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21st CNDA Youth Panelists Blaze New Trails, 22nd CNDA Gears Up for Next Forum, Award Winners

In case you were wondering… the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards “Forum 4” are doing just fine this summer.

Sure, local headlines constantly scream the numbers of young Chicagoans killed and wounded over the previous weekend. And sure, debate rages at City Hall over whether to give a tax subsidy to a movie about the mayhem controversially titled “Chi-raq.”

But, there are good things happening with our youth too:

Perriyana Clay
from the Austin neighborhood graduated from Whitney Young High School, is camp-counseling younger girls at “Girls in the Game” and soon will be off to Howard University in Washington D.C.

Jahari Jones
from South Chicago has been managing the LISC-sponsored Hoops in the Hood program there and developing an All-Star team of inner-city kids who, well, might not otherwise get along.

Korynna Lopez
is getting ready for senior year at DePaul University by cashiering weekends at Sports Authority and interning weekdays at the Illinois Justice Project. Her focus is reducing youth violence, crime and incarceration.

Berto Aguayo
from Back of the Yards, won’t be finishing his B.A. at Dominican University this fall. He’ll do it this spring, after his fall internship on Capitol Hill in D.C. with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Now if you’re asking – Who are these kids? Well, you likely did not attend the 21st Annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards last February. Or maybe you did go, but skipped the Forum that precedes the awards ceremony.

Big mistake. That’s because the four young Chicagoans on the discussion panel had hugely inspiring stories to tell about their rise from modest beginnings to youth leadership positions en-route to successful adult careers. More importantly, each explained how some program – the Mikva Challenge, say, or Girls in the Game – provided them with the mentoring and support to make positive life decisions.

Save Feb. 18

The point being – don’t miss the CNDA Forum in 2016. It may be early, but save this date: February 18, 2016.

The 22nd Annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards will be held that Thursday at the Chicago Hilton, 720 S. Michigan Ave. The Forum begins, as always, at 3 p.m. followed by the awards ceremony and finally – not to be missed – the city’s best networking reception in the field of community development.

Already applications are being accepted for awards recognizing outstanding achievement in neighborhood real estate development, community engagement, neighborhood planning and building stronger and healthier communities. The application deadline is September 10, 2015.

Award opportunities include:

  • The Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Plan Award
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Healthy Community Award
  • The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project
  • The Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award
  • The Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award
  • The Woods Fund Chicago Power of Community Award

And, of course, there’s the coveted Richard H. Driehaus Awards for Architectural Excellence recognizing best practices in community design, landscape design and architecture.

Submit an award entry online and get more details.

Last year's CNDA youth panelists with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who moderated the discussion.

Photos by Gordon Walek

Hard to top

So, how can LISC Chicago match the welling of optimism about the future that flowed from last February’s Forum with Perriyana, Jahari, Korynna and Berto? Or the evocative questions put to them by moderator Toni Preckwinkle, the former schoolteacher, alderman and New Communities leader who now serves as president of the Cook County Board?

Only LISC Chicago’s Chris Brown, the organizer of the 2016 Forum, knows the answer… and he’s not telling. Not yet. But he’s advising all to watch this space, your mailbox and your inbox.

“All I can say now,” said Brown, “Is that the Forum will make everyone who participates come away feeling better about the future of our neighborhoods and of our city.”  

The last one surely did.

More information on awards and sponsorships: Caroline Goldstein,

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