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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Freetown Village honors city leaders who are making a difference

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Studies show the impact of positive role models is of great significance on the lives of youth. According to research conducted by David Streight, executive director of the Council for Spiritual and Ethical Education, the likelihood of a child growing up to be altruistic — willing to act for the benefit of others, even when there are no tangible rewards involved — is heightened depending on the types of people, or models, the child is exposed to and influenced by. In other words, what they see is what they’ll be.

On Sept. 20, Freetown Village will honor four of our city’s role models during their third annual Making a Difference awards dinner.

Ophelia Wellington, founding director and executive director of Freetown, said the event started as a way to expose the youth who attend their summer camp to new career possibilities.

“We were asking them what did they want to be, and most of them would say they wanted to be athletes or entertainers,” she said. “And we realized that’s what they saw on TV, and that was glamorous and they wanted to live that life, but in reality … we knew most of them would not be successful in those fields.”

Wellington and the staff decided it was a good opportunity to introduce the campers to figures who had achieved a certain level of success or acclaim in other endeavors outside of entertainment and athletics. They started with some of the pioneers and pathfinders of Black history — Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth and others — but soon realized that, while their stories are important, there was a challenge in making them relevant to today. The decision was made to bring present-day history makers face to face with the students.

“When I was a child growing up, it never occurred to me that I would meet one of our council members, a mayor, a superintendent or anyone in a high-profile position, but in our summer camp we have the children meet them and engage with them,” Wellington said. “It gives them opportunities and exposes them to things they may not have considered.”

This year, Freetown will recognize Maggie Lewis, president of the City-County Council; Tony Mason, president of the Indianapolis Urban League; Matthew Steward, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer and founder of the Steward Speakers series; and Patricia Payne, longtime educator and director of the Office of Multicultural Education for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS).

The event will be held at 6 p.m. in the Hine Hall Ballroom (former IUPUI Conference Center) located at 875 W. North St. Tickets are $35 a piece and can be purchased at freetownvillage.eventbrite.com. Monies generated from the event will be used to fund Freetown Village’s year-round youth and community programs.

For more information, visit freetownvillage.com.

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