By EMMA HERMAN
Local non-profit organization I Am We will launch a new initiative next Saturday, aimed at improving high school graduation rates among youth in underserved Chicago neighborhoods.
Woodlawn resident Latisha Thomas moved from the North Side several years ago and founded I Am We shortly after. The stated goal of the organization, which started its work on the West Side in the Austin community, is “building bridges between youth and community.”
While working in Woodlawn, Thomas learned that one in three youth of color will not graduate high school, compared to one in eight white youth. The statistic prompted her to organize the 1 in 3 after-school program.
“We learned the why…and we began to talk about how we could create change,” Thomas said. “We are a group of humanitarians, we believe in the power of humans.”
In addition to helping individuals, Thomas hopes the campaign will highlight the economic impact of such a high number of high school dropouts and its indirect impact on all citizens. The campaign will feature a variety of programs, from those teaching digital skills to one that may be focused on engineering.
Previous I Am We initiatives have focused mentorship programs and using storytelling through a variety of mediums to connect individuals and to help alter the negative narratives of Chicago’s youth. These programs include The Chicago Voices program, which taught middle- and high-school students how to use digital media to create public service announcements and blogs and the Chicago Dreamers program, which focuses on writing and journalism to create stories.
I Am We will officially unveil the 1 in 3 campaign from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Aug. 15, at the McCormick Theological Seminary, 5460 S. University Ave. Event highlights include art and entertainment, hors d’oeuvres and raffles. Tickets are $25, with all proceeds going to benefit I Am We’s after-school programming. For more information, visit iamwecommunity.org.