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Students Can Learn Community Organizing At Free Summer Youth Program

The two-month Youth Organizing Institute, sponsored by three North Side alderman, is for 8th-12th grade students.

Left to right: Alds. Rossana Rodriguez (33rd), Matt Martin (47th), Andre Vasquez (40th)
alex v. hernandez/block club chicago
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Three North Side aldermen are behind a free summer program aimed at helping students learn how to advocate for issues important to them in Chicago. 

The two-month Youth Organizing Institute is for 8th-12th grade students and begins June 9. The free program is hosted by Alds. Matt Martin (47th), Rossana Rodriguez (33rd) and Andre Vasquez (40th).

The summer program is an opportunity for students to sit down with elected officials to see what crafting the city’s policy looks like up close, said Andi Aguilar, Martin’s assistant director of constituent services. Community advocates and nonprofit leaders will also host workshops, teaching students how to provide feedback to policymakers.

Some of the groups offering workshops include Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which advocates for racial equity, and Sunrise Movement, which focuses on climate issues. 

Students can apply for the program here. Applications close on June 2.

About 90 students will be accepted into the program and students will need a wi-fi compatible device to participate.

Rodriguez said one aim of the program will be to teach students how to organize during a time of stay at home orders and social distancing.

“I think it’s a great idea, particularly right now because how we organize around issues has changed due to the pandemic,” Rodriguez said. “You can’t safely be outside and canvassing like you normally would.” 

Students also will present issues important to them and get tips on how to best design an advocacy campaign. 

“When students apply we ask them on the application, ‘If you could pass a law, what would it be?’ That’s the starting point to help up group the kids into teams of students who share similar passions on what the world should look like,” Aguilar said.

Vasquez said he didn’t get involved in politics until he was in his 30s and wishes a summer program like this existed when he was a a student.

“Students have more doors open to them when they have opportunities like this to learn about effectively organizing and being more civically engaged,” Vasquez said. “Had I learned back then what I know now about organizing I can’t even imagine where I would be.”

For more information on the free summer program, click here.

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