As the founder of the Black History Family Festival in Elgin, Phyllis Folarin has seen lots of young students honored over the years as future African-American leaders.
Still, each time it's an emotional experience, she said.
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Five students from Elgin Area School District U-46 were honored Saturday for their academic achievement and community involvement at the eighth annual festival, held at Gail Borden Public Library.
"It's wonderful to put into the spotlight the positives of the school district and the African-American students, because they rarely are highlighted in a positive light," Folarin said.
"This is to share with younger students that it can be done, that it's possible to be successful. I choke up every time."
Candice Denise Hawkins of Streamwood High School is one of this year's future leaders.
"I'm really happy that I got this award, and that people look at me as a leader for younger students," said Candice, who volunteers for organizations like Northern Illinois Food Bank and Feed My Starving Children. "I was surprised, but I am happy."
The other future leaders are Catherine Montgomery of Elgin High School, Amari Harris of Larkin High School, Korrin Gholston of Bartlett High School, and Brittany Nicole Carson of South Elgin High School.
The theme of this year's festival was "Healthy Body, Healthy Mind," with various lectures and workshops highlighting the interconnectedness of body and mind.
Beverly Johnson of Elgin said health is a very important topic in the African-American community.
"People really need to know more about it," said Johnson, a pastor at Higher Call International Ministries in Aurora.
Johnson said she tries to attend the festival every year, and always makes it a point to tell families with younger kids.
"It's important for them to come and see the African American entrepreneurs that participate, and see that they can have wacky business ideas sometimes ... and still make it!" she said.
The festival also featured storyteller Linda Gorham and Ron "Dr. Sweat" Anderson from The Centre of Elgin, and a performance by Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago.
Among the activities for children was an opportunity to be filmed talking about their favorite book for the StoryTubes contest.
Eleven-year-old Ashley Lewis of Woodstock said her favorite book is "A Series of Unfortunate Events" by Lemony Snicket. She brought along the 11th novel in the series, which she's currently reading.
"I like it because it's exciting," she said. "They are solving mysteries, and every time they solve a mystery, there are more mysteries."
Her father, Donnie Lewis, said Ashley and her two older brothers are all avid readers.
"I wanted to bring my little girl here today so she could learn more. I bought some Black History cards that explain the contributions of African Americans. I think it's very important for her to know about these things," he said.
For more information about Black History Month programs at Gail Borden library visit gailborden.info.