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SCUC, Tri-County Urban League reintroduce ‘litter patrol’ summer work opportunity for Peoria kids

220531 SCUC news conference.jpg
Joe Deacon
Peoria First District council member and Southside Community United for Change second vice president Denise Jackson, right, announces the return of the summer "litter patrol" youth work program as SCUC president Martha Ross, Tri-County Urban League president Dawn Harris Jeffries, and SCUC vice president Robert Johnson listen during a Tuesday news conference at the Urban League's offices.

A summer work opportunity for Peoria school students is returning this month after several years off.

The Southside Community United for Change is partnering with the Tri-County Urban League and other community organizations to reintroduce the “litter patrol” program, offering kids ages 12-17 a way to make money while cleaning up neighborhoods and learning some life skills.

“It means a lot to have young people out working,” said First District council member Denise Jackson, the SCUC’s second vice president. “You get an opportunity to talk to them, to expose them to other people – adults who look like them. It gives them something to look forward to, and it gives us an opportunity to build relationships, which is so critical.”

The six-week program runs from June 20 through July 29, with up to 100 participants working three two-hour shifts each week. Individuals will receive a $125 stipend at the end of every second week.

The litter pick-up shifts start at 8:15 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; the Friday shifts will consist of one hour of picking up trash and one hour of instructional programming, alternating between financial literacy training and science and technology tutoring.

“This program will give them some job skills; it'll give them the community service skills. It'll give them mentoring through our partnership with the Urban League,” said Jackson. “It'll introduce them to programs they've probably not been aware of, programs that we hope will at some point strengthen their academic careers as well as their personal careers for the rest of their lives. So this is vital.”

Jackson touted the program’s return during a Tuesday afternoon news conference at the Urban League offices. She was joined in the announcement by SCUC president Martha Ross, vice president Robert Johnson, board member Glenda Williams, and Urban League president Dawn Harris Jeffries.

“I’ve always thought that if we keep children busy and keep them engaged, that will lessen the tendency to get in trouble – and I knew that from my own personal experience,” said Johnson, who is also president of the Peoria Park District Board of Trustees. “That was one of the reasons I got involved with parks and rec, because I like to think of ‘recreation instead of incarceration,’ and to teach new ideas and things of this nature, so that the kids and our citizens on the south side could have something to do.”

Litter patrol participants and their parents will need to attend an orientation program on June 11. Parents are asked to bring their kids to the Peoria Public Library’s Lincoln Branch before the start of each shift. Jackson says a key to keeping kids out of trouble in the summer is for parents to stay involved in their activities.

“Summertime is a time when a lot of kids are left alone, and the best thing parents can do is make sure you know where your child is in the evening,” said Jackson. “Especially in the summertime, we know kids have a tendency to want to stay up late and be out and about in the neighborhood. That can be very innocent, but if the neighborhood extends to be five blocks away from home or six blocks away, or seven blocks away, and they're on their bike, that's too far.”

Groups and organizations joining the SCUC and the Urban League in making the return of the litter patrol possible include Busey Bank, Illinois American Water, the Shaun Livingston Foundation, the Doug and Diane Oberhelman Foundation, and UnityPoint Health.

Jackson said that amount of collaboration shows a strong belief in the program’s benefits.

“Hopefully, it'll bring more people out to take ownership and doing it,” said Jackson. “We all can play a small role in helping to make our neighborhoods healthier, and what better way to do so than by going out picking up trash (and) getting involved in your neighborhood association. A clean neighborhood is akin to a safe neighborhood.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.