SKOKIE, Ill. - High school and middle school students and their mentors in the Exelon/ComEd/United Way Stay in School Initiative today participated in a service event at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the late civil rights leader's messages of equality and anti-violence.
Employee volunteers from Exelon and its subsidiary ComEd and more than 100 students toured the museum and took part in mentor-led reflection periods, a survivors' panel and discussions of how the Holocaust and the civil rights movement can be viewed through the lens of Dr. King's philosophy. The event's theme of non-violence resonated with the students, who live in Chicago-area communities with high violence, dropout and truancy rates, including Humboldt Park/West Town, Austin, Cicero, Greater Grand Crossing, Chinatown, Bridgeport and North Lawndale.
"We saw this as an excellent way to introduce Dr. King's ideas in a unique setting that was new to many of our students," said Steve Solomon, vice president of corporate relations at Exelon. "Events like this allow us to create new learning experiences for students and employee mentors through cultural partnerships that are vital to the success of the Stay in School program."
As part of the program, two Holocaust survivors participated in a panel discussion about their experiences. Students worked with their mentors to develop questions for the panelists, who added a personal perspective to the museum tour.
"This is an important learning experience for our students and a way for them to explore human and civil rights," said Sofia Mendez, outreach and diversity manager of United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. "The combination of living history, Dr. King's legacy, and community discussion will give our students a rich opportunity to further develop and advocate for peaceful strategies and affect positive change in their community."
"Congratulations to Exelon, ComEd and United Way on this successful event," said Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen, who was on hand for Monday's program. "Their unique public-private partnership with the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center made for a very effective and enriching learning experience. I am proud that the event was held in the Village of Skokie, where we have a strong community focus on education and also greatly value diversity, tolerance and human rights."
Exelon, ComEd and United Way of Metropolitan Chicago created the Stay in School Initiative in 2005 to confront the issues preventing teens from graduating high school. Through partnerships with six afterschool agencies, the program provides tutoring, social services, leadership and social engagement, skills building and parent workshops. Exelon and ComEd employee volunteers provide one-on-one mentoring to students to improve grades, graduation rates and non-violent conflict resolution. In eight years, the program has served approximately 17,000 students. For the past six of those years, active program participants have achieved a graduation rate of more than 90 percent, exceeding the 65 percent average for Chicago Public Schools seniors.
The MLK Day educational event and Stay in School Initiative align with Exelon and ComEd's commitment to diversity and inclusion, education, and improving the quality of life in the communities they serve. Along with a companion program providing paid internships for participating students, Exelon and ComEd have contributed more than $2.8 million to fund the Stay in School Initiative since its inception in 2005.