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The Ci3 Youth Advisory Council includes high school students from the South and West sides of Chicago. The mission of the Council is to ensure that our research and interventions center the lived experiences of the populations we serve—primarily young people of color. Council members are key thought contributors throughout our project design and development process and are encouraged to be vocal and proactive participants during our meetings.
In March 2020, the focus of our council meetings shifted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest sparked by police violence across the United States, particularly in Chicago. Our virtual council meetings became a place for members and Ci3 staff to find community and connection, providing a space to process vulnerable and complicated emotions. Using the creative skills developed over the course of the term, council members partnered with Ci3 staff to create a zine about their experiences and perspectives during Spring 2020. While Ci3 mentors contributed expertise, tools, and resources, the content of the zine is entirely youth-led.
By sharing the stories of young people during this unprecedented time, we hope to shift the public narrative from talking about young Black and Brown people toward talking with them, and letting them lead the conversation. Ci3 envisions a world in which all youth emerge into adulthood with agency over their bodies and futures. We will continue to work to make that world a reality—because, as our council has told us, this ain’t it.
-Ailea Stites, Robin Cogdell, and Melissa Gilliam, M.D., M.P.H.
Throughout the creation of this project, I had a lot of time to deeply reflect on my feelings about the various things happening in the world, and in my life. I have always been one to ponder, reflect, and look deep inside myself. But something about these past months of events flipped a switch in me that I did not think possible. Suddenly I became even more reflective than before. Suddenly I was hit with the intense realization of my own autonomy. From COVID-19 to the Black Lives Matter protests, I realized that I had a place in the way I react to and behave in these situations. I have a choice to follow state mandates and wear my mask outside to protect myself and others, I have a choice to participate in protests for racial injustice, I have a choice to take in all of the information I receive about these topics and form my own opinions about the subject matter, with no external influence; there is no longer an authoritative figure such as a teacher or parent to influence and decide my beliefs.
The uncertainty of the world allowed for me to hear various people’s opinions on the things happening in the world, and this made me realize that I too had a choice in what I wanted to believe and the way I wanted to maneuver throughout the world, and through life. I feel that that break in convention–from physically being in school to virtually being in school–made me realize a lot about life and my place in the world. I almost felt as if I was awakened from this trance of normativity, and was shown that in these times of uncertainties, I could be certain of one thing–and that is that I can be my own person. And as cliché as it sounds, something about this period of my life (crossing over into adulthood) combined with the historical moments of the world shone a brighter light on this cliché in a way that caused me to fully understand and experience what this means.
Since this sort of epiphany, I have been moving through life way differently, and way more positively. I am now making my life my own, becoming more confident in my opinions, and the decisions I make for myself. And here I am now 3 months away from turning 19, very grateful for this revelation that has drastically improved my mindset and my life.
Hi! My name is Arielle Warner, and I am a 16-year-old Black teen from the South Side of Chicago. My interests include writing, speaking out about important societal issues, talking with my friends, and doing anything productive for the community as well as myself. I am currently a part of the Ci3 Youth Advisory Council, led by Ci3 at the University of Chicago; and I have been involved since 2019. The Youth Advisory Council is a program full of intelligent and diverse groups of teenagers. These talented teenagers all bring different qualities to promote a community of various experiences that further encourages a space of growth for us as teens, as well as others of our age. We discuss topics ranging from sexual education and health to racial injustice within our community.
I believe it is extremely important to give people my age a platform to speak out about topics that we usually are not given the credibility to speak on. I believe Ci3 has carried out the perfect job of not only giving us a safe space to work and exist in but also to inform other people our age of issues we normally would not think about. Last year, I completed a Zine in which I spoke on police brutality and how social media has played a vital role in how these incidents are displayed to the world, especially during the quarantine. I have taken a particular passion toward this topic because social media is the reason I am more comfortable speaking about the horror of racial injustice that affects me and my peers every day. As a Black person, I think it is important to savor your time as a youth because as you grow up, there will be obstacles and blockades that will force you into situations no child should ever have to go through. I believe that my Zine touches on the importance of getting stories of injustice out to the public, those stories are vital in progressing conversations and starting conversations that are uncomfortable and conversations that are needed to promote growth in our cultures and communities as a unit.