By KYLER SUMTER
Students from across the city presented their findings on community needs based on data they collected in several neighborhoods, including Hyde Park, as a part of the MAPSCorps program.
Over 50 attendees filled the seats of the Malcolm X College Auditorium, 1900 W. Jackson Boulevard, Wednesday, Aug. 9, to hear from nearly 100 Chicago high school students who spent the summer gathering data about issues central to specific neighborhoods.
Through the After School Matters program, the students worked with MAPSCorps, a youth empowerment program whose mission is “cultivating scientific minds, healthy people, and invested citizens from the assets of our communities.”
Ten groups worked with community-based organizations this summer and presented their findings and recommendations for solutions, which included surveys they had collected from neighborhood residents, panel discussions, and breakout sessions where they presented their findings with posters and answered questions.
Eleven student mappers worked with the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC), 5480 S. Kenwood Ave., to answer the research question: “How do we maximize availability, accessibility, and quality of youth programming in South-East Chicago?” The HPNC was interested in expanding their youth programming for high school students.
They focused their research on the Hyde Park, Kenwood, Washington Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods and used the SurveyMonkey website to conduct a survey on youth program accessibility and administered the survey through their social media accounts. They received 104 responses in just 24 hours.
The students hypothesized that there aren’t many programs available to youth in South-East Chicago and the programs available were primarily sports programs.
“There are a lot of mentoring programs but that can be built to provide job readiness and personal and social skills and also there are a lot of athletic programs but that can be extended to health education and leadership skills,” said Nina Hampton, a recent Kenwood Academy High School graduate. “If you’re just playing basketball you’re not learning anything besides that.”
Through their survey responses, and the usage of NowPow data on the availability of youth programming, they found that their hypothesis was incorrect, and that this was good news. They found that most programs were available for free and that respondents found programs that provided them with social, academic, artistic, professional, and athletic development.
NiQuel Smith, a Roberto Clemente Community Academy junior, said they recommended that more programs be offered in schools so that students won’t have to travel long distances.
“There were a lot of programs that weren’t identifiable and not a lot of programs that were for people 18 and 19 years old,” Smith said during the poster session. “There were many high schools that didn’t have programs for their students.”
The students also recommended offering transportation assistance, like free CTA bus cards or a shuttle bus service, minimizing program requirements, advertising programs more, and for the HPNC to work on building partnerships with other community organizations.
“[They can] collaborate with local businesses to provide internships for youth and provide t-shirts and other accessible materials for youth programs so they can help the kids to identify the program,” Smith said. “They can reach out to grocery stores like Whole Foods to provide healthy lunch so it can decrease childhood obesity.”
Hampton, who grew up in Hyde Park and went to the HNPC when she was in third grade jumped in echoing that, “Another recommendation is to reach out to colleges and partner with colleges so youth can gain work study or college credits. It would be a win-win for the colleges and the youth.”
Other groups did research on topics like mapping food resources and mapping community involvement resources. Centers for New Horizons – Bronzeville worked with students to research the impact of chain grocery stores in the Bronzeville area, Demoiselle 2 Femme worked with female students to research the accessibility women of color have to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (S.T.E.A.M.) career fields, and Rush University Medical Center worked with students to explain health disparities on the West Side.
MAPSCorps was born at the University of Chicago (U. of C.) in 2008 and created by Dr. Stacy Lindau to discover which types of resources existed on the South Side that helped support health and well being, including neighborhoods living in food deserts with corner stores as their only food source. Lindau commented that the program grew, like a baby, and became so big it needed to move out of the incubator at U. of C.
“One of our community partners came forward and said ‘Why not work with community organizations who have access to funding through After School Matters to hire young people and you’ll get two things: you’ll get young people who have a connection to their community and also there will be a connection to the educational resources and mentorship that takes place through the University of Chicago’. This is something that has gone national,” Dr. Doriane Miller, director of the Center for Community Health and Vitality at U. of C. said. “Organizations like Chicago Hyde Park Village, Centers for New Horizons, and Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation started coming in to say that ‘We are bringing in things to you, you have things that you can share with us and that’s how this partnership formed.’”
Dr. Julie Morita, the keynote speaker and commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, spoke about the importance of the students’ work and making their data public to their communities.
“Your work will make it better for everyone in the city of Chicago,” Morita said.
One alumna of the program, Priscilla Agbeo (Stanford University ’18), shared her experience and how she always encouraged youth in the program to question everything they saw. She spoke about how the best part of her experience with the program was how it angered her and fueled her to do more for her community.
“Find something you care about and if it doesn’t feel right you are not crazy,” she said. “You have no room for sugarcoating injustice.”
The students who worked with the HPNC said they learned a lot from their mentors and field coordinators about how to dig into research questions and always ask: how and why.
Jevon Franklin, a rising junior at DuSable High School talked about how MAPSCorps helped him think about his interests and future during one of the panel discussions.
“[It] helped us gain perspective,” Franklin said. “It helped me to develop a personal interest in the communities that we live in.”