In a church on 78th Street, seven student teams gathered on Friday and Saturday in an opportunity to better their neighborhood. These teams were taking an issue close, personal, and passionate to them and were challenged to take it beyond the local level.
The Peace First Chicago Challenge, started this summer with Youth Guidance and After School Matters, posed this question: what can you do to make your Chicago community stronger and safer? Students aged 13-24 were tasked to promote peacemaking solutions addressing a larger social injustice, while keeping in mind three C’s: courage, compassion, and collaboration. “Today is about what you are going to do next,” Tammy Tai, senior adviser for Peace First, announced to the crowd.
The Peace First Accelerator event took place September 22 and 23, with students, counselors, and facilitators sacrificing their weekend for over 24 hours of brainstorming, workshops, and presentations. Students provided the ideas; counselors, support; and facilitators, the foundations to bring their project to life. Developing a six-month action plan for each group’s project, while using skills learned from workshops such as “The Art of Persuasion,” “Radical Activism 101,” and “Saying Yes to Success,” the youth groups honed their project plans with exact strategy. Facilitators played an important role in project metamorphosis: by Saturday evening, one group would walk away with a project plan in place and a $1,000 grant to make it happen.
Seven groups, named BAM Against Gun Violence, the Hyde Park Helpers, Fenger-Dixon Peace Voice, WOW Stands Against GBV, Brave Youth Leaders #1 and #2, and the Wild Side, had to pitch their project, receive feedback from the crowd, and then work to create a visual display of their plan and project. Racing against the clock, counselors and students were drawing, cutting and pasting, and exhaustively practicing their “Science Fair” pitch: which social injustice they focused on, their goal and plan to help those affected, even who would speak in what order.
After the teams each presented to the panel of project reviewers, the big reveal arrived in that not just one group’s peacemaking plan was selected, but all, received a $1,000 grant to turn their projects into action.
Ambitious and admirable, the Peace First Accelerator showcased the determination, desire, and drive of students wanting to improve their community. As one student said during his presentation, “It takes courage not to hate. It takes compassion to try and understand the other side of the picture. It takes collaboration to bridge those two together.”
To view more photos from the event, click here.
To read more about Peace First’s Chicago Challenge, click here.