This is my very first post for the blog and I am very excited! (I moved to Chicago in mid-August and started my fellowship August 20th; hence, the late post).
This year I am working with Free Spirit Media, a non-profit organization that provides free media and video production classes to high school students on Chicago's West and South Sides.
My internship is off to a slowish start due in large part to the fact that the climate in the public education system in Chicago is extremely tense. CPS (Chicago Public School) teachers are planning a strike due to the longer school day approved by the city of Chicago. The longer school day has been approved in order to curtail the escalating violence in Chicago. Since 2008, more than 530
youth have been killed in Chicago with nearly 80 percent of the homicides
occurring in 22 African-American or Latino community areas on the city’s South,
Southwest and West sides. I was having lunch with two friends in Hyde Park, and my friend a Chicago native said, "In Chicago, we go to Afghhanistan for coffee." When you really think about how more youth have died in Chicago this year than soldiers killed in Afghanistan in 2012, you realize how bad the situation is. Literally, youth walk around their neighborhoods fearful. It is an actual war zone. Every single weekend, youth are killed in Chicago. every single weekend. (I think my next post will be about the unfortunate popularity of the Chief Keef movement, a Chicago rapper who a lot of my students listen to).
Right now, I split my time between the Development Office (writing grant proposals..etc) and North Lawndale College Prep - Collins where I help lead classes during the school day. Soon I will be switched to Power House High School where I will be helping with the after-school program four days a week.
Nevertheless, my two weeks with Free Spirit Media have been unbelievably eye-opening. The education system in Chicago is incredibly segregated. NLCP and Power House are near 98% African American. Theses students never leave their neighborhoods on the South and West sides and do not fully understand that there is a whole world of opportunity outside of their communities. Poverty rates are extremely high, over 50% in North Lawndale. Outside of their teachers, a lot of the students have never communicated with people outside of their race.
After helping to lead four class periods last Friday, I was asked to help grade some of the students journal entries. I quickly realized that a lot of these high school students cannot fully put sentences together. The education system in this country is a mess. There is absolutely no reason why any high school student should be set back in life because they have not had access to a proper education. I think about my nine year old cousin who goes to a Catholic school in the suburbs of Chicago and how at nine years old he's already so many steps ahead of these high school students and how unfair that is. These students are bright, and ambitious but unfortunately have not had the same opportunities as everyone else. I hope that by giving them these media production skills, allowing them to learn how to operate high-tech cameras, produce documentaries, use final cut pro, FSM is taking one step in closing this unfair achievement gap.
I'm excited to be a mentor this year and looking forward to an awesome time here at FSM! The environment here is amazing and everyone has been so supportive and kind!