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Learning about the world on a youth retreat

by Jamal T. Jackson 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood.

Imagine being rich, on top of the world. Then you find yourself middle class, with enough to get by. But suddenly you are poor, at the bottom of the economic barrel. That was the situation I was recently in at a youth retreat.

The retreat, called Operation Snowball, which was sponsored by the Illinois Teen Institute, took high school students from Chicago and suburban high schools to a YMCA camp in Wisconsin to get to know other people who wouldn’t otherwise interact.

We participated in many activities during the retreat; I signed up for philosophy and media classes. Both were exciting, and I learned a lot, such as information about the philosopher Confucius.

But one of most interesting activities we did at the camp in my opinion was what you could call the rich-to-poor exercise.

What I learned from it is how quickly people can have their livelihoods cut out from under them. Here’s what happened.

On the second day of the retreat, we went to the mess hall, a big cafeteria inside of a wooden building, and were split into groups of three: rich, middle class and poor. During the activity, the rich had steak to eat, the middle class had beans, but the poor had nothing. I was in the middle class group.

But we didn’t stay in our groups. Our instructor told people in the rich group and the poor group to stand up. Then she said, “You are rich but your job is moving out of the country to a place where it’s cheaper to pay for work. You have lost your job – please move to the poor group.” Just like that, their economic situation had changed. They felt shocked at the news.

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Making a college visit count

by Tyreshia Black 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood.

The student editor of Michigan State University's State News shows off recent editions of the publication during a visit this fall to the academic institution's campus. Photo by Tyreshia Black.


Every year, high school students across Chicago start preparing to attend a college or university. The effort is a big undertaking, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. There are so many different types of higher education institutions to choose from, and a lot of students don’t know what they’re looking for.

One important way that many students figure out what they want from a college is through a campus visit. During a visit, prospective students tour the campus, talk to professors, and learn about student life.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” said Tametrius Files, a 16-year-old Simeon High School student who has visited Eastern Illinois University, DePaul University and other schools.

Experts say it is important to make the most out of college visits.

Betty Weinberger, a college consultant at a Glencoe-based company called North Shore College Counseling Services, said in an e-mail interview that students must make realistic and appropriate plans in order to ensure their campus visits are worthwhile.

“You might begin by asking yourself the following questions,” she said. “Do you like a large school or small? Do you want to be in the city in an urban environment or do you prefer a suburban or even small town environment?”

Ms. Weinberger added that students should also think about college activities while on a campus tour as well as their fields of interest.
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