Northwestern, Evanston students team up for leadership initiative

Evanston Township High School students participating in a leadership initiative led by Northwestern students presented their plans to address local issues such as poverty and racial divisions at an event Tuesday night. The program, called Emerge, is in its fourth year.

Oliver Ortega/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston Township High School students participating in a leadership initiative led by Northwestern students presented their plans to address local issues such as poverty and racial divisions at an event Tuesday night. The program, called Emerge, is in its fourth year.

Oliver Ortega, Reporter

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Worried that drug and alcohol abuse was too prevalent at Evanston Township High School, 10th-grader Deborah Ogunribido and a group of students set out to tackle the issue with a week-long awareness campaign.

Ogunribido told an audience Tuesday night at ETHS the group wants to continue efforts to make the school drug- and alcohol-free.

“We know we can’t eradicate the problem, but we’re trying to at least make a change,” she said.

Ogunribido and other ETHS students participating in a leadership initiative led by Northwestern students presented their plans to address local issues ranging from poverty to drug use before an audience of about 100 at the school, 1600 Dodge Ave.

NU students in the Civic Engagement Certificate Program collaborated with the high school and the Evanston Community Foundation four years ago to create the eight-month program Emerge

The 34 ETHS students met monthly with NU volunteers to discuss their projects and participate in themed leadership workshops, said Mary Collins, ETHS’s community service coordinator and one of the program’s creators. At the beginning of every year, participants take a field trip around Evanston to meet with school officials and local groups to brainstorm ideas to improve the city, efforts which they execute by the time they graduate.

“It’s a unique experience for Northwestern students and for the high school students because they want these opportunities to engage the community,” Collins said.

Each group has from four to six ETHS sophomores and three facilitators – NU volunteers or ETHS juniors who completed the program, said SESP junior Kevin McDougal, an Emerge organizer. The initiative targets sophomores to prepare them to assume leadership roles during the rest of their time at ETHS.

“We think it’s a really good time because we can identify them as freshmen and help them gain essential skills and jump into leadership roles,” McDougal said.

­­­McDougal worked as a facilitator last year with students who created a local group for young artists, an Emerge initiative that is still going strong, Collins said.

The group of mostly ETHS students performs locally and collaborates with other Evanston art groups, she said. In an effort to keep students involved in the program after finishing, Emerge has past participants return as facilitators in their junior year.

The program is mostly funded by ETHS’s community service department and student dues, although the group won a community engagement grant from Associated Student Government this year, organizer Lauren Manning (Medill ’13) said.

Funding has been an issue, and the group is hoping to receive more support from the University, McDougal said.

ETHS junior Caroline Vakil helped students addressing poverty issues after working in the group last year.  She said she enjoyed being mentored by NU students and using her experience to help others in the program.

“It was interesting because this time I was watching others work for their own groups, and I could help them using my own experience,” Vakil said.

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