Millennium Project Celebrates Young Volunteers

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

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.

‘I felt it would be my job to help this kid because no one would
show him much respect,’ said Cipra. The seventh-grader said his
empathy for others comes in part from having gone through tough
times himself. As a young child, he weathered brain surgery. But he
also understood that his actions could leverage the good behavior
of his peers.

‘I was kind of popular, so if I showed respect more kids would
start showing (him) the respect he deserved,’ Cipra said.

Sagen is quick to point out that recognition of good deeds is
not the single solution to youth isolation. Giving young people
skills and the opportunities to use those skills are also essential
to building self-esteem. But while he found there were lots of
training programs and work opportunities across the country, there
was a distinct lack of celebration of the contributions of young

The ultimate goal of the Hall of Fame is to instill in adults
the understanding that it is their responsibility to support
children, he said. ‘What the kids win is the opportunity to have a
legacy in the community.’

Contacts: Larry Sagen, executive director, International
Youth Hall of Fame, Seattle, Wash., 206-623-6770; web site: Karel
Cipra, student, through Larry Sagen, 206-623-6770.

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