SOUTH CHICAGO — Young Southeast Siders can receive leadership training and get involved in the area’s social justice movements through the Alliance of the Southeast’s youth leadership council.
Youth ages 12–18 are eligible to join the council, which meets virtually 3–5 p.m. Fridays.
The group draws emerging community leaders from Southeast Side neighborhoods including South Shore, South Chicago, East Side, South Deering and Hegewisch.
Council members learn how to build a network of community members as they address pressing issues on the Southeast Side. They’re educated in subjects like relationship building, public speaking and other professional skills crucial to organizing work.
The current cohort of about 10 members has chosen to focus on issues of environmental and restorative justice in the area, said Oscar Sanchez, a youth organizer with Alliance of the Southeast.
Meetings begin with a mental health check-in before moving into discussions of timely local issues and what other youth organizations are doing around the city.
The council is centered around “bringing [youth organizers] knowledge about what’s going on and what other folks are working on, then facilitating discussions about what’s going on in this community,” Sanchez said.
Typically, the council plans an end-of-summer event; it’s often a school supply giveaway and discussion around gun violence prevention, Sanchez said.
But the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench into those plans, and organizers are waiting to see “how things are going to be affected by COVID” before announcing an event, he said.
Members receive a $20 stipend for each meeting they attend, and they are eligible for a monthly bonus if they attend four consecutive meetings.
The field of community organizing sometimes struggles with “ageism,” in which young people don’t receive “credit for the value they’re bringing,” Sanchez said. The payments are a small way of addressing that.
“Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get paid for the work you’re doing,” Sanchez said. “In order for us to truly think that youth are the future, we have to start investing in them now.”
Interested youth can apply for the council by emailing Sanchez or calling the Alliance of the Southeast at 773-221-8908.
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