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Honoring those who ‘make a difference’ in Indianapolis

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Instead of focusing on role models hundreds or thousands of miles away, the summer camp at Freetown Village connects Black youth with positive Black adults in the Circle City. Campers meet adults who work in education, business and public service in an effort to inspire greatness in the youth.

Freetown Village, a living history museum dedicated to African American history, honors participating adults at the Making a Difference Awards Dinner. This year, the sixth annual event will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at IUPUI University Tower Ballroom. Honorees are Venita Moore, managing principal of Engaging Solutions; Deon Harris, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer; Myla Eldridge, Marion County clerk; and Dr. Leonard Scott, founder of Scott Dentistry and Tyscot Records.

Ophelia Wellington, executive director of Freetown Village, is intentional in the people she picks to speak to the kindergarten through ninth graders who attend the camp. For example, she chose Harris so the children can create a positive relationship with a police officer.

“It was an excellent experience,” Harris said. “The kids were full of energy. They loved seeing the police, and they showed a lot of love. It was a good experience to give back to them and let the kids know the police are here to help serve the community.” 

Campers learn about the personality, accomplishments and history of the role models. After learning about them, the students get to meet each person and perform a skit based on what they learned. The youth performed a cheerleading routine for Moore that described her job as a certified public accountant.

“It was probably the best experience I’ve ever had,” Moore said. 

Gionna Jones, a former Freetown Village camper, said actually meeting people they learn about makes the experience feel more real.

“We learn about all these people like Martin Luther King you can never meet,” Jones said. “It’s really an honor to actually see the people you are being taught about that are looked up to as role models. You can actually meet them face to face.”

In addition to speaking with the campers, adults are interviewed by Storytelling Arts of Indiana. Their stories about their lives are then archived by the Indiana Historical Society. 

“We need to tell our stories, and our stories need to be recorded and archived like everyone else’s stories,” Wellington said.

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.


2019 Making A Difference Awards Dinner 

Celebrate adults who’ve positively influenced local youth by attending the sixth annual Making a Difference Awards Dinner.

When: 6-8:30 p.m. Sept. 17

Where: IUPUI University Tower Ballroom, 875 W. North St.

RSVP: eventbrite.com

Price: $50

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