What defines you?

What defines you?  (my dreams; my passion; my music; my past and present; my future; my experiences.)  — Impact Fellows, writing about Kinetic.

This summer, five of our Impact Fellows began the work of building an infrastructure for a high school youth program at two local community-based organizations (CBOs), based on our Kinetic program.  While the project has been challenging, it feels particularly critical.  CBOs have long proven to be important places for young folks to engage in community building and identity development, and part of our mission at Advancing Justice—Chicago is to support capacity- building and leadership development within these organizations.

One of our Fellows working on this program, Chris, has reflected a lot on how his own experiences as a high school student involved with FYSH –Korean American Resource and Cultural Center’s youth empowerment program – not only shaped his commitment to becoming a leader in the Asian American community, but also helped him attend Oberlin College through his nomination as a Posse scholar.  All of the experiences that Fellows bring to these workshops have helped to build a safe space for youth attendees.  Kinetic workshops explore community issues deeply rooted in youth attendee’s own (often painful, and very personal) histories – issues such as immigration, bullying, Asian American stereotypes, and barriers to accessing higher education.

The learning curve was steep, and initial recruitment was hard.  Finding high school students who wanted to attend these workshops during the summer involved a lot of on-the-ground work for our Fellows: walking up and down Argyle, talking to community members about the program, establishing a strong presence on social media, and plastering flyers in store fronts.

Ultimately, their work paid off.  By their second workshop, they had nine student attendees who were not only engaged and excited about the curriculum, but were also asking for more ways to be involved.

When I asked the Fellows about their most rewarding experience with Kinetic to date, they told me about an Asian American high school student who has been attending their workshops.  During his first Kinetic workshop, he told the group that he wasn’t very interested in getting involved in community activism because he didn’t feel it related to him.  By the end of the second workshop, his attitude had shifted.  He told the group that he had never had space in high school or otherwise to be vulnerable and reflective about his own identity and experiences, and that this was really the first place he felt he could do that openly and without judgment.

This fall, Kinetic will be launching in two CPS schools, and will continue to run as a program for high school students through the Chinese Mutual Aid Association and the Cambodian Association of Illinois.  To stay involved and updated with Kinetic, make sure to check out the Facebook page that our Fellows have created!

–Viveka Ray-Mazumder, Advancing Justice—Chicago Youth Organizer