I met Vanette in the spring of 2013 at Street Level Youth Media.  I was immediately impressed and inspired by her deep passion for youth development and addressing social issues that affect Chicago youth. Through discussion with Vanette about the Chicago Public School system, homeless students, and youth violence, it was apparent that at the age of 17 she possessed a maturity level far beyond her years. Vanette spoke about violence from the perspective of a CPS student and youth educator. She is a student teacher with the Chicago Urban Teaching Academy, a program that started at her high school in 2010.

When I sat down to interview Vanette, I was shocked, as I am with all of the students whom I’ve met with, at how much she shared with me. Vanette spent 20 minutes sharing personal stories about abuse and triumph, loss, goals, solutions to violence and overall youth knowledge. There was one part in the audio (not featured in the final piece) where Vanette told me about the young children she worked with begging for their school not to be closed. Vanette began to cry as she shared her student’s stories with me. Another story that impacted me was about a young girl who would come to class without her hair done so Vanette would do the students hair for her.  I remain deeply moved by Vanette’s openness and genuine compassion.

Vanette desires to be a teacher. She is now a senior in high school and I can only image the bright and inspiring future she has ahead of her.  I thank her from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to share her story.

A special thank you to March Furigay and Chris Lee for allowing me to meet with students at Street Level Youth Media.

*I have not included Vanette’s last name or school name in this post because she is a minor*

Jonathan Jackson, age 5. 2010

 School image of the week. Youth to remember, Jonathan Jackson. Killed at the age of 5 in 2010. He was supposed to start kindergarten at King Elementary School. 

 William H. King Elementary School is one of the Chicago Public Schools that closed this year.

To learn more about the project  visit www.sophianahli.com