Illinois First Lady Presents "Youth Making a Difference" Awards
CHICAGO -- First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today presented the first annual "Youth Making a Difference" Awards at the Futures for Kids REACHing Youth Through Community Involvement Conference at the Sheraton Hotel.
The "Youth Making a Difference" Awards honor the outstanding efforts of Illinois youth who help improve their communities through volunteer activities.
"Illinois is blessed with so many young people who volunteer their time and dedicate themselves to helping others." said Mrs Ryan. "The seven young people we honor here today are to be specially commended. Their actions have made an outstanding difference in their communities."
The nominees were judged on how their service activities best addressed the needs and concerns of their community and how their efforts improved the given situation. Seven young people between the ages of 6 - 17 were selected by the Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service as the first award recipients.
Futures for Kids is an umbrella for the programs and policies that make a significant contribution to the health and well-being of children. The Illinois Department of Human Services administered Teen REACH program is part of this initiative. The Futures for Kids conference includes five workshops that focus on the Teen REACH themes of Responsibility, Education, Achievement, Caring and Hope.
More than 1,200 people are attending the Futures for Kids Conference which provides participants with skills that will increase their understanding of prevention services for Illinois' youth. The goal of the conference is to support young people as they develop the skills, confidence and commitment to community necessary to lead successful lives.
A list of the "Youth Making A Difference" Award winners follows:
"YOUTH MAKING A DIFFERENCE" AWARD WINNERS
Natalie Jacobowski, Orland Park
Serving as Junior Service chair of the National Honor Society and member of Math Honors Society, Natalie participates in clothing and food drives and prepares holiday gift baskets for underprivileged children. As president of the Orland Township Youth Commission, she organizes visits to nursing homes and outdoor clean-ups at nature preserves. She uses her Spanish skills at the Orland Township Health Services to help families receive proper medical services. Natalie, in her school's First Class Program, encourages students to take responsibility for their community. She promotes a substance-free lifestyle through her work with the Snowflake Program. Natalie has donated 513 hours of community service in the past 3 years. She was also selected as a representative to the Governor's Teen Summit.
Emily Dray, Wilmette
Emily began volunteering at the age of 12 when she became an active member of Youth Connection's Community Service Club. She mentored and tutored younger children through Child Serv, an after school program. She rallied her entire school to conduct a drive for school supplies for needy children. Emily later participated in the annual AIDS Walk and Walk for Hope and then took the initiative to organize a food drive to raise additional funds. Emily tutored children on Saturdays in Chicago, mentored young children in Skokie and helped with Special Olympics.
Elizabeth Feste, Byron
As projects chairperson of her local Key Club, Elizabeth raised money and clothing for the Carolina Flood Relief Project, raised several hundred dollars for the local food pantry, and also raised $1,200 for Spastics Paralysis Research and for a Kiwanis Worldwide Service Project. Another project, Lend-a-Hand, assisted senior citizens with chores such as raking leaves and mowing lawns. Additionally, Beth was elected to the board of directors of Byron Community Revitalization, Inc. She serves on the Membership Committee and actively recruits community leaders to get involved. Recently she was named co-chairman of a fundraising dinner which raised several thousand dollars.
Colleen Lange, Gibson City
Colleen has served as Youth Advocate of the Ford County American Cancer Society Board and prepared and presented anti-tobacco programs in schools and throughout the community. She has been invaluable in the planning and implementing Relay for Life for two years and is organizing children's activities for this year's relay. Colleen also provides childcare for "Parents Night Out" through the Community Resource Center. She is a member of the youth group at her church and has started Power Fun, in which she provides activities for children so their parents can enjoy their meals at family night. Colleen also assists with bible school and craft activities.
Stephie Humble, Lincoln
Stephie has been president of HYPE (Helping Youth in a Positive Environment) for the past year. Thanks to HYPE's efforts with Habitat for Humanity, a family was able to move into their home for Thanksgiving. Stephie also filled balloons with drug-free pledges for the Junior High Balloon Launch, organized the group to collect food for the Logan County Food Pantry, and made posters during Alcohol Awareness Month. She worked diligently with HYPE's Prevention Theater. Stephie was selected to attend the Governor's Teen Summit and, as a result of her commitment and dedication, was named HYPE of the YEAR by her peers.
Brandi Bertelli, Loami
Brandi has distributed food and clothing to Springfield's most needy residents as a volunteer at St. Martin DePorres Center. She has raised money for the center at her school. As a member of the Sprucing Up Springfield Campaign, she painted over graffiti, planted flowers and cleaned alleys. Brandi chaired the planning committee and co-hosted "Calling All Colors," a conference to learn how to be culturally sensitive citizens in a diverse society. She is a cast member and teen leader of the Teen Reach television show which addresses issues directly affecting Springfield's youth.
Lauren Everette, Olney
Lauren is a founding member of her high school PILOTS (Peers in Leadership Opportunities Training Students). She prepares and teaches lessons on alcohol, other drugs, stress and peer pressure to middle school students. Lauren serves on the Relay for Life planning board and works with adults to implement this major event. Lauren teaches Sunday school, works at church camps and delivers children's sermons. She serves on a community task force where she plans and hosts substance-free activities for the youth of her community. Last summer, she served on a two-week mission trip to Chicago where she worked in food pantries, summer food programs, and homeless shelters.