YLIA Named Winner of Prestigious Governor's Cup

Young Leaders in Action first youth group to be honored with statewide recognition

Macon County – Young Leaders In Action (YLIA), a service and leadership group of Macon County high school students, was named winner of the 2020 Governor’s Cup, presented by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker during a virtual ceremony held earlier today. The Governor’s Cup is the top honor given among a field of 24 Illinois community projects that were recognized with 2020 Governor’s Hometown Awards earlier this year. The awards program gives formal recognition to groups whose projects improved their community’s quality of life.

“This award honors our entire community,” says Natalie Beck, CEO of The Community Foundation of Macon County. “YLIA participants continually put forth efforts throughout this past year to make our community and our world a better place. YLIA leaders inspire others to dream more, learn more and do more.”

YLIA, the first youth group to receive the prestigious Governor’s Cup, is an initiative of The Community Foundation of Macon County and Rotary Club No. 180 of Decatur. The youth-led group seeks to bring positive change to Macon County through its numerous service projects. YLIA was named one of four finalists for the Governor’s Cup in late March and competed in virtual judging finals on April 12. The other Illinois finalists were The Hope Center of Albion and the villages of the Barrington and Flossmoor.

YLIA members include more than 100 sophomore, junior and senior high school students from all 11 Macon County high schools and homeschooled students. Their facilitator, Dr. Jarmese Sherrod, has more than 20 years of experience in teaching, mentoring and empowering young people.

“This is an epic moment for youth empowerment engagement for all Macon County high schools’ young leaders in action,” Sherrod says. “They selflessly served and put the needs of our community first. And today they were celebrated for that accomplishment. It shows that if we put faith and trust in the hands of our future leaders, that the outcome will be limitless.”

Since last June, YLIA members have responded strongly to the escalation in community needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. From June to December, the group led and hosted 16 socially-distanced Be the Change service projects, with members contributing more than 1,100 total volunteer hours to impactful community events, including distributing food boxes to a total of 1,300 local families in June, August and October.

“I think this just shows that YLIA produces extraordinary leaders, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” says YLIA President Grace Pugh, a St. Teresa High School senior. “There is just no limit to what we can do when we set our minds to it.”

YLIA President-elect Brandon Kondritz, a Mt. Zion High School junior, shares the same commitment to continued community service. “This award really shows the true significance of what youth can accomplish,” he says. “YLIA is developing future leaders, and we are ready to accomplish even more.”

Macon County previously won a Governor’s Hometown Award for the WSOY Community Food Drive (2017), and Decatur was named the top honoree for its Decatur Advantage campaign (1985).

For more information about the Governor’s Hometown Awards program, visit: www2.illinois.gov/sites/serve/volunteerism/Pages/GHTA.aspx

Questions about YLIA should be directed to Dr. Jarmese Sherrod at: JSherrod@maconcountygives.org or by calling 217.429.3000.

Online YLIA membership applications for the 2021-22 academic year are being accepted now at https://www.maconcountygives.org/ylia.

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Established in 2000, The Community Foundation of Macon County stewards more than 350 funds and total assets of $46 million. To date, The Community Foundation has distributed over $34 million to charitable organizations and endeavors. For more information about The Community Foundation of Macon County, visit maconcountygives.org.