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Student leaders collaborate, gain inspiration at Youth Ambassadors Leadership Conference

On January 31, 2020, Naperville Park District hosted its annual Youth Ambassadors Leadership Conference. Approximately 100 student leaders from five area high schools gathered to collaborate, network and be inspired in their leadership roles.  The keynote speaker was Rob Elgas, co-anchor and reporter for the 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Eyewitness News shows on ABC Chicago Channel 7. 

Neuqua Valley H.S. teacher John Gelsomino, student Eva Topolewski, ABC 7 News anchor Rob Elgas, and student Barrett Bailey at the Jan. 31 Leadership Conference, Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center

Neuqua Valley High School student Eva Topolewski introduced the keynote speaker, who happens to be her father. In his talk, he encouraged students to embrace failure and own up to their mistakes as leaders. He told stories from a parent’s perspective, defining success as being proud of your children.

Students had an opportunity to socialize and to work in small groups, sharing ideas with students in other high schools who are leading similar clubs and activities. 

Several teachers who serve as advisors for the Youth Ambassador program in their schools attended the conference. The teachers were Kristina Hagenbaumer, physical education teacher and activities director for Naperville Central High School, Gino Campise, English teacher at Naperville North High School, and John Gelsomino, media teacher at Neuqua Valley High School. They said that students look forward to this conference and that attendance continues to grow.

One of the main purposes of Youth Ambassadors, now in its 20th year, is to organize fun, positive activities for teens in the community. Finding events that fit students’ busy schedules is increasingly difficult. Some of the recent past events include Battle of the Bands and a dodgeball tournament. They are looking into the feasibility of an open mic night for 2020.
 Representatives from media clubs at several high schools met at this table.

Rob Elgas and Keke Dean, a sophomore at Naperville Central High School and member of the girls’ basketball team. Seniors dressed up the younger players for Senior Night, this year as Oompa Loompas from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. 

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On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 Naperville Park District officials heard the good news for which they have been waiting for many months: the District has achieved national accreditation through the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA).

The decision was announced at the NRPA national conference in Atlanta following a formal hearing before the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).

Naperville is only the second park district in Illinois to earn this distinction and the 104th nationally accredited agency in the nation; there are more than 10,000 recreation agencies in the United States. The Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies accredits a handful of park agencies each year that have completed a multi-step process involving a self-review by the agency, a site visit, and an evaluation and formal report by the Commission.

“We are extremely proud to bring this honor to Naperville,” said Park District Executive Director Ray McGury. “It’s an affirmation of our high standards and also an encouragement to continue bringing high quality recreation and parks experiences to our community.”

The Park District’s accreditation process began approximately one year ago and included an extensive self-evaluation by staff and a 5-day visit from CAPRA reviewers this past July. Maintaining the accreditation requires annual reports and 5- and 10-year reviews.

Park District staff members noted that the CAPRA process has helped them see the big picture, focus on long term goals and plans, review plans more regularly, organize documents so that they are accessible and useable, and collaborate more effectively with other departments and outside organizations.

Our Mission
We provide recreation and park experiences that promote healthy lives, healthy minds and a healthy community.
Our Vision
To be a national leader in parks and recreation providing and promoting high quality experiences and facilities at a great value to our community.
Core Values
Health and Wellness, Environmental Education, Stewardship and Sustainability, Community Enrichment, Public Safety, Accessibility, Personal Growth and Enrichment.
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