October 18, 2013

Media Advisory -- Simon Leadership Conference

An annual leadership conference that seeks to impact the lives of young men from the Metro East takes place this weekend at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The 11th Paul Simon Leadership Conference will bring 35 to 40 junior high and high school students to campus for two days of activities.  The focus is on enhancing leadership qualities of African-American young men through reinforcing positive qualities, building skills and increasing career awareness education.

This year’s event, “Emerging Leadership: Young Men Building Accountability, Respect and Self Confidence toward Future Rewards,” is Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19 and 20, at the Touch of Nature Environmental Center and various locations on campus.

Reporters, photographers and video crews are welcome to cover the activities. The event features small group discussions and evening panel discussions on campus.  For more information or to make arrangements for interviews, contact Linda Renee Baker, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute/University professor and project director, at 217/553-6660.

William R. Norwood, retired United Airlines captain, veteran, SIU alumnus and former longtime member of the SIU Board of Trustees, will speak to the group at 11 a.m. Saturday in the University Museum Auditorium in Faner Hall.

The keynote speaker during Saturday’s luncheon, set for 12:15 p.m. in Student Center Ballroom B, is Howard A. Peters III, former executive vice president of the Illinois Hospital Association and former director of the Illinois Department of Corrections and Illinois Department of Human Services.  Peters, who is president of HAP, Inc., is one of the Institute’s Board of Counselors, and also a former deputy chief of staff to former Gov. Jim Edgar.

The keynote speaker at noon Sunday at the Simon Institute is 16-year-old Jaylen D. Bledsoe, chief executive officer and founder of Bledsoe Technologies, LLC., of St. Louis. The firm assists small and mid-size businesses establish their technological infrastructure.  

At 1 p.m., David Yepsen, Institute director, will announce the winner and runner-up of the 2013 Paul Simon Leadership and Character Award. A complete schedule of events is available at paulsimoninstitute.org.

Institute founder and former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon and then-associate director Mike Lawrence established the program in November 2003.  Simon participated in the inaugural event in 2003 shortly before his death a month later. 

The leadership weekend “is one of the most important and powerful” events the Institute does, Yepsen said. Simon created the motivational weekend “to get these young men to campus and to the Touch of Nature to reflect on life and themselves, to hear from speakers who overcame challenges in their lives and to make plans to improve their own situations,” Yepsen said.

 The weekend couldn’t be a success without the “love and time” and support of African-American leaders across campus and from around the state, Yepsen said.  The weekend is also a way to showcase the campus, and participants will attend the Saluki football game Saturday against North Dakota State.