Reflecting on the Real Chi Youth Kick-Off With Adler, Mikva

image 27One Saturday afternoon my Young Chicago Authors (YCA) teacher, Miss Andrea, asked me if I wanted to be part of Real Chi Youth through Free Spirit Media (FSM). I said yes because I’ve been a storyteller for two and half years at YCA—focusing on education and the communities along Division Street. I also write poetry, which I like to refer to as self-reflection. Recently my self reflection that focused on my transition from being undocumented to becoming a legal citizen trough Differed Early Childhood Arrivals, DACA, was publish on proyectolatina.org. My work has also been publish on YCA’s website “The Chicago Beat” and in the book Division Street “The Remix Sessions”.

I saw Free Spirit Media as the next step to being a better documenter and storyteller. I wanted to expand my knowledge on the Chicago juvenile justice system. My group did this by interviewing the Expunge.io Mikva developers. This app helps juveniles that have been imprisoned. I also wanted to improve my editing, videography and photography skills. Something that is important to me is not just my personal growth, but the progress of Chicago itself. This city is beautiful and without growth the city will crash. Furthermore, this program allows me to document the juvenile system and healthy relationships, while informing people of events that are going on. It is an interesting change for my work.

Through Civic Hacking Initiative, a student-facing initiative that works to create change and prepare for National Civic Hacking Day on June 1-2, Free Spirit Media is networking with allies at Adler Planetarium and Mikva Challenge to advocate for Chicago youth. Consequently, through his collective  I am able to collaborate to create change in Chicago with other young people. Along with expanding our access, having a partnership with Mikva and Adler is great because we are dividing and conquering, by each having our own specialities—Mikva in politics, Adler in technology, and Free Spirit Media in journalism. It feels good to have that support, like we are each others’ backbone. Without the partnerships we would not be as strong. I am a documentarian—I don’t know anything about app development, but I know Adler can help me. Ultimately, through coming together we are already creating change because we all come from different backgrounds and neighborhoods so being able to unite is rare and beautiful.image 30

After our kick-off event on Feb. 1, I walked into the 1871 space tired and nervous. However, I walked out of the workshop empowered because we proved that teens can create a safe and familiar space. I was so proud of every single person in that room, we showed that youth in Chicago do care and that our voices matter. This was done by discussing solutions on key issues that plague our city like youth employment and education, which was challenging because is something that everyone was passionate about, so prioritizing ideas and solutions was hard, but the outcomes were great. My group came up with hashtags that that youth can use on Twitter like #educationis4you to start dialogues and find solutions for the problems of education in Chicago.

Even though I am only 19 I feel proud knowing that younger people in the collective will teach the next set of crews, like someone once did for me. This event was only the beginning. Spaces to impact change will continue being created and we will continue to be strong a community. I look forward to covering “healthy relationships” for February’s Teen Dating Violence and Awareness Month. Civic Hack Day 2014 is going to be the best one yet.

The fact that we are so young and we have found starting ground for possible future projects is great. Getting youth involved in these issues now is crucial because they are the next generation.

By Carolina Gallo

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