September 15, 2005

Metro East youths to attend leadership retreat

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- About 40 to 45 high school students 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 Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is sponsoring the conference, which is Saturday, Sept. 17, and Sunday, Sept. 18.

The objective of the third Paul Simon Leadership Conference is to reinforce the positive qualities of the participants and build upon their leadership skills, along with career awareness education. The conference is named in honor of Paul Simon, the founder of SIUC’s Public Policy Institute, who died in December 2003.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover leadership conference activities, particularly the luncheon/keynote speech at noon, Saturday, and the awards presentation that begins at noon, Sunday. For more information, contact Institute/University professor and project director Linda Renee’ Baker at 217/553-6660


The keynote speaker is Redditt Hudson, a former St. Louis police officer who works on social, cultural and economic matters affecting African-American communities and youths. He founded Project Peace, which focuses on issues of accountability and responsibility for high school students. He is also with the Racial Justice Initiative of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.

Simon and institute 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.

“Our institute is committed to helping each participant at this event reach his full potential," Lawrence said. "Developing leadership skills in young people is vital to the future of their communities."

The leadership weekend is realizing the fruits of its early labor. Linda Renee Baker, Institute/University professor and project director, said one of the previous camp participants is enrolling in SIUC next semester, and returns this weekend as a chaperone.

“Some of our young men (previous participants) are in colleges and universities across the state,” she said. “This program helps lay a good foundation about the importance of leadership and personal and individual responsibility, and citizenship, to not only make it in college but also in life.”

The institute is receiving funding for this year’s program from the Illinois Community College Board and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Higher Learning Center in East St. Louis.

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

SIUE’s Higher Learning Center is providing parts that will allow teams of young men to 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.

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. The event also provides a chance for youths 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 Psi fraternities; the Top Ladies of Distinction Inc.; Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Charter School; and the East St. Louis Community College Center, all in East St. Louis.

This year’s participants will create a CD-ROM of the weekend, which then will be available to community colleges across the state interested in replicating the leadership weekend model, Baker said.

Serving others and enhancing outreach activities 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.

Here is the schedule for the Paul Simon Leadership Conference:

Saturday, Sept. 17

  • 11 a.m. – Camp Leadership/Career Building Icebreaker.
  • Noon – Keynote speech by Redditt Hudson, and panel discussion.
  • 1:15 p.m. -- Small group activity, building a personal computer.
  • 6 p.m. – Dinner and etiquette presentation.
  • 7 p.m. – Camp Career Building and Leadership Activity.
  • 9 p.m. – “Let’s Talk College,” Conversation with SIUC students.

Sunday, Sept. 18

  • 8 a.m. – Ecumenical service and breakfast.
  • 9:15 a.m. – Camp Leadership/Career Building – Teen’s Challenge Course.
  • Noon – Paul Simon Career and Character Award winner and first runner-up announced. Community-based organization computer Award recipients announced.