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HEROES IN THE ‘HOOD CEREMONY HONORS YOUTHS WHO POSITIVELY IMPACT THE COMMUNITY

CHICAGO (April 22, 2010) – As acts of violence continue to make headlines, 150 very special Chicago teens – including a group of students in the crime-plagued neighborhood of North Lawndale – have been recognized for their roles in building their community in a positive way.

The young people were honored as part of the 17th annual Heroes in the ‘Hood award program, held April 15 at the DuSable Museum of African American History. The initiative pays tribute to individuals and groups of teenagers who give back in various ways to help support and improve their neighborhoods.

“Since the start of this program, we’ve been privileged to get to know more than 5,000 Chicago teens – teens who don’t make headlines and teens who are never seen on television,” says John McCarthy, president of GO Airport Express and founder of the Heroes in the ‘Hood program. “These young adults make their communities better places to live.”

Three Honored Role Models were also recognized at the ceremony: Rev. Willie T. Barrow, chairman emeritus Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Roberto Garza, Chicago Bears’ offensive lineman; and Kimberly E. McCullough, director of external affairs for AT&T Illinois.

First place in the group category went to 15 students, members of the Learning to Rise Program at North Lawndale College Prep Charter High School. These students promote a culture of peace at their school through peer mediation, peer juries, and other non-violent conflict resolution and restorative justice practices. Learning to Rise also aims to continually train students in non-violent conflict resolution techniques so the entire community can embrace a peaceful spirit. These students have set a school-wide goal to have 153 accrued days of peace by the end of the school year, and are well on their way to achieving that goal.

Second place in the group category went to the Youth Leaders for Safe Humane Chicago run by a group of 19 students at Walter Payton College Prep High School. The students teach third to fifth graders at Chicago elementary schools the importance of humane treatment of animals, simultaneously instilling compassion that helps combat violence in the city.

Third place went to the service-learning program at Bartholome de Las Casas Occupational High School, a special needs school, whose 20 students collected and donated clothing, fed those in need and worked in conjunction with the Clean Slate clean-up project.

Shanequa Burgess, 17, of Fenger High School, took top honors in the individual category for her involvement with the Teen Action Committee. Struck by the ongoing violence in the neighborhoods that feed into Fenger, affecting safe passage of students to and from school, Burgess led the Teen Action Committee in a campaign to raise awareness about buses that transport students safely to key points in the neighborhoods.

Second place individual winner was Jerrod Harris, 16, of Charles Allen Prosser Career Academy. Harris dedicates time to his community in a variety of ways including at his local Boys and Girls Club, where he assists classmates with their schoolwork. Third place resulted in a tie, with honors going to both Hina Patel of Mather High School and Idessa Butler of Al Raby School for Community and Environment.

The program also recognized Officer Sabrina King, of Chicago’s 9th District Police Department, with its “Stop the Violence” award. King, who received a $1,000 check, volunteers her time with a variety of after-school programs to keep students off the streets while teaching important life lessons.

“The addition of the “Stop the Violence” award puts us in the unique position of recognizing individuals who are doing something to lessen the violence in our city. The Chicago Crusader shares in providing the monetary award with GO Airport Express, which is a contribution we hope will stimulate others to join in to find solutions to this growing problem,” says Dorothy R. Leavell, publisher of the Chicago Crusader and co-founder of Heroes in the Hood.

"Overall, the work that was accomplished is quite remarkable and brings out the best in these wonderful young people. The more we celebrate their great accomplishments the more it will encourage others to do the same,” says Sandra Furey Gaither, director of educational services for the DuSable Museum. “The young people of today will be our future leaders and they need all the encouragement we can offer.”

Heroes in the ‘Hood judges included: Alderman Willie Cochran, 20th Ward; Alderman Sharon Denise Dixon, 24th Ward; Denise Joseph Johnson, 26th Ward; Mae Wilson, Chief of Staff for Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, 4th Ward; John McCarthy, GO Airport Express; Dorothy Leavell, The Chicago Crusader; Jomo Cheatham, the DuSable Museum of African American History; Wynona Redmond, Dominick’s Finer Foods; Kimberly McCullough, AT&T Illinois; Karen Pride, Chicago Department of Aviation; Delena Liddle, Chicago Public Schools; and Chief Sylvester Knox, Chicago Fire Department, 5th District.

The top winners receive an all-expense-paid trip to Springfield, Ill., compliments of GO Airport Express. They also received iPod Shuffles, courtesy of Dominick’s. In addition to GO Airport Express, other sponsors of Heroes in the ‘Hood include The Chicago Crusader, the DuSable Museum of African American History, Dominick’s, AT&T and WVON-AM. For more information call 773.860.7058 or visit www.airportexpress.com/community