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CHICAGO (August, 2013) – In contrast to seemingly steady media coverage of felonious acts by teens, more than 100 young people and various adult leaders of youth organizations were honored for their acts of community service at this year's Heroes in the 'Hood ceremony hosted by founding sponsors GO Airport Express, CHICAGO CRUSADER NEWSPAPER, The DuSable Museum of African-American History and co-sponsors WVON-AM1690 and University of Chicago Urban Health Initiative.

From volunteering to help the elderly, engaging in community STEM programs for younger children and creating programs to negate bullying and violence towards females and LGBT persons, to community recycling and violence prevention -- teens nominated by youth counselors, teachers, aldermen and other community leaders were genuinely enthusiastic in cheering for one another, as well as winners in the individual and group categories. In addition, four adults were awarded -- three as “Honored Role Models” and one "Stop the Violence" winner, for their community service and the work ethnic they exemplify.

"Since the start of this program twenty-years ago, we've been privileged to get to get to know more than 600 Chicago teens who don’t make headlines and aren't seen on television, but teens who simply make their communities better places to live," said John McCarthy, President, GO Airport Express. "Despite the headlines of tragedy in our communities, we strongly believe that there really are more teens doing “good in the 'hood" than those who are not." Other awards' presenters included Queing Jones, Education Outreach Coordinator, DuSable Museum; and Dorothy Leavell, publisher, The Chicago Crusader Newspaper.

Judges for this year's Heroes' initiative included:

  • Alderman Howard Brookins Jr.
  • Alderman Pat Dowell
  • Doris House, The Chicago CRUSADER Newspaper
  • John McCarthy, President, GO Airport Express
  • Mark Wallace, Radio Personality, WVON-AM1690
  • Queing Jones, Outreach Director, The DuSable Museum
  • Dr. Rita Turner, 34th Ward Alderman Carrie Austin
  • Congresswoman Robin Kelly

Honored Role Models included Golden Globe and NAACP Image Award winning actress and playwright, Regina Taylor; Ken Rapier, President, Chicago Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen; and Jennie Betton, Community Board of Chicago Metropolitan Family Services. Each adult honoree gave words of inspiration and encouragement based on their success and desire for youth in attendance to continue their community service and pursue success in education, their careers and family life.

First place in the teen group category was awarded to Jane Addams Elementary "The Bully Patrol," students in grades 6-8 who empower students from 2nd grade and up to resist and overcome bullying violence as it is encountered.

Two teens tied for first place in the individual category: Jacques Agbobly of Stockton Elementary School and Tresa Reynolds of Al Raby High School.

Agbobly won an "Upstanders Award" for his work fighting for anti- bullying of the LGBT community. His portrait was displayed at the Harold Washington Library. Jacques wrote and starred in a play showing what it’s like to be bullied. He interviewed college students at Truman College and invited many prominent Chicago people to speak on a panel during the assembly. Speakers included judges, state representatives, police officers, his alderman, lawyers and others. All these people talked about what it was like growing up gay. Jacques graduated from Stockton and received a scholarship to attend Chicago Academy for the Arts. His mother is HIV positive and he is an advocate for equal treatment against people who are HIV positive.

Because of Tresa Reynold's passion to help the less fortunate and remembering how her grandmother shared the importance of grooming and first impressions, Reynolds began helping (free-of-charge) seniors in her neighborhood with personal care and ultimately started a business in which she visits the elderly to provide hair and manicure services. Additionally, Reynolds, the fourth born of six, has managed to remain on the honor roll, despite many challengers. Tresa says she hears gun shots or learns of a death of someone almost daily. She is a starting player for the Al Raby Girls High School Basketball team. When asked how she manages to smile and keep a positive attitude when so much around her is negative, she replies, "Because Grandma would want me to!"

The "Stop the Violence" award, presented to an adult based on his/her nomination for exemplary leadership of a teen group or program dedicated to deterring violence, was presented to Alvyn Walker, Assistant Youth Leader, Windsor Park Lutheran Church Youth Leadership Group. Windsor Park Lutheran Church provides on-going community support to youth between the ages of 11-18. And, Walker has been volunteering with the group since 2006. The group offers a dozen (or more) youth, who reside in Chicago's South Shore, a variety of alternatives to violence including a Black History Month competition, arts/crafts, musical, dance, and drama performances.

Winning teens in the group and individual categories receive an all-expense paid day at Cellular Field to watch a Chicago White Sox game. Walker received $1,000 and Chicago White Sox tickets for teens in the group he mentors.

Founded in 1993 by GO Airport Express, the Chicago Crusader and the DuSable Museum, Heroes in the 'Hood recognizes and rewards outstanding teens from economically disadvantaged Chicago neighborhoods. Since the programs inception, more than 400 Chicago teens have honored for donating their time and talent to their communities. In 2008, the program added a new award called "Stop the Violence," which acknowledges a principal, teacher, counselor or community leader who has made an extraordinary effort to promote non-violence through school or an organization-based program.