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Youth, education spotlighted during Black History Month event

North Chicago Sunday 02.03.13. North Chicago High School Choir members perform during 30th Annual Profiles Excellence event Sunday Feb. 3

North Chicago Sunday 02.03.13. North Chicago High School Choir members perform during the 30th Annual Profiles in Excellence event on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Greenbelt Cultural Center in North Chicago. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media

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The program seeks to improve the quality of life for future generations and improve the self-esteem of children and families in the African-American community through a greater appreciation of their heritage and achievements. The prorgram was started in 1983.

Source: Greenbelt Cultural Center

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Updated: March 5, 2013 6:14AM

Sunday was about more than the Super Bowl. More than 200 people attended the Profiles in Excellence program at Greenbelt Cultural Center in North Chicago to kick off Black History Month.

This was the 30th annual Profiles in Excellence event, according to Rev. Angelo Kyle of Restoration Church who was emcee for the program.

“This is the longest-running Black History Program in the history of Lake County,” Kyle said.

There is a different theme every year. This year, the theme was to pay tribute to Lake County’s African-American educators who teach to reach for the stars. Lake County Forest Preserve Commissioner Mary Ross Cunningham called it an “important” event.

“It brings different ethnicities together ... it brings the people out. This is to make the people care and come together,” Cunningham said.

The theme is something everyone can relate to, Lake County Forest Preserve President Ann Maine said.

“We can all think back on a teacher who made a difference in our lives ... maybe this year, we can take time to thank that teacher,” Maine said.

She was among several people to make remarks at Sunday’s event. The program featured the North Chicago High School choir, the Praise Dancers from Christian Valley Missionary Baptist Church, and the Youth Praising God choir.

“It is with great pleasure we pay tribute to the educators of our youth preparing our children for a life filled with success. It is our hope you leave today with a renewed appreciation of Lake County educators and how they shape our future leaders,” said Audrey Nixon, forest preserve commissioner and diversity committee chairwoman.

The keynote speaker was Constance Collins, who is superintendent of Round Lake School District 116.

She opened her remarks with a message for youth in the audience.

“Do not give up on your dreams,” Collins said.

“Know that if you dream it, if you believe it, you can achieve it.”

She shared about an experience that taught her how unpredictable life is when she was working as an elementary school principal in Michigan. A colleague told her that Collins’ 18-year-old daughter had been killed in a car accident.

“My thought was ‘Why her?’ His (my colleague’s) reply was her work on this earth is done. In time, I came to understand that I was left here for a reason ... not just to occupy space, not just to sink in a hole of depression,” Collins said.

She went on to become the first African-American and female superintendent after the state had taken over the district for 10 years.

“Over the years, I learned I had to respect, to love, to cherish, to encourage those who are 10, 20 and 30 years younger than myself. If I don’t do it, who will? If I neglect our youth, who will encourage them? I will do more than dream. I will work. I will do more than teach. I will inspire. I will do more than earn. I will enrich,” Collins said.

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