The Garden

by  Youth Reporter

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:

Most people don’t know you can grow gourmet vegetables right here in Chicago, where we have some of the world’s most fertile soil. But because of contamination with lead and other toxins in the soil, we should use raised beds for our urban gardening. That’s what I and other student members of Imagine Englewood If learned in our visit with polyculturalist Seneca Kern.

We visited Kern at Kilbourn Organic Garden in Logan Square, and the meeting had extra importance since Kern and the group Growing Home are in the process of starting an organic garden in Englewood.

I learned and experienced so many things I didn’t know about before, including things that will come in handy gardening. I learned that Illinois has very fertile soil, even though we usually don’t realize it because we are so busy throwing trash in parks and in landfills. Usually we just buy our food and throw it in the trash when we’re done, without even thinking about planting a garden and composting our food waste.

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The Transformation of Jason Moy

by  Youth Reporter

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program:

Jason Moya had the same expectations that all teens have for themselves: to look better, feel better and be popular.

“In freshman year, I was going through a teen life crisis,” said high school student Jason Moya, 16.

The physical transformation between his freshman year and today is astonishing, the result of an emotional battle that nearly consumed him. Being the youngest child of four brothers and sisters has always pushed Jason to stand out and be noticed. While glancing at his old ID picture from middle school, it’s astonishing to even compare the physical differences. He used to be overweight, with glasses, blemishes and a bad haircut, faking a smile that showcases everything but happiness.

“Back in freshman year, Jason used to have a fade,” said Slendy Bahena, a freshman classmate of Moya. “He used to act ghetto, until he started dating an emo girl and decided to change. After he broke up with her, he stuck with his new punk rocker look. His personality didn’t change though. I guess his transformation was an accident.”

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Youth Media Reporter


Ethan Michaeli, Executive Director of We The People Media and Publisher of Residents’ Journal, recently published an article about our Urban Youth International Journalism Program in the Youth Media Reporter, an important publication serving those who instruct and direct journalism initiatives for young adults. The article was invited by the Youth Media Reporter through a coalition of Chicago youth media groups assembled by the McCormick Foundation, the major sponsors of our youth program.

To read the article Click here

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Obama’s Visit to Howard Alternative High School


On Nov. 2, 2004, history was made. Barack Obama became the third black senator since the Civil War when he beat Alan Keyes in the Illinois Senate race.

On Oct. 29, just before the election, Obama came to Howard Area Alternative High School.

Obama’s mother is a white woman and his father was from Kenya. Obama was born in Hawaii and had a very diverse childhood. He grew up mostly with Asians and white people and was also affected by problems in the Black community. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 1983 and then attended Harvard University, where he was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. He also worked as a community organizer in Harlem and Chicago. He was elected to the State Senate in 1996 and has served on the state senate judiciary and review committees. He has received numerous awards for campaigning for better health care.

Obama plans to help increase college grants and make college more affordable for kids like us who graduate and don’t have enough money to go to college. Obama also plans to help small businesses by targeting tax breaks in depressed areas and holding corporations accountable for tax breaks they receive from the state. When Obama visited Howard, he received an Education Champion Award and student leaders asked him questions.

Robert McKinney asked, “What do you see as the correct way to end the war? How would you makes sure our troops aren’t overextended and that the draft isn’t reinstated?” Obama said he was opposed to going into the war in the first place but he said we can’t pull out right away. The best way to end the war, he said, is to vote Bush out of office. He said we need someone like John Kerry because Kerry can create better allies. Obama also said half the troops in the army aren’t qualified and we should take them back and give them more training.

Chris Smothers asked, “What is your vision for creating long-term economic security for all people in our country? What is needed to make that vision a reality?”

Obama said we need to improve access to education because peole need a good education to get a job. He also said high school education isn’t going to cut it; we need college so we can get well-paying jobs, to be better trained than foreigners so they won’t get all our jobs. He said foreigners are paid less, that one U.S. dollar is equal to two of China’s dollars, so that’s why all of the jobs are going overseas.

Pebbles Kearney asked, “How can we get more money so that kids can get back into school so they can graduate? Can we take some money from the military budget and use it better for education?”

Obama said, “We need to spend more time on education and the federal government needs to spend more time, too. We learn more at age three than we do in our whole life.” He said we need “smaller class sizes, more student grants and a system where students can train for jobs.”

Takira Allen asked, “What is your position on the national affordable housing trust fund and what is structurally wrong with our country’s housing policy? It just isn’t working.”

Obama said there is not an area in Chicago where you can get a house if you earn minimum wage. He said when George Bush came into office, affordable housing went down. He also said, “Black folks who are in public housing are getting segregated into bad areas. We need to be everywhere; north, south, east, west, suburbs.”

The last question was Albert Farmer’s about gun control.

Obama said, “They need to ban assault weapons. There’s no reason for regular people to have them. They should also restrict how many guns they give to gun dealers.”

My opinion about Obama is that he was a real down-to-earth person and he really seemed like he cared for us. But I don’t really know if I see him making a difference in our community. Even if he tries to make a difference, Bus is going to make it difficult because he is giving tax cuts to the wealthy and taking it from the poor and middle class communities.

The assistant principal at Howard Area Alternative High School, Ben Churchill, said he was impressed with Obama’s honesty and that he kept his promise to come to Howard.

“I think he has a good chance to become the first black president,” he said.

Chris Smothers said, “He was a real down-to-earth person just like us. He is a real person and a real person is hard to find. That’s why I think he will be a good senator.”

Pebbles Kearney said, “I was really happy that he came and that he became the third Black senator since the Civil War. I believe he is going to be a great senator because he really looks at the issues that are going on in the Black community today.”

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