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Peoria Park District celebrates first year of workforce development program

Logan Recreation Center Mural
Collin Schopp
A new mural, painted by arts apprentices in the Peoria Park District's new workforce development program, covers a wall of the Logan Recreation Center.

The Peoria Park District celebrated the first year of a new workforce development program with the unveiling of a new mural Wednesday at the Logan Recreation Center.

The program, funded by a grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, hired 22 Peoria area high school and college students for paid internships in July of 2021.

The internships included positions at the RiverPlex, Peoria Zoo, Peoria Playhouse Children’s Museum, various summer camps, and more.

“It's been amazing,” said Gigi Gibson, manager of workforce development for the Peoria Park District. “We were able to create what we wanted to see, which was that we wanted to see students just navigate through life, learn skills, learn competency skills, learn how to work in the workforce. Then, certainly learn skills on communication, how to take the initiative.”

Gibson said that the program also plays an important role in preventing youth crime and violence in Peoria.

"We kept students off of the street,” said Gibson. “That means we saved a life because the student had something to do, and then we put money in their hands. So we are excited anytime we can say that we were instrumental in keeping the youth out of trouble.”

One group of artistic apprentice interns painted the new mural on the side of the Logan Recreation Center. The design is based on input from a community survey and themes of diversity, inclusion, and acceptance.

Richwoods High School senior Fatema Salem was one of the apprentices involved in the project.

“I had a lot of fun asking questions, getting to know, like, how did they do it? Because I want to be an artist when I grow up,” said Salem. “Just getting to know like an actual artist and working under them was amazing. It was super duper fun.”

At the unveiling ceremony, Emily Cahill, executive director of the Peoria Park District, announced the interns earned more than $50,000 total during their internships. She also announced the program has been funded for a second year, bringing more internship opportunities to Peoria students.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.