By JOANA SALIEVSKA
Students from across the Chicago area presented their findings on how to best develop communities according to residents’ needs, based on data collected in several neighborhoods including Hyde Park and Bronzeville, at the MAPSCorps symposium.
The symposium held at Malcom X College, 1900 W. Jackson Blvd., last Wednesday, Aug. 8, featured 10 student presentations. About 100 high-school students participated in the MAPSCorps program this summer and collected data on the issues affecting certain neighborhoods and how to best tackle these problems.
The MAPSCorps organization grew out of the South Side Health and Vitality Studies, led by the research laboratory Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, MAPP, at the University of Chicago (U. of C.).
According to the MAPSCorps website, “Dr. Lindau’s interdisciplinary lab uses an asset-based, community-engaged approach to engineer solutions to injustice.” In 2009, “in collaboration with a broad range of community stakeholders and university researchers, this work gave life to the MAPSCorps program,” which provides meaningful work experience and STEM training to high school youth.
The goal of MAPSCorps is “to train youth to produce high quality data about community assets that everyone can use to improve the human condition.” The program became an independent nonprofit in 2016 and has been replicated in several ZIP codes of Harlem and the Bronx in New York City, Niagara Falls, New York and Mash and Edgecombe Counties, North Carolina.
This summer, 10 groups worked with community-based organizations, like the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC) and Center for New Horizons (CNH) in Bronzeville, to collect data from neighborhood residents through surveys, interviews and mapping. This data was presented with a set of recommendations for solutions in short presentations, panel discussions and a poster session at the symposium.
The student group working with the HPNC, 5480 S. Kenwood Ave., collected data to answer the questions: How has gentrification contributed to HPNC participant drop-off after middle school? And what other reasons have contributed to this drop-off?
The data collection revealed that many assets in the area target Pre-K to fifth grade students. There is little programming available for 6th and 8th graders and even less for high school students.
Thus, the student group concluded that the neighborhood needed to work on diversifying its programming options to include older children. They suggested the HPNC implement more fitness programming since it seemed from the data that many older children were already involved in sports. The group also suggested the HPNC work to create more summer job opportunities for high school students and college readiness programs.
“I think they just need to work on advertising more,” said Avianna Rush, Data Researcher at HPNC. Daisy Jungo.
Another Data Researcher at HPNC, echoed Rush’s suggestion.
“There is a lot of development happening and we need to get those businesses to work with the community and advertise in the community,” she said.
The CNH student group collected data to answer the research question: What barriers do youth face when trying to access youth development programs in Bronzeville? The group walked around the neighborhood and asked residents to fill out surveys.
“We found that there are two major barriers that the youth are facing when accessing youth development programs. They are concerned about safety and do not have awareness of existing programming,” said Nic’Thaniel Dudley, Data Researcher at CNH – Bronzeville.
About 75 people attended the symposium. The student presenters were excited to share their work and the audience was attentive throughout the day.
Michelle Prude, also a CNH Data Researcher, said she loved “just walking around the neighborhood and talking to people. I learned a lot from the people and they were nice,” she added.
Although it was hot and humid most days, “talking with people was the most fun,” said Dudley.
The other eight student groups collected data to address a variety of community concerns. The student group working with Claretian Associates worked to determine what percentage of South Chicago residents face barriers to receive high quality trauma informed care. The group working with BUILD in the Austin neighborhood collected data to determine how many businesses in Austin are connected to the arts and what can be done to increase arts programming in the neighborhood?
“Be proud of the work you did this summer,” said Lindau speaking to the MAPSCorps students during closing remarks. “Your work is contributing to the betterment of the South Side communities.”