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TEENS AND ADULTS HONORED AS CHICAGO COMMUNITY "HEROES IN THE 'HOOD"

CHICAGO (May 3, 2012) – Despite continual media coverage of villainous acts, more than 100 young people 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 and The DuSable Museum of African-American History.

From volunteering to tutor younger children, helping feed and clothe the homeless, doing chores for families of those away serving in the armed forces -- to creating seminars and other programs that promote teen self-esteem and deter violence -- teens who were nominated by youth counselors, teachers, aldermen and other community leaders were genuinely enthusiastic in cheering on 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.

“This year’s nominees were particularly outstanding and the judging panel of aldermen, CAPS, Chicago Public Schools, University of Chicago’s Urban Initiative and other public service organizations, had a difficult time choosing winners because they were so impressed with the stories of service to others,” said John McCarthy, President, GO Airport Express. Other awards’ presenters included Pemon Rami, Director Educational Services and Public Programs, DuSable Museum; Queing Jones, Education Outreach Coordinator, DuSable Museum; and Dorothy Leavell, publisher, The Chicago Crusader Newspaper.

Darlene Hill, FOX-Chicago’s three-time Emmy-award-winning television reporter, served as emcee. In many instances, she encouraged teen awardees to describe the purpose of their organizations or the inspiration for their volunteerism. “It was wonderful to give honor to adult leaders who are actively making a positive difference in our community and hearing young people articulate their motivation and the work they are doing through school and community organizations—some of which they started themselves,” Hill said.

Honored Role Models included Jackie Taylor, Founder/Executive Director, Black Ensemble Theatre; Kendall Moore, Chief Operating Officer, South Side Help Center and WVON radio personality; and Masequa Myers, Playright/Producer and co-creator of Productions To Change Lives (P2CL) , a training and production model, which focused on integrating art and media through the eyes of teens in an effort to effect community involvement and positive change.

First place in the teen group category was awarded to Percy L. Julian High School’s Advancing Via Individual Determination (AVID) group, comprised of 15 teens who annually organize the AVID Winter Toy and School Supply Drive to help those in the community. In 2011 more than 230 new toys were collected and distributed as a result of their efforts.

Two teens tied for the first place award in the individual teen category: Rayshonda Johnson, 18, Curie Metro High School and DaVante Lovett, 17, Mt. Carmel High School.

Johnson created an organization called Ladies of Virtue which helps young African American girls to conduct themselves in a respectful manner. She commented, “I was tired of seeing young girls dressed like they were over 21 years of age and conducting themselves in ways young ladies shouldn’t. And, I also wanted to show girls that they are important and do not need a man to validate them.” As a result, more than 30 girls attended Ladies of Virtue meetings and Johnson is planning a graduation program for the end of May.

Lovette is a volunteer host of a professional radio show called “Teen Talk Radio Theatre” which airs on WHPK 88.5FM Chicago and streams on www.whpk.org. He talks about dilemmas that are relevant to teens. In addition, he is an apprentice for the After School Matter’s TTRT program. Lovette publicly performed a self-written poem, entitled “Hard Knock Life,” for the NAACP Loyola University Chapter and created a documentary entitled the “Ida B. Wells Effect,” which is being considered for the Chicago History Fair. Lovette commented, “I just want to see people do better. I am tired of being called lame because I speak articulately, wear glasses, or wear my pants waist high. I am tired of counting the deaths of Black teenagers each year. I just want to help my people change for the better."

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 given to John Cooke, owner of the Bronzeville Community Clubhouse. Cooke’s Clubhouse provides a safe place for students to go after school. He also opens his venue for parent patrol trainings and other community meetings. Located directly across the street from Wendell Phillips High School, the Clubhouse receives safe passage workers, and in many instances Mr. Cook has been the only adult providing safety patrol. He also has served on the Local School Councils for both Phillips High School and Wells Prep, which is an elementary school that shares the same building. Cook also serves on the Phillips Oversight Committee (POC), established to assist with the effort to turn Phillips into a school of choice. Those who nominated Cooke wrote, “his strong relationships with parents and students combined with his long history of community service have proven to be extremely useful and he serves as a role model for our youth and a positive example of community engagement for our older residents.”

Winning teens in the group and individual categories receive an all-expense paid day at Cellular Field to watch a Chicago White Sox game. The individual winners also won bicycles, complements of Walmart, and Cooke received $1,000 and Chicago White Sox tickets for teens of the Bronzeville Clubhouse.

In addition to GO Airport Express, The Chicago Crusader Newspaper, DuSable Museum, Chicago White Sox, and WVON-AM1690, sponsors of this year’s event included University of Chicago Urban Health Initiative, Walmart, PNC Bank, Koncious Effort, Inc., Hawaiian Silky and Selfpro.

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.