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MATTOON -- Student volunteers in Mattoon High School's BIONIC program have been providing mentors for freshmen, transfer students, and other classmates in need for several years now.

The Mattoon in Motion Youth Development Committee hopes to bring BIONIC, “Believe It Or Not I Care," to Mattoon Middle School next fall. MHS sophomore Anna Morton, a member of the Youth Council subcommittee, said eighth-grade volunteers with BIONIC could provide positive role models for sixth-graders making the big transition to middle school.

Participants in the Mattoon in Motion community planning effort heard about BIONIC and other project updates during a meeting Thursday evening at Burgess-Osborne Memorial Auditorium.

Mattoon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ed Dowd said he and others with the economic development committee toured the Central Nine Career Center in Greenwood, Ind., last year to learn about its high school career and technical education programs. He said the committee wants to help the Mattoon school district expand its vocational programs.

Member Rex Barnes said the economic development group also helped bring Peace Corps Fellow intern Carlos Ortega to Mattoon last year. He said Ortega has handled detail-oriented work for various projects, such as helping with the application for Google.org Impact Challenge grant funding to develop an entrepreneur support center at the Cross County Mall.

Barnes said some of the committee's long-term goals include helping establish a full-time economic development position in Mattoon and supporting the development of a local workforce with high-tech skills.

"Companies will locate where they have the skilled workers," Barnes said.

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City Tourism & Arts Director Angelia Burgett, who advises the tourism committee, said her office is preparing to launch a new Mattoon website that will be focused on community activities and be separate from the city's website.

Parks and recreation committee member Shonn Hild said they assisted with getting public input for the city's new Mattoon Bicycle Plan and have set a goal of reviving the Mattoon Tree Commission.

Coles County Habitat for Humanity Director Melissa McDaniel, who is a member of the housing committee, said they developed an inventory of housing rehabilitation services that are available for those in financial need. She said they also developed a list of houses in need of paint and are coordinating having them painted by volunteers this spring.

The Mattoon in Motion community planning effort was initiated in fall 2017 by the Mattoon Chamber and the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation. They obtained assistance from the MAPPING community planning program offered by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University.

A cross-section of Mattoon residents was recruited to take part in a series of community planning sessions. They subsequently narrowed down their ideas to six long-term goal areas -- workforce training, economic development, tourism promotion, youth development, parks and recreation upgrades, and housing improvements.

More information about Mattoon in Motion and volunteering with this effort is available by calling the Chamber at 217-235-5661 or visiting https://mattooninmotion.wordpress.com/.

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Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud

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Reporter

Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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