click to enlarge The Outlet youth tour civil rights sites

The Outlet is giving low-income youth in Springfield opportunities to expand their knowledge, resilience and perspective of the world and their place in it. For the past five summers, they have taken students to Selma, Montgomery, Atlanta and Memphis to visit key locations of the civil rights movement and experience college visits. Recently the Springfield Memorial Foundation awarded The Outlet a $25,000 grant for these trips to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and civil rights sites.

"The Outlet seeks to provide for the physical, emotional and social needs of our youth," says Michael Phelon, The Outlet founder and CEO. These trips help mentees see the world outside of Springfield. "Visiting sites and teaching about the civil rights movement gives mentees a sense of pride, identity and purpose," says Phelon.

Ten youth and three mentors went to Memphis August 15 – 17, where they visited the National Civil Rights Museum, downtown Memphis, LeMoyne-Owen College and the Slave Haven Underground Railroad. Over Labor Day weekend nine additional youth traveled to Atlanta, visiting the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Park, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the World of Coca-Cola, combined with social time and fun activities. Phelon says these visits help the boys understand an important part of our nation's history and gives them a strong sense of self and purpose while experiencing travel and building friendships. "Travel is an important rite of passage for young adults that helps them develop into more capable people."

The Outlet helps young males ages eight to 22 develop skills to make responsible life decisions. For more information, visit

About The Author

Karen Ackerman Witter

Karen Ackerman Witter started freelance writing after a 35-year career in state government holding various senior leadership positions. Prior to retiring she was associate director of the Illinois State Museum for 14 years. She is the past president of the Kidzeum Board of Directors and is an active volunteer...

Illinois Times has provided readers with independent journalism for almost 50 years, from news and politics to arts and culture.

Your support will help cover the costs of editorial content published each week. Without local news organizations, we would be less informed about the issues that affect our community..

Click here to show your support for community journalism.

Got something to say?

Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment