2013 Director’s Community Leadership Awards
||Carl Kenneth Cannon
The Springfield Division honors Carl Kenneth Cannon, a youth outreach pioneer in Peoria, Illinois, for spreading his motivational “do right” message to more than 250,000 youth in Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington D.C.
In 2006, after leaving a career with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Mr. Cannon founded the ELITE youth program, an 11-week business boot camp for high school sophomores and juniors in Peoria. The weekly one-hour, in-class program is taught by teams of trained community leaders and business professionals who advise youth on how to land and keep a job. In the first five years, the ELITE program provided more than 500 youth with jobs that gave them spending money, kept them occupied and off the street, and helped them build self-confidence and a resume for their next job. The program has since expanded and now includes the K-8 ELITE youth program, which has been implemented at a local elementary school. The new program includes home visits during the summer where both students and parents are involved and sign a Code of Conduct Covenant.
The students that graduate from the programs go on to mentor K-8 ELITE program students and perform community service. Mr. Cannon uses his previous career as a correctional officer to bring work-release men from the Department of Corrections to attend school assemblies to share their stories and emphasize making good decisions. The students participating in the ELITE programs learn the meaning of respect and good manners. Upon hearing about the program, more than 700 teachers applied for 60 ELITE program positions, eager to bring that mutual respect and good manners back into their classrooms.