Engage! at Evanston

Librarian: Christie Chandler-Stahl

This program was unique in that it was divided into two parts. In the fall, Christie facilitated thirteen programs, with the majority of these initial programs being attended by a core group of six teens. The total attendance for this first section of the program was eighty-six. The second half of the program took place in the spring and included the photography programming. Total attendance for this portion was seventy. The final project continues to be in the planning phase. There will be three separate exhibits of each of the photographs, and the teens will be present at each “exhibit opening” to talk about their experience. One of the exhibits will be at the Evanston Mayor’s Summer Youth Safety Summit.

Who the Teens Were

Participants for the first half of the Engage! program were recruited from the senior studies group from Evanston Township High School (ETHS). Christie also recruited students she knew to the program, and had some participants from outreach she conducted through Youth Organization Umbrella, a youth-serving social service agency in Evanston, the city’s Youth Coordinator, and Latino Quest at ETHS.

Leadership Opportunities

  • Teens each researched an artist for the Growing Up theme, then presented on that artist and image to the rest of the group.

  • Teens helped create the list of questions for the senior citizens home visit.

  • One teen drew a picture of a falcon that served as the “Flat Stanley” for one of the public Engage! sessions on photography. This teen also helped to generate the questions for the first Growing Up project.

  • Teens created the designs for the trash can painting in their own.

  • At one of the sessions, a teen brought all of the refreshments.

  • One of the teens set up and managed a Facebook group page.

  • One of the participants organized an impromptu gathering on a Saturday that we were not scheduled to meet (due to spring break). The teens got together and took pictures all around Evanston, then everyone met for pizza.

  • Another teen is helping with the photography exhibit, the mounting of photographs, and the set-up for the display. She is also creating the poster for the exhibit.

  • One teen led a discussion on civic participation and agreed to be a liaison with the community service program at the high school.

  • Another teen served as the tech assistance for creating instructions for uploading videos and helped out with anyone who had any technology questions.

Tangible Opportunities to Engage! with Ideas or Materials

  1. We created a “community” sculpture in the Loft using objects present while exploring the theme Community.

  2. Three groups of Evanston teens painted trash cans for the ninth ward. They created the designs after looking at the images from the Community theme, then painted them using spray and other paint.

  3. In the first Growing Up program, students shared photographs they took the week before. Another student worked with Christie on the questions for the teens’ photography assignment. Some of the questions were: “Take a picture of a place where you love connecting with people”; “Take a ‘looking back photo,’ such as an oblique shot—if you loved the beach as a child, you could have someone take a distance picture of the beach with you at the end of the shot.”

  4. During the Signs and Symbols theme and while looking at the I Want You for the US Army picture, we stood in a circle, caught a ball and responded to the prompt: “someone telling you, perhaps sternly, that they want you to do something right now. Give an example.”

  5. After the Signs and Symbols program, students started working on a graphic design to integrate the theme of PeaceAble cities Evanston.

  6. In response to the Gay Pride photo, participants wrote narratives (PDF) from the perspective of a young man in the parade/photo.

  7. Every teen participant in the program received a camera to keep so that they could actively engage with ideas every week, not just while they were in the class. They all took many pictures during the week also.

  8. In class four, all of the participants wrote poems about one of their photographs. Read an example (PDF).

  9. In the final class, all of the participants wrote poems of their photographs that had been selected for the exhibit.

  10. During two of the sessions, we went out to take pictures and we shared tips of good composition, camera settings, lighting, etc.

  11. Each week the photographer reviewed the pictures that the teens had taken throughout the week. Everyone uploaded their work to Picasa so they could comment on each other’s photos and be inspired by each other’s perspectives.

  12. A guest speaker, another Tribune staff photographer, came to present pictures and movies to the group of her experiences working with teenagers from Altgeld Gardens and from visiting young adults in a prison.