Students part of group exploring solutions to urban violence

Staff Writer

Students from Kenwood Academy and Dyett high schools will join students from other nearby public schools this summer in the My Life, My Research, New Citizens program. The students will work together to devise violence prevention programs for their schools and communities.

A grant given to Quad Community Development Corporation (QCDC) by the Afterschool Matters program will allow 15 high school students from Kenwood, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave.; Dyett, 555 E. 51st St.; King, 4445 S. Drexel Ave.; Phillips, 244 E. Pershing Rd.; University of Chicago-Woodlawn, 6420 S. University Ave., and Harlan, 9652 S. Michigan Ave., to receive stipends as they research violence prevention methods and survey their neighborhoods to gather information that will help them develop an anti-violence plan.

From July 8 through Aug. 8, the students will meet five days a week with University of Chicago Political Science Professor Cathy Cohen on the university’s campus to research different topics related to violence and examine their lives and the lives of their peers. Guests such as state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13), police veteran Ronald Holt and WBEZ radio reporter Natalie Moore will visit the students. The teens will also work on team building and take weekly field trips around the city.

The students will work with the KLEO Community Life Center and the South East Chicago Commission to develop surveys they will distribute electronically to their peers and other youth participating in the project. The students hope to capture the community and its perspective on violence and examine the problems and work on solutions.

The students will also receive training on how to conduct peace-centered programs such as the Peace Circle, Peace Council and Peer Jury that were first implemented at Dyett in 2006. As a pilot school for the peace programs, Dyett, which is slated for closure next year, saw a drop in the number of student arrests and misconduct reports. The school also saw an increase in its attendance rates as a result of the programs.

Once the students learn about the peace programs, they will recommend the one that best suits their school to their principals, who have agreed to add them to the schools’ disciplinary plans.