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SIU’s Paul Simon Institute awards three Simon Democracy Prizes

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale announced on May 1 the inaugural recipients of the Paul Simon Democracy Prize.

The institute is awarding three prizes of $5,000 each to current Illinois college or university students for the design and implementation of projects to revitalize democracy in their communities.

The winners are:

  • Naya Busbea from McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill. She will launch a pilot project in which political science students at McKendree will work with local middle and high school students to explore the challenges and opportunities of democracy.
  • Emma McConnell, Vivian Walter, LaMya Roach and Darian Chess from SIU Carbondale. They will establish a discussion and interaction series involving students, community residents and public officials in Southern Illinois.
  • Connor Wielgos from the University of Illinois Chicago. He will organize a discussion series on public policy issues pertaining to the Chicago Bears’ plan to build a stadium and entertainment district in Arlington Heights.

John Shaw, institute director, said he’s very encouraged by the compelling proposals submitted by Illinois college and university students.

“We received terrific proposals which confirm that students are determined to find creative and constructive ways to revitalize our democracy,” Shaw said. “We believe the Paul Simon Democracy Prize will help inspire students to improve their communities and ultimately preserve our democracy.”

The institute solicited proposals that are persuasive, imaginative, optimistic and can plausibly be implemented within six months. Proposals were submitted through short videos.

The three winning videos are posted on the institute’s website. The prize recipients will be invited to a celebratory reception at the institute this fall and asked to describe how their proposals are becoming reality.

Shaw said the institute has established three programs to underscore Simon’s commitment to better government and smarter politics: the Paul Simon Democracy Prize, the Renewing Illinois Summit for Illinois college and university students, and the Paul Simon-Jim Edgar Statesmanship Award in Illinois state and local government.

“These three programs embody Paul Simon’s most aspirational and inspiring values,” Shaw said.

Complete details of the Paul Simon Democracy Prize and its winners are available on the institute’s website.

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