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  • Fairbury News staff

Crane keynotes breakfast

(Prairie Central Superintendent Paula Crane speaks at the Boys & Girls Club Great Futures Breakfast)

Those attending Wednesday’s annual Boys and Girls Club event in Fairbury were reminded that great futures start with the organization.

The annual Great Futures Breakfast, hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of Livingston County, featured speakers, a robot demonstration and stories from members.

CEO Jodi Martin noted the club’s mission is to enable young people to reach their fullest potential as caring and responsible citizens. The organization provides learning and guides youth in their academic success.

Ray Popejoy gave an update on the Wifighterz high school robotics team.

“I feel like the team really turned a corner this year,” said Popejoy.

The team began its season the first week of January and this year’s robot had to pick up 14-inch diameter rings and shoot them into a box. The robot even goes into autonomous mode to work without any human input.

In Cedar Falls, Iowa, the robotics team earned an invitation to the world finals in Houston Texas which take place later this month.

“It’s really quite a thing to see,” added Popejoy.

Many volunteers put time and patience into the program and this was a breakthrough year for robotics, according to Popejoy. He feels this year’s robot was the best one they have built.

“We are also building robots to build good kids.”

Scott Farris, one of the mentors, says they learned a lot as a group and are confident the team will compete well at Houston.

“We use software that writes the code automatically,” he explained.

Prairie Central Superintendent Paula Crane was the keynote speaker for Wednesday’s Great Futures Breakfast, talking about the future of the district.

Crane explained details surrounding the PACT effort, which stands for “Planning A Course Together.” She summarized recent public meetings which discussed future building options at Prairie Central. Two more public meetings are planned April 15 and May 6 in the high school gymnasium.

Discussions began when the school board started to explore options to add a new gym to Prairie Central Elementary, which was pegged at $6 million. That made the board want to back up and look at all of the district buildings. The district developed a charge for a long-term facility improvement plan and a community facilitating team was developed.

“We need general updates and repairs in rooms,” Crane stated.

The district’s goal is to provide instructional spaces that maximize safety and educational benefits to children. Crane said plumbing in some of the buildings is from the 1930s or 1950s and is deteriorating. Also, many single-pane windows are inefficient and more electrical capacity is needed in classrooms.

Different building scenarios were presented to community members at the most recent PACT meeting.

“We want different opinions,” Crane said. “It does matter to everyone.”

They are going to try and get individual responses at upcoming meetings so they can get a feel for what people think. Also, frequently asked questions are expected to be posted.

Following Crane’s address, Boys and Girls Club of Livingston County Chief Operating Officer Jessica Howard gave a background on the Youth of the Year program which celebrates extraordinary achievements. This is the highest honor a club member can receive.

The local 2024 Junior Youth of the Year, McKayla, said the club makes her happy and she is able to learn new hobbies such as art. The organization has also helped her become a better person.

“The club helps me learn to be more social,” McKayla admitted. “I have learned that I can help people who need it.”

Senior Youth of the Year, Julian, also shared his experiences. He is 14 and attends Prairie Central High School.

“The club really showed me how to overcome my anxiety.”

Julian cautioned the audience against letting one bad moment define the whole day. He was able to provide help to a friend in need and feels he can help others make a great future for themselves.

“Let’s help each other make our futures great,” said Julian.

Sue Popejoy gave a glimpse into plans for a brand new inter-generational center, which she referred to as an opportunity for the community that will last a lifetime.

“The presence of such as a center will be a beacon of home and empowerment,” she said. “We are planting the seeds for a brighter future for generations to come.”

The fundraising campaign for the new center is still in the quiet phase but they are getting closer to the public phase of the process. This new center is planned for the northwest corner of Sevent Street and the walking path.

(The robotics team along with mentors and coaches at the Great Futures Breakfast in Fairbury)

(A crowd attends Wednesday's Great Futures breakfast in Fairbury)



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