Perspective Charter Schools held its first youth peace summit entitled “Healing Chicago Inside and Out” at the McCormick Tribune Campus Center, 3300 S. State St., to, in part, encourage youth to become change agents for peace within their respective communities.
With the prevailing theme of peace, the summit, which was held on April 25, included “Expressions of Peace” workshops, where participants learned how to express themselves through various mediums, and “Achieving Peace” workshops, which gave participants an opportunity to develop strategies to increase the peace. The day concluded with a scheduled “Anticipating Peace” activity where all 150 youth summit participants shared what they learned throughout the day and how they would take that information and experience back to their respective communities.
Sauda Porter, senior director of culture at Perspective Charter Schools, said the Perspective system could not ignore what takes place outside the walls of their schools. Perspective has campuses in the South Loop, Auburn Gresham, and Park Boulevard neighborhoods.
“One of the biggest reasons we decided to have [this event] is to see how many of our youth are impacted by violence,” said Porter. “We’re about helping students develop the habits and the skills that they need to be successful in life and to be leaders.”
Porter said her students formed a planning committee and met on alternating Fridays to determine what activities would take place for the summit. She said the planning for the event had been in the works since October of last year.
“[The youth] basically helped develop this because we really believe it’s about empowering them to make a change,” said Porter.
Lamar Johnson, youth services coordinator for the BRAVE Youth Leaders of The ARK St. Sabina, said despite Chicago’s negative perception, there are plenty of people who care about making a positive change within the city. During the summit, he moderated a youth panel involving seven summit participants. Also, he brought at least 10 participants from BRAVE. The BRAVE Youth Leaders of St. Sabina is a violence prevention youth council that serves ages 14-21.
“It’s important for us to have this event because it’s bringing young people together for a chance to express themselves and give their experiences and information on how they can create change within their own communities,” said Johnson. “It’s a very unique thing because normally you see how people with higher power try to change things, but now we want the youth to say something… to come together and create change for what’s going on around us.”
Cassius Kurns, 17, a junior at Leo Catholic High School, was one of the participants of the panel. He said he thinks some individuals may be encouraged to raise awareness about violence or change their ways when dealing with violence after attending events like the summit.
He said “of course” he’s seen a lot of violence as a resident of the South Side of Chicago. He suggested outreach programs and events for teens will help curb the violence on the streets.
Otto Horton, a college counselor at Leo Catholic High School, brought Kurns and 12 other juniors to the summit. He said the purpose of bringing rising seniors to the summit was to encourage them to become leaders in the future.
“[We brought] youth here so that they can experience that there is hope for young students and that it’s more about peace, it’s more about advancement, just to be productive citizens in their own perspective communities,” said Horton.