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Springfield historic sites collaborate to offer Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy

Historic sites in Springfield are teaming up to provide jobs for students and teach them personal and professional skills that will help for years to come.

The “Spirit of Lincoln Youth Leadership Academy” is a joint project of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and Visit Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. It provides history jobs for youths at the Lincoln Home, Old State Capitol and the Lincoln Tomb.

The goal is to help students learn history but also to show them how to interact with visitors, develop confidence and fulfill a job’s daily requirements.

“Working at a historic site can be hard, and it requires many different skills. The young people who take part in this program will definitely learn a lot. We hope it will help them succeed when facing other challenges in life,” said Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Director Heidi Brown-McCreery.

The program, which builds on earlier youth-outreach efforts, is now in its second year. It works with 4-H, the Outlet mentoring program and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Illinois to identify participants.

They work five hours a day, five days a week. Their duties include answering visitors’ questions, helping to organize and present special events and serving as historical interpreters in period clothing. The temporary jobs run from June 14 to Aug. 20.

Alyssa Cole, 16, raves about the Spirit of Lincoln academy so much that her brothers hope to take part next year. She likes meeting visitors and getting to know the program’s other participants, but her favorite moment was exploring the top level of the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site.

It has helped her appreciate what Springfield has to offer. “It’s amazing to see people come from around the world to visit these places, when here in Springfield a lot of times we take them for granted,” Cole said.

Caleb Crawford, 18, says the academy is “the perfect summer job.” He has learned plenty of history while meeting people from around the world. He has also gained confidence and skills that he thinks will help him as he pursues a career in law enforcement.

“We talk to visitors every day. That’s really something employers look for – communication skills,” Crawford said.

Assistance with applications and interviews is provided through partnerships with local youth mentoring organizations including the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois; The Outlet; Sigma Beta Club; ASCEND Youth Enrichment Program; and, Springfield Frontiers. Additional program support is also being provided by the “History Comes Alive” initiative; the Old State Capitol Foundation; and, the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area.

For more on the program, visit www.nps.gov/liho/learn/kidsyouth/academy.htm