CHAMPAIGN — City officials hope an evolving program will encourage more "civic involvement" in Champaign neighborhoods and are eager to open the awards ceremony to the public this year.
Champaign's STAR Awards program is in its fourth year, and coordinator Colleen Madera said the city is getting good response from the program. For the next few days, officials are seeking nominations in six award categories in advance of its April 25 ceremony.
STAR is an acronym for "service together achieves results," and Madera said the focus of the program this year is to deliver information to the public about how to encourage healthy neighborhoods.
"The more that you are civically involved, you're more knowledgeable," Madera said. "You can help your city better."
That is why officials plan to open the April 25 event to the public this year and bring in vendors like the school district, Community Elements, the Garden Hills neighborhood association and city departments. In the past, the event has been open only to honorees and their nominators.
The standing goal of the program, Madera said, is to recognize people or groups who contribute to their neighborhoods in a way that is not always flashy or apparent to the public.
The program hands out awards in eight categories: business-neighborhood partnership, difference maker, good neighbor, neighborhood of the year, community partner, neighborhood-community building, neighborhood leadership and rising star.
The rising star award is one of the more recent additions to that list. It was added to recognize young people who go beyond their peers to engage their community.
Last year's honorees in the rising star category included Ranija Turner, a Central High School student involved in Operation Hope and the city's summer youth jobs program, and Taylor Hug, a 7-year-old who forgoes birthday presents and instead asked the gift-givers to donate to charity.
"We know that there are young people really doing some incredible things," Madera said.
Nominations for this year's award are due by Feb. 25. Anyone interested in making a nomination may do so by using the online form at http://bit.ly/Zs1tS3.