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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why the Springfield Urban League matters

It would surprise people to know the Springfield Urban League is the sixth largest Urban League in the U.S. -- an awesome stat in small city like ours.

Everybody knows that early childhood education is critical. Our school systems mostly don't recognize that, but Early Head Start and Head Start do. And in Springfield, it's the Urban League that runs these programs for more than 600 children in our community. It's mostly under the radar, except for these hundreds of children and their families who get an early start on education every year.

I am just completing two years as SUL's board chair, a job made rather easy because of one of Springfield's most extraordinary leaders, Nina Harris, president and CEO. She is soft-spoken and chooses not to be highly visible. She's just effective and leaves it at that. She's a great example of what Jim Collins says in Good to Great about a Level 5 leader -- what the Harvard Business Review calls "the triumph of humility and fierce resolve."

Nina is a UIS alum, and the Urban League always seems to have UIS students as interns and other alumni on its staff, and that's a plus for our students and the Urban League, which has a great motto: "Empowering Communities. Changing Lives." Exactly.

Nina Harris and Ed Wojcicki
Here I am with Nina Harris at the Springfield Urban League's 87th annual awards dinner on Dec. 6, 2013.

And here I am with UIS students (from left) Robyn Crutchfield, Dominique Wilson and Grace Latimore, after the dinner. 


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