Chicago Youth Speaks gives children in vulnerable communities a voice and a platform to discover their unique potential, sense of self, and connection to the larger community.
As youth work in teams to create spoken word performances, they strengthen their ability to communicate effectively, collaborate with diverse groups of people, resolve conflict, build positive relationships, overcome obstacles, and lead others responsibly. These critical 21st century skills will help them navigate school, their daily lives, and ultimately, the workforce. By helping children develop these social-emotional skills early, we set them up for future success and well-being.
The program also empowers youth take an active role in their communities. When children are exposed to violence and poverty, they can feel hopeless and alone. They often feel as if their achievements and decisions will have no impact on their own future or their larger community, and they abandon their goals and plans. Chicago Youth Speaks bridges the gap between youth and community by encouraging them to share their concerns and explore social issues through art, music, performance, and storytelling. The program also connects them with local community leaders, artists, and members through community events, forums, and performances. Youth in the program witness the impact their voice and ideas can make and that experience builds their self-esteem and empowers them to be active, engaged citizens.
The program is a collaboration between Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) and I Am We, and it allows both organizations to increase their impact and go deeper in promoting peace among youth on the South Side. I Am We’s mission is to create cohesion in Chicago's most underinvested neighborhoods by building bridges between youth and community through the medium of the arts, storytelling,programming, and strategic partnerships. CYC's mission is to empower youth to discover and experience their unique potential. By leveraging I Am We’s unique expertise in team building and media arts programming and CYC’s space, program model, and innovative curricula, the two agencies will successfully offer a holistic program that empowers peace in the South Side by providing intentional activities that build children's character and promote non-cognitive skills like teamwork, self-control, communication, and responsibility. These positive traits create a recipe for peace within the participants' own lives and empower them to overcome the stressors of poverty and violence, and to advocate for peace within their communities.