November 12, 2007

Leadership weekend benefits high school students

by Pete Rosenbery


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The need to be academically prepared for life was a key theme during the annual Paul Simon Leadership Conference held recently at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Close to 40 high school students from the Metro East area attended the weekend conference — Sept. 22-23 — featuring former Saluki and NBA standout Mike Glenn. The conference, in its fifth year, focused on enhancing the leadership qualities of African-American young men through reinforcing positive qualities, building skills and increasing 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.

Mike Lawrence, institute director said, "No other institute initiative is more important than this. It is crucial that we help these young people recognize they have great potential, show them how they can reach it and demonstrate our faith in them. We sincerely appreciate the commitment and efforts of mentors and the entire planning team from the East St. Louis area. Their work has been pivotal to our success."

Results of the leadership weekends are impressive and exceeding initial hopes, said Linda Renee Baker, Institute/University professor and project director. A majority of those who attend the conference are enrolling in colleges and universities, Baker said. Three program participants, Nathaniel K. McCall, and Reginald P. Wince, II, both of East St. Louis, and Shaka H. Mitchell of O'Fallon, are freshmen at SIUC, and are among those serving as youth ambassadors for the public policy institute.

"When Mike and I first sat down with Paul, his goal at the time was to find a way of building African-American male leadership in the Metro East area," Baker said. "We certainly believe we have met and exceeded those expectations because we have been tracking these students over the past five years. Many of these young men come back, and we are able to see how they are doing in school."

Shawn Scott, a senior at East St. Louis High School, received the Paul Simon Leadership and Character Award. Franklin, who has participated in leadership weekends for three years, received a plaque and laptop computer.

Three students also received runner-up awards: Thomas Butler of Cahokia; Kevin Bland, the East St. Louis SIU Charter School; and Keith Burton of O'Fallon. They will receive awards at an upcoming event, Baker said.

Simon and 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.

Another important component is the work of local mentors in the Metro East, Baker said. A planning team consisting of local educational institutions, fraternal organizations and other community-based agencies organizes the weekend, Baker said. Those groups include Alpha Pi Alpha, Top Ladies of Distinction, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, SIU Edwardsville Charter School and the East St. Louis Community College Center.

The leadership conference attracts varied and distinguished speakers, including Martin Luther King III as the principal speaker at the 2006 Leadership Weekend.

Glenn spent a lot of time talking "about the scholastic rigor needed to make it through SIUC as a math major, and how hard it was for him to make sure he had a balance of academics and practices," Baker said.

Glenn's parents expected the high school honor student to maintain his grade point average to play sports, Baker said, noting Glenn could not be "that average C student; he had to be better."

Glenn earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics at SIUC, and also attended graduate classes. He played in the NBA from 1977 to 1987. A motivational speaker and author, Glenn, a former television analyst, founded the non-profit All-Star Basketball Camp for the Hearing-Impaired, which celebrated its 28th anniversary in June. The organization is the nation's first for hearing-challenged athletes between 13 and 18 years old. Glenn is also commissioner of the 10-team World Basketball Association.


Among the leadersThomas Butler (second from left), a senior at Cahokia High School, stands with NBA and former Southern Illinois University Carbondale basketball standout Mike Glenn during a recent forum at the fifth annual Paul Simon Leadership Conference in late September. Flanking Butler and Glenn are (left) Corey S. Bradford, an assistant vice president for financial and administrative affairs at SIU, and (right) Seymour Bryson, SIUC's associate chancellor for diversity. Butler, who was among nearly 40 high school students from the Metro East attending the two-day conference, was one of three students receiving runner-up awards for the Paul Simon Leadership and Character Award.

Photo by Eric Johnson, University Communications