This MLK Day, over 120 youth leaders gathered in downtown Chicago to design a blueprint for peace and safety for Chicago schools and neighborhoods. Below is a reflection from two Morgan Park High School youth about their experiences at the event.
Reflection by Kristina Echols and Shontierra Anderson
On a day, when our beds seemed to particularly feel warm and cozy, over thirty students scrambled to get ready and board the bus that was leaving at 8:15am from school. The group was an eclectic one with students from grades 9 – 12, and included representatives from NHS, Service Angels and Service Mentors and Senior Mentors. For some, this was their first service learning experience, while several had already earned in excess of three hundred hours.
We headed to MIKVA – MLK Youth Peace Initiative 2015. We joined over 150 students from across the city to explore some of the root causes of violence and more importantly, to brainstorm solutions which could be implemented in our neighborhoods and schools to reduce violence.
The program was student led with support from MIKVA staff, representatives from the Mayor’s Office; Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Park District and a community activist, who was also a performer. A series of activities were performed by students, and groups shared out at the end of each activity. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel also stopped by to address the audience and endorse students finding ways to stop the violence and become supporters of positive change in their respective communities.
I think we all came away from the event a lot wiser than we went in. It was quite evident that the participants left with a sense of empowerment and a new commitment to get beyond one dimensional problem identification. We want to be a part of the positive change and achieve the goal of violence reduction in our schools and communities. We plan to submit a grant application for completion of a Violence Reduction initiative in our school within the next two weeks and to implement itin mid-Spring. A special thanks to the following people for their support of this event and giving up their holiday to chaperone and provide us with a truly remarkable experience, staff members, Dr. Deborah Hawes, Brenda Price and parent volunteer, Shlinda Greer.