In a vacant lot in Roseland, 10 teenagers are hammering, drilling, and sawing two-by-fours. Their goal: to build a playground for their neighbors. As explained in an article in the Chicago Tribune, these young women are participants in Demoiselle 2 Femme’s STEM projects. As part of the program, they designed and built a playground squished between two storefronts to help provide a safe place for kids in the community to play, while putting the engineering principles they had learned through the program into action. These design projects are representative of Demoiselle 2 Femme’s larger goal for its participants, reflected in its French name–to turn “young ladies to women.”
Though Demoiselle 2 Femme’s founders started only with a few volunteer mentors in a local church, Sherida Morrison and Romanetha Looper envisioned a comprehensive program that would lead girls along the path from childhood to adulthood. Today, the founders and their group of coordinators work with numerous adolescent girls to help them think systematically and make productive life decisions. Their programs focus on the problems and challenges that girls can face in society, ranging from the prevalence of drugs and STDs to nutrition and family connectedness. An after school program provides weekly workshops on life skills and interpersonal relationships, project hopeful trains participants in financial literacy, and the Femme 2 STEM program empowers girls to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math through community transformation workshops.
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Founded by Liberia-born business leader P. Saingbey K. Woodtor nearly a quarter-century ago, the African Festival of the Arts celebrates the arts and culture of African diaspora in Chicago. Past years have seen performances by such legendary acts as George Clinton, Erykah Badu, India.Arie, and James Brown, and every year features a world's worth of food. Nigerian egusi, Senegalese wolof rice, Caribbean jerk chicken, and even Cajun and soul food from the US all have their spots at the food pavilion.
But the real stars of the annual show are the fine arts and the artists who make them, be they painters, sculptors, jewelers, or wood carvers. In all these ways, the festival gives Chicagoans a glimpse of Africa without the need for plane tickets or risking the climb inside the time machine your cousin "invented."
With 155 beds and nationally recognized center for neonatal care, diabetes, pediatric neurosurgery, childhood cancers, and other specialties, The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital works to ensure the comprehensive care of children. In addition to excellent medical treatment, patients can take part in a variety of Child Life and Family Education programs to meet their developmental and therapeutic needs. Child Life specialists work to reduce the stress of the hospital experience for children and help them cope. Their programs focus on teaching youth to express themselves, helping them socialize with their peers, and supporting young siblings who may also be affected.
On the corner of 47th and Greenwood stands a striking combination of modern and classical architecture, a white stone arts studio with large bay windows welcoming community artists. Founded by Monica Haslip—one of Chicago Magazine’s 2004 Chicagoans of the Year and recipient of the White House’s Youth Violence Prevention “Champions of Change” Award—the Little Black Pearl Workshop offers young people a diverse program curriculum that includes music, ceramics, drawing and painting, and glass-blowing classes. In the Network Café, a vibrant mural overlooks teenagers learning to create, display, and collaborate on digital and multimedia art, and the instructors foster ambitions with an emphasis on the “business of art.”
Besides teaching valuable artistic skills, the workshop’s classes place high value on community-building. The ongoing Collateral Damage project honors Chicago students lost to senseless violence, and the environment encourages peaceful, healthy interactions. By providing a safe place for personal expression and cooperative creation, the Little Black Pearl Workshop helps youth of all ages build lifelong friendships and lasting neighborly bonds.
In August of 2003 more than 75 residents and community leaders from the North Kenwood, Oakland, Douglas, and Grand Boulevard neighborhoods of Chicago came together to discuss the current state of their communities and devise methods for improvement. That marked the formation of the Quad Communities Development Corporation (QCDC), and today the team of individuals strives to bring together residents, local organizations, businesses, and government institutions to make the North Kenwood, Oakland, Grand Boulevard, and Douglas neighborhoods more sustainable, healthy, and economically diverse.
As the lead agency for the New Communities Program, QCDC worked with more than 400 community residents and stakeholders to establish a 10-year quality-of-life plan. In addition to guiding the implementation of this plan, the organization continues to focus on economic development, education, and employment services throughout communities. These three targets have led to initiatives such as the Bronzeville Community Market, academic-based support for low-income students, and life-skills and job-placement services.
Growing Power provides the means for communities to grow and distribute healthy food among their own residents through three important functions: growing demonstrations, education, and food production. Demonstrations come in the form of workshops designed to teach locals of the Midwest, the South, and New England how to grow fresh produce. On the education side, outreach programs for farmers, youth, and entire communities help spread awareness about the importance of community agriculture. Finally, the organization produces food in demonstration greenhouses and rural and urban farms in the Midwest. It distributes the produce and grass-fed meat it produces through 300 family farms as part of the Rainbow Farmers Cooperative, and to local families through the Farm-to-City Market Basket Program. This way, the people the organization benefits can have access to nutritious food regardless of location, income, or scarecrow phobias.