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It is incredible that the midpoint of the Summer Service Partnership is upon us. I have used the word “relationships” to describe the first half of the summer because it has been a time of building relationships between and within the mentors and the students. Ashli and Rachel have been wonderful co-mentors to work alongside. Our high school students Ashele, Asia, Jada, and Salvador bring different and complementary strengths to the group as a whole. We engaged in the Leadership Style Activity with our students and saw that our group encompassed all four types of the difference leadership styles: Assertive, Analytic, Nurturer, and Visionary.

The students have used and developed their individual leadership skills as we explored the community through service and collectively designed a final project. The students identified violence as a topic that was relevant to the community and one that they felt passionate about. Our first service project with the South Chicago Arts Center consisted of cleaning up a sidewalk that leads up to their community garden. The sidewalk was broken, littered with trash, and overgrown with vegetation. Our group decided that we would like to partner with the Arts Center to make the sidewalk to the garden more inviting by cleaning up the area around the sidewalk and making a peace path from the sidewalk to the entrance of the garden to promote peace ad to act as a memorial for victims of violence.

This past week our team got a chance to meet with the Alderman John Pope to talk about our proposal and determine how he could help us beautify the area around the garden. The students each took an aspect of our proposal and presented it to Alderman Pope. We spent time practicing public speaking skills with the students so that they would be fully prepared for our meeting. When the time came for them to present, all of the mentors were impressed by how comfortably they presented their section. During the first week we did interviews with community members and during this meeting the students showed a major amount of growth from the first week. We are all excited about getting our project started and creating a lasting memorial for peace.

While we visited the Alderman, he reminded us that South Chicago is a neighborhood with rich history along with many challenges and successes. South Chicago used to be the home to a US Steel plant that employed 20,000 people mainly from the South Chicago neighborhood and the south side of Chicago. The plant was eventually shut down and all those workers lost their jobs that caused in many families in the community to live in poverty. I have been biking down to South Chicago and on my way down there I pass the large lakefront property that used to be the steel mill. It is proposed that the land will house the Obama Presidential Library and will be the site of new residential housing in the near future. The neighborhood is filled with promise for a bright future if the community members stay active and engaged with the great developments that are happening all around them.