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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Youth Summit Encourages Students To Engage In Political Life

By Megan CrepeauThe Daily Northwestern

For Evanston Township High School freshman Jennifer Tertulien, giving up a Saturday was a small price to pay for the impact she and her classmates could have on their community.

“(Adults) want us to make a difference, not have them doing it,” she said. “This is part of making a difference.”

Tertulien was one of about 60 Evanston teens who crowded into the ETHS cafeteria Saturday for the city’s first Youth Summit.

The event was part of Evanston’s recent effort to involve more young people in local politics.

The focus of the conference was the discussion session, during which participants gathered around tables to talk about topics, such as homelessness, gang activity, sex education and college admissions. But discussion wasn’t the only activity: Teens also listened to a keynote speaker and watched local performing arts groups.

Ra Joy, an Evanston native and the executive director of the Illinois Arts Alliance, gave the keynote speech.

“Your presence and your voice represent your ownership in your school, your ownership in your future, your ownership in your community,” he said to the participants.

Sheila McCorkle, SESP ’06, spearheaded the project as part of her duties as a public interest fellow working in the city manager’s office.

McCorkle, who is part of the city’s Youth Engagement Team, said she was pleased with the conference, though attendance fell short of the desired 100 student attendees.

Even still, “the kids who were there had a great time,” she said.

McCorkle said she liked the caliber of discussion at the event. At the higher education table, for example, students agreed that incoming freshmen should be given a checklist with deadlines and college admissions advice. Teens who talked about Evanston’s gang problems decided that many youths join gangs and abuse drugs because they don’t have any positive adult influences, and they encouraged the city to promote adult involvement with local youth.

About 25 volunteers helped at the summit, including many NU students, McCorkle said.

SESP sophomore Mara Botman volunteered through NU’s service learning certificate program.

“This is saying, ‘Wow, instead of sitting around and brainstorming as 50-year-olds, let’s ask the youth,'” she said. “This is a time for the adults to listen. That’s a big deal.”

The five-hour conference was in the works since last fall. It is part of the city’s Youth Engagement Initiative, which aims to give more opportunities to Evanston’s “disengaged” younger population, thus discouraging apathy, delinquent behavior and gang violence.

Those solutions could come to fruition through Evanston’s new Youth Council, another brainchild of the Youth Engagement Team. The council would keep in close contact with the City Council and city staff as a way of institutionalizing youth issues, Botman said.

Evanston Assistant City Manager Judith Aiello is also a member of the Youth Engagement Team and worked on planning the summit since November.

“I hope to see kids who are engaged, making new friends, thinking about ideas they’ve never thought about before and, most importantly, coming up with their own ideas for solutions,” Aiello said.

Reach Megan Crepeau at [email protected].

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Youth Summit Encourages Students To Engage In Political Life