other participants.

Among the fraternal and community-based groups in the Metro East area participating are Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi fraternities; the Top Ladies of Distinction Inc., Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Charter School, the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center, and the East St. Louis Community College Center, all in East St. Louis.

Participants will also receive a new book, "Good Men, Good Jobs," which features 100 African American men in Illinois and the metro St. Louis area talking about their work. The book interviews men about their jobs in areas that include government and public service work, marketing, arts, communication and manufacturing.

"We thought it was important to give them a range of ideas about the kinds of jobs that are available," said Radunzel. The book also includes labor market information, career advice, education needed for various jobs and possible salaries.

"They can see that they have all sorts of choices out there to make a good living," she said. Serving others and being involved in outreach programs are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

For more information, contact Institute/University professor and project director Linda Renee' Baker at 217/553-6660 or Jane Radunzel at 217/585-9623.

Here is the schedule for the Paul Simon Leadership Conference:

Saturday, Sept. 18

  • 9:45 a.m. - - Arrive at SIUC's Touch of Nature.
  • 10 a.m. - - Registration and check-in.
  • 11 a.m. - - Camp Leadership/Career Building Icebreaker.
  • Noon - - Lunch.
  • 12:30 p.m. -- Keynote speech by Ron Harris, reporter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • 1:30 p.m. -- Small group activity building a personal computer.
  • 3 p.m. - - Break
  • 3:15 p.m. - - Finish building personal computers; discussion about computers with experts.
  • 3:45 p.m. - - Small groups nominate recipients of personal computers.
  • 4:15 p.m. - - Free time.
  • 5:30 p.m. - - Spokesmen for each group talk about nominees for personal computers.
  • 6 p.m. - - Dinner and etiquette presentation.
  • 7 p.m. - - Camp Career Building Activity.
  • 9 p.m. - - Conversation with SIUC students.

Sunday, Sept. 19

  • 8:15 a.m. - - Ecumenical service and breakfast.
  • 9:15 a.m. - - Camp Leadership/Career Building - - Teen's Challenge Course.
  • 11:15 a.m. - - Reflections.
  • 11:45 a.m. - - Small groups vote on personal computer recipients.
  • Noon - - Lunch
  • 12:45 a.m. - - Paul Simon Character Award.
  • 1 p.m. - - Computer recipient announcements.
  • 1:15 p.m. - - Evaluation.
  • 2 p.m. - - Board buses to leave for home.