October 22, 2015

Media Advisory – Simon Leadership Weekend

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

The 13th Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s Leadership Conference will bring 45 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. 

“Show Me Leadership: Developing New Generations of Strong and Effective Leaders,” is Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 24 and 25, at the Touch of Nature Environmental Center and various locations on campus. 

Reporters, photographers and video crews are welcome to cover the activities. For more information, or to arrange interviews, contact Linda Renee Baker, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute/university professor and project director, at 217/553-6660. 

David Yepsen, institute director said, “The challenges facing young African American men was an important issue to Paul Simon.  This weekend is designed to offer these young men a chance to break away for a weekend on campus while giving them an opportunity to hear some good motivational speakers and some time to reflect on what they are told.   Our goal with this is to offer some guidance and inspiration to them.” 

The weekend focuses on providing students with leadership skills through team-building and communications activities, Baker said. AT&T is sponsoring this weekend’s event. 

“A cornerstone of this week is the focus on alumni of the program,” she said. “We are delighted to host a panel of students from the program who will share their journey and help them focus on their dreams and how to achieve them.” 

This year’s keynote speaker for Saturday’s luncheon, set for 1 p.m. in the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, is Dr. Richard J. Gardner, Sr., a public health physician and adult educator from Chicago, who is a graduate of SIU Carbondale with a degree in biological sciences and the SIU School of Medicine. Gardner’s son, Ramsey, is a sophomore in biological sciences at SIU Carbondale. Todd Bryson, assistant director in university housing, will introduce Gardner and discuss the importance of student life on campus. 

In the event of rain, the luncheon and keynote presentation will be on the first floor of the Student Services Building. 

In the afternoon, a panel of leadership weekend alumni, including SIU Carbondale graduates Oliver Keys and Shaka Mitchell, will discuss their experiences while in college. The group will then attend the Saluki football homecoming game Saturday night against Youngstown State. Later, Nathan Stephens, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence and director of the Black Male Initiative at SIU, will moderate a discussion on responsibility as a college student. 

At noon on Sunday, another SIU Carbondale alumnus, Willie Lyles, a SIU School of Law student who worked as a staff and legislative assistant for U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-South Carolina, an assistant Democratic leader, will present the keynote address. At 1 p.m., Baker will announce the winner and runner-up of the 2015 Paul Simon Leadership and Character Award. A complete schedule of events is available here. Information on the Metro East Youth Leadership Weekend is available here. 

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