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August 10, 2000

First Lady Launches Futures for Kids Conference

CHICAGO -- First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today opened the first statewide Futures for Kids: REACHing Youth Through Community Involvement conference held at the Sheraton Hotel, from August 9 - August 11.

"The numerous presentations and activities offered will allow participants an opportunity to collaborate on critical issues facing today's youth and will lay the foundation for the future of Illinois youth programming," said First Lady Ryan. "Besides the numerous activities that will take place at the conference, I am looking forward to presenting the very first "Youth Making a Difference Award" that honors young people for their volunteer efforts."

Futures for Kids is an umbrella for programs and policies under the direction of First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan and makes a significant difference in the lives of Illinois' children. As part of this initiative, the Illinois Department of Human Services administered Teen REACH program includes academic assistance, recreation and sports, cultural and artistic activities, life skills education, employment training, and mentoring. Teen REACH strives to increase academic success while reducing risk-taking behaviors such as substance abuse, criminal activity, and premature sexual behavior.

The Futures for Kids conference is expected to draw the largest gathering of youth service professionals ever in the history of Illinois. Over the three days, five concurrent workshop tracks will focus on the Teen REACH themes of Responsibility, Education, Achievement, Caring and Hope.

"I am honored to be co-sponsoring this conference with the First Lady," said DHS Secretary Linda Renee Baker. "She inspires all of us to do everything possible to secure a bright future for the kids who will be tomorrow's leaders."

Approximately 50 youth from around the State who are volunteering to work at the Futures for Kids conference will earn service learning credits toward school requirements. Youth will also perform at the conference and will participate in several workshop sessions.

Keynote speakers to be featured over the course of the three day event include:

Ayinde Jean-Baptiste, a 17-year-old freshman at Harvard University, whose talent as an orator has resulted in numerous television appearances and speaking engagements around the United States and Africa.

Richard Santana, once a third generation gang member in California, he earned a graduate degree from Harvard School of Education. Now a father, Santana draws upon his own experiences as a Latino youth and gang member to dramatize our biases and how they influence the way individuals interact.

Mervlyn Kitashima, a participant in Emmy Werner's groundbreaking "Kauai Longitudinal Study on Resilience." She currently is a district coordinator for the Parent-Community Networking Centers in Hawaii's Department of Education. For more information on the Futures for Kids: REACHing Youth Through Community Involvement Conference, please visit www.futures4kids.org.


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