October 04, 2010

Students benefit from Leadership Conference

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Thirty-five junior high and high school students from the Metro East area participated in the eighth annual Paul Simon Leadership Conference this weekend at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Terrence Phipps, 17, of Alton, a senior at Alton Senior High School, received the 2010 Paul Simon Leadership and Character Award. Tyrone Foley, 17, of Swansea, a senior at Belleville East High School, was the first-runner up. Phipps and Foley also each received Dell notebook computers.

The leadership weekend brings junior high and high school youths from the Metro East area to SIUC for two days of activities. The weekend focuses on enhancing leadership qualities of African American young men through reinforcing positive qualities, building skills and increasing career awareness education. The leadership conference honors Simon, a former U.S. senator and Institute founder, who died in December 2003.

“This weekend is an important one and a rewarding one for all of us at the Institute,” said David Yepsen, Institute director. “It’s important because the special challenges faced by young African American men in American society are well-documented. It’s rewarding to see them respond to the leadership messages, inspirational speakers, role models and SIUC campus setting as they seek to overcome those hurdles.

“We’ve done this for eight years now. The young men keep coming, the leaders in the Metro East community keep bringing them and we’ll keep doing this as long as they think it’s beneficial,” Yepsen said.

The weekend was “outstanding,” Linda Renee Baker, Institute/University professor and project director, said. Phipps and Foley have participated in the leadership weekend for three years, and both plan to apply to attend SIUC, Baker said.

“We were very pleased with the weekend,” said Baker, who was reviewing weekend evaluations on Monday. “The comments are very positive from the students.”

Having former leadership weekend participants who are current SIUC students speak at the conference resonates with the participants, Baker said. Several of the student speakers also serve as Student Ambassadors with the Institute.

Chaperones spent the travel time from the Metro East to Carbondale discussing character, ethics, values and the legacy of Paul Simon, Baker said. All of the students who attend are also involved with local mentoring programs in the Metro East area.

Marvin Lampkin of Swansea, senior regional sales manager for pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma US, Inc., and Jonathan B. Buck, a second-year MEDPREP student at SIUC, presented keynote remarks during the weekend.

Simon and Lawrence used a 1994 report by the Illinois Commission on African American Males, chaired by current U.S. Sen. Roland W. Burris, a former Illinois Attorney General and SIUC graduate, and discussions with Baker, 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.