DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) - The Decatur Public School District will receive a grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for the Jerry J. Dawson Civic Leadership Institute. 

DPS will receive $2.3 million from the foundation. The Jerry J. Dawson Civic Leadership will offer students a program to raise awareness and encourage them to seek careers in nursing, law enforcement, nursing, paramedic support, firefighting, government service and legal professions. 

“Communities are strongest when the broadest cross-section of citizens are engaged and work together to improve the quality of life for everybody,” said Howard G. Buffett, Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. “We believe the Jerry J. Dawson Civic Leadership Institute will give Decatur’s young people opportunities to see how they can pursue careers that allow them to engage, support and be the future leaders working to improve their community."

The institute will be named after former Macon County Sheriff Jerry J. Dawson. Dawson serviced as sheriff  for more than 30 years in Macon County. Jerry continues to work and serve in the community. 

“Early in my career I worked directly with a number of young people who made mistakes,” said Jerry Dawson. “Those interactions opened my eyes to the support kids need to make good choices as they mature. Later I looked back on that experience and really tried to get to the root of things and understand where our challenges are. In Decatur we are blessed with resources to explore new ways of addressing these challenges. We’re fortunate to have community members invested in creating an environment that helps students grow into positive, productive citizens.”

The institute will launch in the fall of 2020 and will be for students at Eisenhower and MacArthur High Schools. 

The donation will also provide scholarships to eligible graduates from the institute.