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This year, 24 finalists included in an elite class and long-standing legacy of celebrating Chicago youth

Today, the Chicago Park District will honor teens who are making a positive impact in their parks and communities at the 70th Annual Junior Citizens Awards. Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Rosa Escareño will be joined by this year’s Junior Citizens top nominees and keynote speaker Ashley-Lauren Ehimwenman, Marketing Director for BOWA Construction, the largest African-American-owned general contractor in Chicago and Founder of BOWA Gives, the company’s community initiative. During the event, to be held at 6pm at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore Drive, the District will announce this year’s Junior Citizen finalists, an honor given to selected nominees who demonstrate a commitment to their parks, communities and education. 

“It is an honor and privilege to celebrate the achievements of this year’s Junior Citizens finalists, an elite class of future leaders who are making a positive difference in their parks, communities, and our city, said Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Rosa Escareño. “The Park District has a long history of providing resources and opportunities that instill in our youth the importance of active, healthy living and civic engagement. We commend our young people for using these experiences as building blocks to give back to their communities and being an example and inspiration to us all.”  

Created in 1953, Junior Citizens was designed to inspire, empower and recognize the future leaders of Chicago. Over its 70-year history, the program has evolved into a highly selective and distinguished honor. Each year, the Park District calls for nominations from park staff, educators, elected officials and other stakeholders. The selection process begins at local parks, advances through Park District’s three regions and culminates in a citywide competition. A panel of judges, comprised of representatives from schools, public and private sectors and non-profit organizations review each finalist’s summary of activities and essays and then conducts personal interviews. Judges evaluate finalists on their contributions to their parks, schools, places of worship, neighborhoods, character and values, employment history and career/educational goals. Each candidate must be a junior or senior in high school with a “C” average or better.

Of the 24 finalists this year, a first, second and third place winner will be named for each region, receiving $1000, $600 and $400 scholarships respectively. The remaining finalists will receive $50 gift cards, courtesy of BOWA Gives. 

The Chicago Park District offers a menu of programs and events, including sports, fitness and cultural opportunities to keep teens active and engage throughout the year. In addition, teens, ages 16 and older, can earn a paycheck, have fun and make their communities a better place by working in the parks this Summer! Apply for the perfect summer job here.