A look at the positive impact Urban League of Northwest Indiana has had on the Region

A look at the positive impact Urban League of Northwest Indiana has had on the Region

For over half a century, Urban League of Northwest Indiana has been committed to providing residents of Lake County, La Porte County, and Porter County with a wide variety of social services. Urban League’s programs and services focus on the three main pillars of education, diversity and inclusion, and community outreach. These programs are geared to accomplish Urban League’s ultimate mission to “Defend Democracy, Demand Diversity, and Defeat Poverty.” 

Over the years, Urban League has established fruitful partnerships with numerous companies and organizations throughout the Region. Such prominent entities as Strack and Van Til, NIPSCO, Geminus, and the Hard Rock Casino number among Urban League’s partners. Several figures of note are members of Urban League’s Board of Directors, among them Indiana University (IU) Northwest Chancellor Ken Iwama, Valparaiso University President José Padilla, and Chancellor of Purdue University Northwest Kenneth Holford. 

President and CEO of Urban League of Northwest Indiana Dr. Vanessa Allen-McCloud believes there is a specific reason why the Urban League attracts so many sponsors and partners. 

“When you mention Urban League to someone, they will say, ‘That’s an organization you can trust,’” Allen-McCloud said. “It’s very common for organizations to promise people that something will be done, but they never make it happen. No organization can work in a vacuum, so establishing strong relationships with the community is of the utmost importance. Community members must have access to an organization that they can trust. I believe so many other organizations want to partner with Urban League’s because we have proven our reliability and trustworthiness time and again.”  

Urban League offers an array of programs that help promote education throughout the Region. This past September, Urban League held its annual Scholarship Fair at IU Northwest. At this event, representatives of over 60 higher-education institutions from across the nation offered scholarships to eligible graduating seniors in the area. $4.7 million worth of scholarships were offered to the 1,000 students who attended the event. This year’s Scholarship Fair, which will once again be hosted at IU Northwest, will be held on September 24.

Every year, partners and private donors give thousands of dollars to fund the scholarships that the Urban League offers students throughout the Region. On May 15, Urban League will be hosting a Scholastic Luncheon at The Chateau in Merrillville. At this event, exemplary students will be recognized for their academic accomplishments, and scholarship winners will be presented with their checks. Candace Dickson, an associate attorney with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP, will be featured as the master of ceremonies. 

Urban League seeks to support students at all education levels. This past February, Urban League was one of several organizations to be awarded $1.2 million through the Indiana Department of Education’s exclusive Expanding What Works grant. These funds will be used to provide students between second and eighth grade with summer tutoring support in a variety of subjects. The tutoring program will begin on June 10.  

Urban League strongly emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusion and seeks to cultivate these values within the Region’s communities however possible. On March 14, Urban League held a Diversity and Inclusion Symposium at Valparaiso University. About 125 high school students and 325 adults were in attendance. The event provided a safe space for participants to discuss women’s rights, critical race theory, and a variety of related topics in small breakout groups.  

On November 7, the Urban League will be hosting a Diversity and Inclusion Awards Luncheon at the Avalon Manor in Merrillville. At this annual event, organizations and individuals are recognized for their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within the community. The ceremony’s most prestigious prize, the Moving the Needle Award, is bestowed upon an organization whose diversity and inclusion work has had the most significant impact on the Region. Crossroads YMCA and Strack and Van Til have both been recipients of this esteemed award in past years. 

The Federation of Block Clubs, one of Urban League’s community outreach programs, is designed to improve neighborhoods in the area, one block at a time. If three or four residents are willing to start a block club together, their new club can receive a grant of up to $1,000 from Urban League. The money can be dedicated to anything the block club members feel is necessary, including the construction of a playground, improvements on the local school, or the implementation of safety measures in the neighborhood.  

One might be surprised to learn that, despite its extensive influence in the Region, Urban League is run by a relatively small core team. It is composed of Allen-McCloud, a part-time secretary, five staff members, and 20 volunteers. They remain dedicated to their central tenets and work tirelessly to promote them in our communities. If it weren’t for the efforts of organizations like the Urban League, the Region would not be all that it is today. Indeed, without Urban League and its counterparts, the Region’s future might not be nearly as bright as it is.

Please visit urbanleagueofnwi.org for more information on Urban League of Northwest Indiana’s services and upcoming events.