PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Peoria Public Schools and the Elite Youth Program are collaborating to propel local teens towards a successful future.
The W.I.N.N.I.N.G program, an acronym for “What I Need Now In Ninth Grade”, takes District 150 students that may be at a disadvantage and readies them to take on high school.
“Youth at a disadvantage maybe because of the pandemic and primarily because of academics,” said Carl Cannon, founder of Elite Youth Program.
At Lincoln School on Wednesday, participants received encouraging words from individuals labeled as “gamechangers”. U.S. District Judge James Shadid was one of those that shared his experiences.
“My hope for them is that they continue to make decisions for themselves so that people like me aren’t making decisions for them,” Shadid said.
A current inmate, Chris Clemons, sentenced by Shadid, sent a letter to the group that urged them to learn from and avoid the mistakes of his past.
“If they can just take that away and walk away from all the peer pressures, walk away from the people that are trying to lead them in the wrong direction, then they can have a great life,” Shadid said.
Cannon says the winning program is about giving students the tools to lead a successful future.
“The hardest thing about success is simply getting started. We’re going to get you started, now you’re going to get on a roll, and it’s going to be who you are,” Cannon said.
After an emotional speech, Clemons’ mother announced that she would become a volunteer for the group.
Cannon says in order to reduce things like violence in the city, community collaboration like Wednesday’s is necessary.