Millennium Project Celebrates Young Volunteers

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Seattle -- In surveys across the country, youngsters regularly say they feel undervalued. To address this felt lack of recognition, an ex-family therapist will celebrate the millennium by helping everyday young people become legacies in their communities.

The International Youth Hall of Fame works with cities and towns to celebrate the often-overlooked good deeds, creativity and open hearts of younger citizens by honoring them publicly. Larry Sagen, who founded the organization in 1990, plans to travel the country in a camper next year, stopping to honor at least 2,000 children in cities that have expressed interest in recognizing their youth.

'A lot of people are either afraid of kids or afraid for kids,' said Sagen, who has dubbed his cross-country venture 'Two Thousand in 2000 -- On the Road with Kids.' 'When fear is the driving motivation you can't love, nurture and support them. How do you change that? You help to shift people's perceptions by bringing forth positive news of young people,' said Sagen, who started the Seattle-based project out of frustration with news coverage that he thought focused on negative actions by youth.

Inspired by the late journalist Charles Kuralt's dispatches from small towns around the country, Sagen hopes his own road trip will draw media attention to the children he plans to celebrate. His camper will be equipped with a video studio and web broadcasting capabilities to document the journey.

About 2,000 youngsters in Washington, Idaho, Texas and Ohio have already been inducted as local honorees. Nominated by friends, community groups and neighbors, hall-of-famers receive a letter from their local mayor and a tile with their name and words of their choice on a permanent public display called a 'Wall of Fame.'

Honorees are also asked to take a pledge to encourage another youngster in his or her dreams or goals. Creating a ripple effect of empowerment is part of the mission of the project that was inspired in part by the Search Institute in Minneapolis. A children's research and advocacy organization, the institute helps communities identify those assets considered essential for the healthy development of children.

Karel Cipra, 12, was inducted into the Youth Hall of Fame in Seattle when he was in fifth grade. He had made it a point of helping a retarded classmate with his assignments and offered the often-isolated child his friendship.

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