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Jonesboro native wins Illinois service award

By Curt Yeomans

Alysia Connell Lambert learned about music and commitment from her teachers at Pointe South Middle School and Riverdale High School.

She learned service from her parents through their participation in various community service projects at St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Jonesboro.

Merging the two was a concept Lambert came up with on her own.

Lambert, who now teaches chorus and music theory to high school students in Illinois, was named in May as one of eight recipients of the Illinois Jaycees' Outstanding Young People award.

"I didn't feel like I deserved to receive this award because of what some of the other people were doing," said Lambert. "I am humbled overall to receive such an honor."

Lambert was nominated for the award by a parent of one of her students at Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort, Ill. The parent cited Lambert's efforts to get her students to perform community service projects while teaching them about music.

"She felt I taught a lot more than music," Lambert said of her nominator.

Another one of the award's recipients is Chicago Bear [football player] Devin Hester. He was cited for his work with local hospitals, Habitat for Humanity, and youth tutoring programs.

Lambert said she was unsure about the award when she heard a National Football League player was going to be a recipient as well.

If he was one of the football players who frequently had legal troubles, Lambert said she was going to consider refusing to accept the award. She did not know anything about him, so she Googled his name on the Internet. What she found was that he took community service as seriously as she did.

"How we live our lives -- that's our link," Lambert said. "I do it in a little bitty high school, while he does it on a football field, but that's our common denominator. We both do the same thing, just through different vehicles."

The Clayton County native tries to teach her students to be servants of others; have good character, and have a strong work ethic, she said. "More importantly, that they are good people rather than good musicians, because if they are good people then the music will come along easily," Lambert added.

Lambert's choral students hold canned food drives at all of their concerts, except the winter holiday concert. At that concert, the students collect winter clothes for four families at Christmas time. The teacher also said her students collected more than $2,000 through donations for the families.

"They [the students] are old enough to bring some experience to the table, but they are still young enough to be impressionable," Lambert said. "Basically, this is my attempt to change the world ... Everybody just thinks teenagers are lazy and rude, but they really aren't. If you let them be that way, then they have no problem meeting your expectations, but when you set a high standard, they will rise to the challenge."

Lambert named four teachers and administrators who influenced her teaching philosophy when she was a student in Clayton County schools.

Millie Turek, her music teacher at Pointe South Middle School, taught Lambert about the importance of working as a team to reach a goal. "She had a poster on the wall in her classroom which said, 'We can do together what none of us can do alone,'" Lambert said.

"That's the power of a full ensemble. You can have a soloist who can do a good job on his or her own, but it's so much more powerful with the full ensemble," she added.

Lambert said Riverdale High School's former choir teacher, Chris McMichen, and its former band director, Matt Fuller, taught her so much about teaching that "it is hard to encapsulate it in words."

She said she learned about integrity from Ed Scott, the former principal of Riverdale High School. "He is such a man of great integrity and hard work, that has definitely influenced me in my teaching career," Lambert said.