Ideas Day empowers students to get creative and take risks

Over the past two weeks, Chicago Ideas hosted a series of Ideas Day events in high schools throughout Chicago. The intent was to take the kind of programming that Chicago Ideas crafts for both the Curiosity Series and Chicago Ideas Week and put it in the hands of CIW YOU(th) ambassadors. Students at Chicago Tech Academy, Team Englewood Community Academy and Von Steuben Metropolitan High School brainstormed topics they wanted to see addressed in their schools and crafted events meant to inspire their peers.

With speakers ranging from the Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer to actor and former professional athlete Israel Idonije, all the way to local artists and activists such as Kevin Coval, Ric Wilson and Mykele Deville, Ideas Day allowed youth ambassadors to reach out to the people they see every day and offer them something impactful. And while it was inspiring for the students watching the programs—and participating in the hands-on action events that followed—the ambassadors were just as inspired by what they created.

Students at Team Englewood

Ideas Day inspired me to be more of a positive person and influence people with my positivity,” said Arrielle Hobson, a 17-year-old student at Chi Tech and a CIW YOU(th) ambassador. During the event at Chi Tech, Hobson interviewed rapper Mykele Deville on stage, a job she approached with slight trepidation. “That was really crazy, and something I never thought I would have ever done—ever,” she said, noting that under normal circumstances, she wouldn’t have felt comfortable getting up on stage and talking to Deville. But by pushing past those boundaries, she learned something new about herself. “I learned that, when I put limits on myself, I stay in this comfort zone that I don’t really try to come out of,” she said, “But when Rachel [Graham, CIW You(th) director] just gave me the job, and I just had to do it, then I lived up to her expectations and got things done.”

Once the ambassadors begin breaking through these internalized barriers, it’s only natural that it would extend to the community around them. Javontay Peoples, a 17-year-old Chi Tech student, believed that by giving teenagers direct access to business professionals during breakout sessions, he and his peers were given the chance to connect with people they’d likely never come into contact with. “I think the real importance of Ideas Day is to connect people like us to our city and to really show what the city has to offer,” said Peoples, “It shows that there are programs out there that are actually thinking about us and the other students in Chicago. I think it kind of gives us hope that we can actually make it.”

Ric Wilson performing for students at Von Steuben

It’s in those moments that students are learning that they aren’t just a part of Chicago, they are the active ingredient in its future. “I feel like the importance of Ideas Day is to really help students get comfortable with sharing ideas and not being afraid of what they can come up with,” said Brandon Chavez, a 17-year-old student at Chi Tech. Chavez explains that he hopes that Ideas Day allows students across the city to tell their stories, speak their mind and invent something of their very own. Beyond that, it proves that, once they find that spark, it’s impossible to extinguish it.

A special thanks to all the speakers who took part at Ideas Day

Josephine Lee, Israel Idonije, Mykele Deville, John Bull, Kevin Coval, Mariam Alsikafi, Favin Gebremariam, Fahad Al Nimah, Carol Henriques, Suzanne Sitrin, Ric Wilson, Bridget Gainer, Candice Jones, Rich Alapack

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