Senator John Cullerton, President, Illinois State Senate, Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, Chief Education Officer, Chicago Public Schools and Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, Senior Vice President Public Affairs & Government Relations, The Nielsen Company, were honored during the Eighth Annual Open Book Lightbearer Benefit Gala on June 11, 2009 at Macy’s Narcissus Room in Chicago. Each honoree received an engraved bookmark from Tiffany’s in appreciation of their support for programs like Open Book that inspire the love of reading in children.
The Gala also featured testimony from Sandra F. Johnson, the Literary Coach at Armstrong Elementary School and Jacqueline Prince, a parent whose son is a participant in the Open Book Program at Armstrong. “Open Book is the greatest program I’ve ever been introduced to,” said Johnson, “and I’ve seen a lot of programs.” Johnson pointed out that her Open Book students became excited about reading and that this excitement was so infectious that parents, siblings, other students and even the principal and assistant principal want to read the same books that the Open Book kids are reading.
Speaking from a parent’s point of view, Prince lauded the Open Book program’s effect on her son. “I tried for years to get my son interested in reading without success,” said Prince. “Then one day I was driving the car home at night and noticed that my son was trying to read a book with the car light on.” The book was the one he was reading in the Open Book Program. Prince went to see Johnson for a copy of the book and to find out how Open Book was able to finally get her child excited about reading. She is now an Open Book Parent Volunteer.
Johnson and Armstrong also gave their testimony during a symposium on the progress and evaluation of the Open Book Program that was held at the ABC TV Studios on June 4, 2009.
“At our annual Lightbearer Gala people come together for great food, great entertainment, great dancing, a great time—and a chance to support the Institute for Positive Living’s Open Book Program,” states IPL President Marrice Coverson. “IPL’s Open Book Program is proud to honor these three outstanding individuals who share the belief that children should be encouraged to enjoy the art of reading. Our honorees and their respective organizations are among those who support IPL’s programs like Open Book that encourage the development of reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. We are also proud to showcase the creative work of our young participants. We believe that knowledge is the possibility of finding your own truth.”
IPL’s core program is Open Book, a multi-faceted after-school program for young adolescents that engages youth in activities that encourage development of their reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Open Book is currently funded at eleven Chicago public schools: Armstrong Elementary School, Copernicus Elementary, Gregory Elementary, Henderson Elementary, Mayo Elementary School, Nicholson Elementary, Reed Elementary, Penn Elementary, University of Chicago-Donoghue, White Career Academy, and Williams Multiplex. Another Open Book site serves the youth of Lawless Gardens. Other IPL programs include Book Club Mentoring and Entrepreneurship Training.
This year's Lightbearer Gala was emceed by Zoraida Sambolin from NBC-5. Gala goes danced to the sounds of the Gentlemen of Leisure Band.
Co-Chairs for this year’s Lightbearer Gala were Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter and Mr. Everett Rand.
The Lightbearer Host Committee included: Sharon K. Ali, Linda Baker, Honorable Will Burns, Hon. Pat Dowell, Craig Gilmore, Daryl Handy, Craig Huffman, Nadine Dillanado, Honorable Ken Dunkin, Michael Fountain, Honorable Esther Golar, Ralph Hughes, Leroy Kennedy, Honorable Terry Link, Honorable Iris Martinez, Sonya R. Malunda, Lisa L. Montgomery, Frances Oden, Theresa Rhea, Francine Washington, David Whittaker, Paul Williams, Esq., Clarence Woods and Timothy Wright, Esq.
Past Lightbearer honorees have included: Sam Balark, Director, External Affairs, AT&T, Lee Brown, former Area Instructional Officer for the Chicago Public School System, The Church of The Spirit, John Clark, President/CEO, Reggio’s Pizza, Alderman Shirley E. Coleman, 16th Ward, Lester N. Coney, Executive Vice President, Mesirow Financial, Merri Dee, Director of Community Relations, WGN-TV, Amina Dickerson, Senior Director of corporate contributions for Kraft Foods, Tommy Ford, children's book author and actor, Frank Gihan, Director of Community Relations, Chicago Tribune Charities, Wallace E. Goode, University of Chicago, Daryl Handy/President, Lakefront Management LLC, Elzie Higginbottom, CEO/President, East Lake Management, Theresa (TeeSee) Fambro Hooks, columnist for the Chicago Defender, Ralph Hughes, Regional Director, Marshall Fields State Street (now Macy’s), State Senator Mattie Hunter, Senate Majority Leader Emil Jones, Susan Levy, R.R. Donnelley and Sons, Doug Mabie, Springboard Foundation, Erwin McEwen, Director, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Frederick McNeal Jr., Principal of Mayo Elementary School, Joe Moore, Manager, Community Relations, Shell Oil, Darryl Newell, President, 100 Black Men of Chicago, Phillip Nyden, Professor of Sociology and Director of Urban Research and Learning, Loyola University Chicago, Frances Odem, Principal, Williams Multiplex, Louanner Peters, Deputy Governor-Illinois, Styron Powers, BP Amoco, Wynona Redmond, Pubic Relations Manager for Dominick's Finer Foods, Zoraida Sambolin, Anchor for NBC-Channel 5, Hosea Sanders, Michael W. Scott, President, Michael Scott & Associates, Past President, Chicago Public Schools Board, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Author and Illustrator, ABC-7 Chicago, and David Whittaker, Executive Director, Chicago Area Project.
“We are grateful to the many people who continue to make the Lightbearer Gala a memorable evening,” states Coverson. “As our attendance continues to grow, we thank our friends and supporters, as well as the local media who help us tell our story. Mostly, we thank the youth who participate in the Open Book program, celebrating reading and children’s literacy every day.”
For more information, please call 773-924-9803 or 773-924-9802.
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