30 CPS high school students from eight high schools are spending their spring break learning about the Uptown community and lending their considerable talents and energy to community organizations in the neighborhood.
These amazing teen agers are choosing to spend their week off getting to know other student leaders, immersing themselves in one of Chicago's most dynamic and historic communities, and working with community organizations in a variety of capacities.
Following an initial day of team building, students heard from neighborhood leaders about the history of Uptown and the issues currently facing residents and then participated actively in a community orienteering activity. In groups of five, students were tasked with harvesting information about the community by talking with bankers, restaurant managers, non-profit leaders, senior and public housing building managers, and religious leaders. Students learnd about the history of public housing, the availability of credit to low-income residents, the process of gentrification, and the remarkable entertainment history of Uptown. They learned, for example, that through the 1940's, African-Americans were only allowed to live on one block in the Uptown community - the 4600 block of North Winthrop. They also learned that low-income residents can access small loans at affordable rates from the Northside Federal Credit Union. They also learned that silent film star Charlie Chaplain used to produce movies from a studio in Uptown during the 1920's.
Following their immersion experiences, students will serve for a full day in several communtiy organizations including Christopher House, Chinese Mutual Aid Association, Cornerstone Community Center, and Sunlight African Youth Center. Students will conclude their week with a meeting with Alderman James Cappelman of the 46th Ward. Students will share their insights into the community and hear about Mr. Cappelman's priorities for the community.
The spirit and openness and deep interest in learning the students bring to the experience is remarkable.