BY SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Students from the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC) presented a research project on community engagement at the 2019 MAPSCorps Science Symposium on Aug. 7.
Youth throughout the city arrived at Malcolm X College, 1900 W Jackson Blvd., early Wednesday morning, to present projects that they worked on for the entire summer with community organizations and MAPSCorps.
This year’s symposium fell on MAPSCorps 9th anniversary. The Hyde Park-based nonprofit organization focuses on providing youth with summer employment opportunities to work on data-driven projects that assess their community assets.
This summer, MAPSCorps worked with 10 community-based organizations like HPNC and Bronzeville’s Center for New Horizons to mentor students on how to collect data from 51 communities throughout the city. Students created surveys, conducted interviews and mapped data. Throughout the day on Wednesday, youth explained data they found, offered solutions and brainstormed further questions to examine next year in short presentations, panel discussions and in a poster session.
For the students at HPNC, their central question focused on determining barriers for teens to access youth programs. They gave surveys to 60 youth in Hyde Park between the ages of 14 and 18, gathered information about resources teens would like in their communities and access why they are not taking advantage of programs in the community.
One of the youth researchers, Mikaela Ewing —a rising junior at U. of C. Lab school— said, “Three of the biggest variables that we found were that teens were unaware of programs, access to transportation and need for employment or funding over the summer to support them or their families.”
Ewing and her research team recommended U. of C. provide more opportunities for youth in the community, businesses specify jobs for teens and not hire only college students and programs in established community organizations to advance programming for teens.
To Ewing, it seems like youth between the ages of 13 and 18 are forgotten when it comes to summer programming. “That’s what we are trying to fix and find out what can we do to ramp up teen engagement to guide us through these years. With employment —if we want to be employed — we would need job training if we want established businesses to hire us. So provide that for us” she said.
Being a mapper for the summer was really useful for Ewing and many of the students who were involved in MAPSCorps.
“Personally, I want to go into architectural engineering, urban planning or environmental studies. It was interesting for me to see the layout of different communities and how it changes from communities to communities and what’s actually there, what’s lacking and what they need. So, for my own personal knowledge that was good,” Ewing said.
She, also, found the program helpful for her to identify other opportunities in the neighborhood that might be useful to her and her friends and family, since she and her siblings attend school in the area.
Throughout the symposium, teens excitedly chatted to over a hundred visitors about their research in community and youth engagement, economic vitality and health in communities.