15 Emerging Leaders Present Proposals to Strengthen Oak Park, River Forest
Expanding and decreasing—perhaps better than any other word pairing, this captures the essence of project proposals set forth recently by the second graduating class of the Community Leadership Program.
Expand the coordination and potential impact of non-profit organizations…reduce the “expectation gap” between whites and minorities at the high school level…take a significant bite out of the growing obesity problem among children.
On Friday, June 17, those goals were presented by the second graduating class of the Community Leadership Program (CLP) for Oak Park and River Forest.
In January 2010, Communityworks supported by the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation teamed up with the Brennan School of Business at Dominican University to design the program. Its goal is to prepare future community leaders to serve in ways that directly benefit the Oak Park-River Forest community.
In the three-hour session at Parmer Hall on Dominican University’s campus in River Forest, this year’s graduates presented several projects they had developed over the course of study. One is a plan to maximize the effectiveness of nonprofits through shared services and mapping, which provides information such as the location, website, contact information and type of nonprofit for every organization in the Oak Park-River Forest area.
Comprised of Ellen Plourde, Karin Schindel, Julie Mann, Tom Olis and Carla Pierre Gini, the team created a website, www.oprforgs.org. The site presents a way to effectively organize the community’s nonprofit organizations, so consumers, volunteers, partners and nonprofits can easily navigate through various groups.
Lauren Smith and Karen Faust made a second presentation focused on fostering success of high school students. The proposal calls for all high school freshmen to have an advisory period daily or at least intermittently. Such an advisory class would help promote character, leadership and development, as well as offer guidance during trying times, Smith and Faust stated.
“The point is to have safe environments,” said Smith, who is the human resources director of OPRF High School. “The high school is so large that if a student wanted to, he or she could just disappear.”
OPRF Superintendent Steven Isoye, who attended the presentation, supports the project. However, he stressed the need for a strong committee within the high school to maintain the advisory class.
“Lauren and Karen helped the process by basing their proposal in research,” said Isoye. “Their work was instrumental. But without a strong program it won’t be sustainable, and it will fall flat.”
In the third presentation, leaders offered ideas to help families combat childhood obesity through fitness and nutrition.
The eight-person group created kits, which would cost approximately $500 and could be readily used at home, including mini trampolines, balls and simple nutrition tips. Offering cucumbers to go along with water, for example, would help entice children to hydrate.
The activities, such as jumping on a trampoline, could be completed in a family’s living room during nightly television programs.
“Without the whole family involved, it’s not as successful,” said David Parsons, the chief operations officer of the West Cook YMCA and member of the fitness team. “This will be an easy, fun and interactive way to promote health while engaging the entire family.”
In addition to Parsons, the team consisted of Julie Farrell, Caleb Fields, Michael Lushniak, Sarah Niederman, Melanie Nowacki, Kathryn (KC) Poulos and Angie Spino. They tested some of the activities at local events such as A Day in Our Village, Earth Fest and Healthy Kids Day.
With help from Communityworks and the Brennan School of Business, the CLP has three main objectives: develop leadership skills, build networks and increase trans-organizational perspectives.
Grace Whiting, director of career development in the Brennan School of Business and CLP facilitator, said one of the exciting aspects of the proposals is that they are on their way toward becoming a community reality.
“They all chose their projects and it’s all real,” said Whiting. “That’s what we’re thrilled with.”
The group met once a month over a nine-month span. Each participant’s fee was $2,000, though there were opportunities for scholarships. Ron Bacci and Jean Bruno of the Brennan School of Business are currently recruiting for the class of 2011-2012.
Applications for the next Community Leadership Program, which begins in September, are available from the Brennan School of Business at:
To learn more about Communityworks or the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, visit www.oprfcf.org/ or contact (708) 848-1560.