Students huddled together at tables while they wrote on large sheets of paper. Their mission was to give their input on topics which ranged from work, school and career planning opportunities to what fun looks like to them, and how adults and police can support them to what are some of the biggest issues facing teens and what the city of Chicago can do about them.
#chiteensmatter took place on Tuesday, May 14, at Oakwood Center, 3825 S. Vincennes. It was planned by Ebony Lucas, Natasha Erskine and Nicole Johnson, in coalition with The Community Builders. There were more than 50 people in attendance at the event.
The event was part of the annual On the Table, hosted by the Chicago Community Trust, where community residents gather at locations throughout the city to discuss issues important to them.
The ideas and input from this and other events will be combined to create a single Memo to the Mayor, which will be delivered to Mayor Lori Lightfoot by Friday, June 21.
Damascus Harris is with Teens on 53rd, a program of Blue Gargoyle in Hyde Park that organizes activities to de-escalate incidents in the neighborhood during Halloween.
“It seems to be on par with other events of this nature,” he said. “I think it’s good because it gives teens an opportunity to express themselves.”
Harris said those skills can pay dividends for students in the future when it comes to job readiness.
“Being able to do presentations and public speaking can be helpful in careers,” he said.
Harris also suggested having workshops for parents and students about careers. He said it would help them know what the pathways are to careers.
Kina Collins, a community organizer, spoke about her involvement with the LaQuan McDonald protests.
“We organized, we pushed and we got that done,” she said.
Collins said there are ways young people can engage their communities.
“I am wearing a ‘your voice matters’ button,” she said. “The youth, y’all set the tone, we need to follow y’all.”
She also encouraged them to show up and stay active.
“Just know, there’s so much you can do,” she said.
D’Avallon Green is a senior at Kenwood Academy High School. Green found out about the event through one of the school’s deans.
“It was interesting to listen to different points of view. I learned about different organizations and groups like Good Kids Mad City,” Green said.
Khalil Everage is a resident of Bronzeville and an actor on Showtime’s “The Chi.”
“Being an actor is hard because you keep getting ‘nos’‘nos,,’” he said. “Just hearing ‘’nos’ for three years and finally get a ‘yes,’ this made me happy.”
Everage encouraged the students to keep pushing.
“I’m going to college one day. Right now, I’m just living my dream,” he said.
Lucas, one of the event’s organizers, said the objective of the event was to have the teens input.
“When we do the Memo to the Mayor it comes from what they want,” she said. “It’s really an opportunity to bridge the gap between teens and adults.”
Lucas said she was pleased with the turnout and outcome of the event.
“We really want to make sure they walk away with solution-based, positive ideas,” she said.