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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 9, 2003

Governor announces plan to promote community service in Illinois’ education system
University Merit Scholars will be measured by service to community as well as academic accomplishments

State may extend requirements to high school students
 

SPRINGFIELD – During a speech this morning at the Copley First Citizen Award Breakfast, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced his plans to introduce legislation that adds a community service requirement to the eligibility standards for the Illinois Merit Recognition Scholarship.  In addition, the Governor said his administration will study the possibility of requiring every student in Illinois to perform community service as a condition to graduating from high school.

 

 “This breakfast gave us the opportunity to take a look at what we, as a state, do to inspire the value of public service in our children,” said Blagojevich.  “Giving students incentives to perform well in school is a good idea, and something I wholeheartedly am for.  But why not take it a step further?  Why not give them incentives to serve their community?

 

“The service will vary and differ depending upon where they live, what they like to do, and how they can best serve.  But the values underlying each activity remain the same: our lives are only complete, when our actions extend beyond helping ourselves.

 

“Ideas come and go.  Trends come in and out of fashion.  But it’s the simple, basic values that stand the test of time.  They give us guidance, they give us direction, they teach us how to live our lives,” the Governor added.

 

Blagojevich plans to introduce legislation that changes the requirements for receiving the Illinois Merit Recognition Scholarship to include a minimum of 50 hours of service to their communities.  Currently, any student who graduates in the top 5% of their class and attends an Illinois public university is eligible to receive a one-time $1,000 merit scholarship.

 

Although, the National Center for Education Statistics Nationwide reports that 53% of public schools in the United States require students to participate in community service, if Illinois extends a service requirement to high school students, it will become only the second state in the country to do so. The first was Maryland.  Chicago Public Schools require all students to complete a 40-hour community service requirement in order to graduate. 

 

“Activities could range from working at a local library, volunteering at a senior center, to picking up trash in a local park, to helping out at the local hospital.  But the values underlying each activity remain the same: our lives are only complete, when our actions extend beyond helping ourselves.” Blagojevich said.

 

“We’ll study how the program has worked in other places.  We’ll work with local school districts, teachers, and volunteer organizations.  We’ll talk to parents.  We’ll talk to students.  We’ll do all of the research.  But I must admit, the idea is compelling,” said the Governor.


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