Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Evanston youth spend their holiday participating in events on campus

Julius Daye is at least five years away from serious post-high school planning. But the sixth-grader from Evanston’s Nichols Middle School is already questioning Northwestern’s facilities.

“Do you have a playground?” Daye asked Weinberg junior Jesse Hall over breakfast in Allison Hall.

As he picked at a frosted, sprinkle-covered donut, Daye continued his critique, comparing NU’s beach, gymnasiums and other entertainment facilities to those of his middle school. The chocolate-covered sides of his mouth shot downward, however, when Hall told him NU had no playground.

Later, when Daye and his sixth-grade peers gathered outside Pick-Staiger Concert Hall after attending former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume’s keynote address, they were still preoccupied with college life, requesting to see Hall’s dorm room and asking, “When do we get a tour of the campus?”

A campus-wide tour was not on the itinerary for 79 middle school children from Nichols Middle School, Family Focus Community Center and the McGaw YMCA, who participated in the fourth annual Eva Jefferson Civil Rights Program Monday. The young students’ day did take them across NU’s campus as they listened to speakers commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, attended a goal-setting session at the Office of Undergraduate Admission and spent time with 60 NU student mentors.

The program was established in 2002 by former Associated Student Government President Rachel Lopez and named after Eva Jefferson, another former ASG president who is known nationally for her opposition to the Vietnam War during the Civil Rights Movement and her advocacy of black student rights on NU’s campus.

Weinberg senior Martin Zacharia, this year’s program chairman, said the number of middle school students and mentors has almost quadrupled since the program began.

“We target kids who would benefit from having mentors, who maybe aren’t necessarily already motivated to go to college,” Zacharia said. “A principal at Nichols said at a faculty meeting that this program is the ‘thing to do’ on MLK Day.”

The day began with a breakfast at Allison on Monday morning and continued in Norris University Center’s Northwestern Room, where participants listened to Venessa Woods, a teacher at Evanston Township High School and winner of the 2004 Golden Apple Award, give a motivational speech about positive messages. Mentors met and formed groups with two to three mentees at breakfast, then escorted the middle schoolers to Pick-Staiger to listen to the keynote address.

The afternoon continued with a lunch at Sheil Catholic Center, a performance by the CaribNation dancers, a discussion about the issues raised in Mfume’s address and a visit to Undergraduate Admissions.

But Daye’s classmate Ethan Walls was more interested in discussing movies with his new college-aged friends than discussing King’s legacy, said Hall, his mentor for the day. Each of the participants received a folder with excerpts from King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and a card to exchange contact information with mentors.

Walls suggested that he and Hall should go to a movie Friday afternoon. When Hall told him that he was free this Friday, Walls whipped out his cell phone for the fifth time that day. This time it wasn’t to fend off boredom by playing another round of Bejeweled, but to call his mom.

“Can I go to a movie with Jesse after school on Friday?” he asked.

Reach Amanda Palleschi at

[email protected].

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Evanston youth spend their holiday participating in events on campus