This Week in Action Civics Archive

Mikva Challenge's 10th Annual Action Civics Fair!

On Saturday, April 28th, middle and high school students from over 40 CPS schools presented their youth activism projects at Mikva Challenge's 10th Annual Action Civics Fair. This year's fair at Little Village Lawndale High School featured 70 projects by over 1500 students who spent the school year working to create sustainable policy change on a variety of issues including (but not limited to) juvenile expungement, teen pregnancy, school safety, and youth homelessness. Their work proves once again that students not only have a diverse set of issues about which they are passionate, but also have the courage to take an active role in changing them! Click the icon below for a complete list of projects presented at the fair! 
icon 10th_Annual_Action_Civics_Fair_Program.pdf (1151 KB)  

Peace Week at Fenger High School

Last month, the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times both published pieces about Fenger High School's Peace Week and the culture shift at the school that Mikva's Peace and Leadership Council there is helping to bring about. Click here to read the Tribune's story and here for the Sun Times'.

Letters from Clemente

Two weeks ago, the students on Mikva's Peace and Leadership Council at Clemente High School wrote letters to the editor to express their concern and frustration about the recent horrible spike in violence a few weekends ago in Chicago. Read below to hear their voices in ten powerful letters that capture some of the desperation and hope of young people growing up in tough neighborhoods today.

Dear Editor,

There are many killings and other forms of violence happening all over Chicago. The weekend of March 17th and 18th, 10 people were killed, and 40 people were wounded. As a teenager, living in an urban community in Chicago, I think these incidents could have been avoided. Although there are a lot of positive things law enforcement do, there are also a lot of negatives that need to be worked on. Two of the main issues that seem to be important are the number of officers and the work/effort they are putting into their jobs. It is not often that I see many officers in my community when I walk outside; more officers need to be put on patrol in our community instead of places like downtown or nonviolent neighborhoods. This has to change. In order for Chicago to improve overall, schools, communities and the Chicago police department need a big makeover. It's time to add more officers and monitor their work. We all want to be cared about as equal human beings. As a young African American male I am asking that not only the Chicago Police Department, but Chicago as a whole step up and start taking action in their community. The whole community should be more involved and build connections with the youths, work with the local officers and give them the information they need to help keep the community safe.

Anthony (Grade 12)

Dear Editor,

My name is Vanessa. I am a student at Roberto Clemente High School. I wanted to share with you my concerns and experiences as a CPS student and Chicago resident. I strongly feel that crime and violence are increasing and nothing is being done to fix it. Nowadays everything seems to be a popularity contest. It seems as though if you're not a police officer or a wealthy person, your life doesn't really matter. I wish everyone would humble themselves for just one moment and analyze this situation. There was a police officer named Del Pearson who was recently shot over a gang issue. They have collected a lot of evidence and are on the top of discovering who did it. I have a cousin who has been missing for almost three years. Why is it that no information has been collected on her case? Is she not as equal as the police officer who recently got shot? Why is it that when it is a personal issue everyone is quick to act and respond but when it is something or someone else no one responds? Everyone is equal and everyone's life matters.


Dear Editor,

In past years when the temperature in Chicago rises so does violence. In most to all low income neighborhoods in Chicago such as Humboldt Park, more gun violence, robberies and gang activity happen. Little to no complaints are being made and this continues each and every time. Why isn't anything being done? Where are all our tax dollars going? With an under staffed police department or lazy police who refuse to take action, where and who are the civilians of Chicago to turn to?

With a corrupt government system we are forced to hide behind the shadows while Latin Kings and Cobras dominate the Humboldt Park community. As a student at Roberto Clemente high school, I feel scared to walk down Division Street or California Avenue without being harassed or jumped on. It doesn't stop there. Every day I have to walk past the red line to get home and I have to be concerned if my phone or other valuables will be stolen.

All I ask for as a senior at Roberto Clemente high school getting ready for the real world, is that more police are located in areas where they are most needed. For example, at the 95th and Dan Ryan red line station and more so in the low income areas. I believe if these actions are taken before the hot weather in Chicago increases, these problems of robberies and gun violence will decrease rapidly in the areas where they should decrease. Why should another teen, child, or even adult be faced with these problems happening every day in their neighborhood? To most readers, this might be another complaint letter but to me and many other Chicagoans this is a cry for help. How long will it take before another 40 victims are brutally murdered or wounded because the higher authority and politicians refused to act on these issues affecting our neighborhoods, loved ones, and even ourselves?


Dear Editor,

An increase in shootings is taking place as weather temperatures rise. Whose job is it to protect the innocent citizens who are constantly dying? What change has to be done to stop the violence happening today? I believe that the problem falls in the hands of police officers. There are not many police officers placed in the streets and those who are, aren't doing their job well. I believe that the Police Superintendent should take a better look at the areas where most shootings are taking place and if possible, should get the idea of maybe opening a new police district around the area. My question is, does the Police Superintendent have any effect on the increase of shootings? If yes, what is he doing wrong?


Dear Editor,

Why is it that whenever an officer is shot they get rushed to the hospital, but when a regular man does he ends up dying on the way because they don't make it in time? I don't see a difference between an officer and a regular person. They both have families and people who love them. Just because the officer works for the city and gives his life up at times doesn't mean that they should be treated better than others. When it comes to being at risk of dying we should all be treated equally because life is a precious thing. People die every day in Chicago communities and most of these deaths are caused by shootings. Officer Del Pearson's shooting was solved but there are still crimes that have been unsolved for years. Why can't we all stop, come together, not think about the differences that divide us and work to solve the issues in our communities? All I want is for the violence to stop because one day that teenager that dies could be one of us who are trying to make it home safe.


Dear Editor,

How come every summer in Chicago, when the weather gets nice and lovely, the death and crime increases in black and brown communities? How come when you call the police for help, they take their sweet time to come when the victim has already died? In my old neighborhood, violence every summer got worse and police just drove past it all. Every year, the Puerto Rican festival brought more crime and violence in those 3 months of summer. Cop cars and helicopters would only be around when it was closing time and sometimes when a fight broke out. Why is it that our school is surrounded with 13th and 14th police districts north and south of Division Street, the street where most after school violence happens and the only police car I see is on the streets of Campbell and Artesian? How can a student feel comfortable walking home or waiting on the bus stop wondering if some gang member is going to walk up to them and jump them or steal anything? Cobras walk up and down the main street that students walk down looking for trouble and cops are nowhere to be found. Gangs, drugs and bad influences ruin our community and our younger generation when they are taught it is okay to carry a hand gun and do drugs. Will our community ever be the same as when I was growing up and not scared to go out and play? Or will it be like this forever? Will justice ever be served?


Dear Editor,

My name is Alisha. I feel that we need some changes in our city because there is a lot of violence going on and innocent people are getting hurt. For example Trayvon Martin was killed just because he was black and looked suspicious. I feel just because you are a different color doesn't mean you're always the bad person. I feel like the community watch man, George Zimmerman, needs to go to jail because he killed an innocent kid. We need change. I feel that we all just need to get along and stop violence because innocent people are dying. I feel the 6-year-old girl from Little Village did not deserve to die because she did not do anything to anyone. This precious little girl was just sitting on her porch and a person with no regard for human life shot her.

Why when Chicago experiences warm weather it seems someone innocent gets killed or shot? Just because the weather gets nice doesn't give people the right to kill and shoot. I feel that the violence needs to be decreased because there more funerals than graduations and we need to change that so there can be more celebrations instead of grief and sorrow. What I want to see done by law enforcement is officers stepping up and really start doing stuff about the violence. I really want the police to take all the killers and gang bangers off the streets so our community and city could become better and cease all the violence. I want them to change a lot of things but I understand change takes time and a lot of effort. One day I would like to see a lower crime and murder rate in Chicago.


Last week, NYTimes columnist Nicholas Kristof devoted his column to highlighting the success that a plethora of unknown groups and individuals have created petitions using the site in order to articulate dissatisfaction with a policy, demonstrate support, and effect change. Click here to read his column or here to visit the site itself.

The Pastor on the Roof

For the last several weeks, Pastor Corey Brooks of the New Millenium church has lived on the roof of a Supermotel on Chicago's South Side, vowing to stay until his church has raised enough money to buy the shuttered motel and turn it into a community center for young people in his neighborhood. Click here for the latest news story about his on-going effort, here for links to more local and national media coverage of his vigil, and here to visit the homepage for his project, Project Hood.

Campaign, Don't Complain!

Last December, over 60 students in Mikva's Elections in Action program went to Des Moines, Iowa, to get their feet wet campaigning for the Republican presidential candidates who will face each other next month in the Iowa caucus. Click here to see the local ABC news report about their trip! 

Project Soapbox 2011

On Saturday, November 19th, over 100 students from high schools across the city gathered at IIT to compete in the final rounds of Project Soapbox, Mikva's public speaking competition that asks students to answer the question "What is the biggest issue facing youth in your community?"

  • Click here to listen to the fifteen finalists' speeches in their entirety, as recorded by WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.
  • Click here to see excerpts from a classroom competition at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, as seen on WTTW's Chicago Tonight.

And congratulations to...

  • 1st Place Winner Taylor Robinson of Phoenix Military Academy
  • 2nd Place Winner Daniel Bramlett of Chicago Military Academy
  • Students' Choice Winner Donald Abram of Chicago Military Academy


"Your Social Life" is Available for Purchase!

The Mikva Youth-Created film "Your Social Life" addresses the issue of cyberbullying from a young person's perspective. Through interviews with cyberbullies, targets, accessories, adult allies, and passive onlookers, the film presents a holistic view of the growing cyberbulling epidemic. It offers insights about the true consequences of digital abuse. Through entertaining dramatizations, "Your Social Life" engages audiences and opens the door for important discussions about issues ranging from burn pages to sexting. This film is a must-see for students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and all members of the digital community. This video was produced in partnership with Beyondmedia Education.

Click the link below to view the trailer. To purchase your own copy of the film in its entirety, contact

Your Social Life Trailer

CPS Teachers (Public & Charter)

$40 DVD Format
$40 VHS Format

Small Organization
$100 DVD Format
$100 VHS Format

$200 DVD Format
$200 VHS Format


Moms and Grandmas Bring Trash to Bank of America

Five Action Now leaders were arrested at Bank of America on Tuesday, October 11, for bringing garbage from a Bank of America vacant house down to the bank headquarters. "If Bank of America won't come to our neighborhoods to clean up and secure their thousands of properties, then the neighborhood will come to them," said Charles Brown, president of Action Now's Englewood chapter and a retired police officer himself. Mr. Brown reported that he had to gather neighbors to chase a man who had tried to lure a young girl into a vacant building on his block. "It's time to enforce the law against the banks who are responsible for these properties," he added. Click here to read the full story and find more press coverage of their demonstration. 

Use Your Teacher Voice

Last month Mikva teacher Adam Heenan worked to organize a series of teach-ins across public spaces in Chicago to illustrate the many hours of hard work teachers engage in outside of the classroom. Click here to learn more about his efforts and plans for future work. 

Preparing CPS High School Students for the 21st Century

Last week the Mikva Education Council students met with Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard to discuss their recommendations regarding how CPS can provide high school students with the skills and knowledge necessary in the 21st century. Click below to read their report in its entirety                                                                             icon How_Can_Chicago_High_Schools_Effectively_Deliver_t (1166 KB)

Listening to Students in the Lunchroom

Mikva's Teen Health Council spent the last year working on the Healthy Schools Campaign. One of their recommendations was for CPS to create a website where students and parents could see what healthy meal options were offered at schools.
Click here to check out the new website!

Which Civics Should We Teach?

Last year's NAEP results caused much lamenting over how little American students know about civics, but Peter Levine, Director of CIRCLE, thinks those worries miss the mark. In this recent blogpost, he argues that instead of focusing on whether students have any civic knowledge period, we should pay more attention to what civic knowledge we're teaching and what civic knowledge students take away from those lessons.   

Schools on the Line

This week WBEZ debuted a new monthly feature called Schools on the Line - an hour long program during which Chicago residents can call in and pose questions to the head of the Chicago Public Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard. Click here to listen to the first broadcast, and tune/call in on the first Thursday of September to hear or participate in the second. More information about how to submit questions for next month's broadcast can be found by clicking here.

Video Voter Minutes 

This past election season, students at Chicago's Curie High School researched, wrote, filmed, directed and edited these brief informational pieces encouraging their peers to register to vote. Each student could choose what style to use, and so there are movie trailers, news items, and infomercials among others. Click here to see some examples of their work. 

How to Reboot Civic Education

This week Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor gave Mikva Challenge a shout out in an article about the importance of active civic education that appeared in the Daily Beast:

A number of organizations are leading the way to producing the next generation of civics instruction. iCivics, founded by Justice O'Connor, offers web-based education projects and an array of interactive games and activities that students can use in class or at home. Students can assume the role of a Supreme Court justice and help decide a school dress-code case. Or they might learn how a new immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen by guiding them through the naturalization process. iCivics also provides outlets for students to engage in real-world civics efforts and support community projects founded by their peers from across the country.

Students continue to need opportunities to learn and experience civics in their offline communities as well. When Education Secretary Arne Duncan was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, he worked closely with the Mikva Challenge, which seeks to move beyond your grandmother's civics to what it calls "action civics."

Click here to read the full article.  

A Different Way to Tell the Story of Chicago Youth this Summer

Come summer, we often hear stories about youth violence and no more. But on Tuesday, June 28th, from 10:00am - 12:00pm, on Northeastern Illinois University's Bronzeville campus (700 E. Oakwood Blvd, Chicago, IL 60653), other stories will be told.

These are the stories of everyday heroes and of community groups and neighborhoods working against violence. They are stories about solutions and hope and not stereotypes or despair. Speakers from black and Latino community groups will talk about their efforts. This is part of an ongoing campaign called We Are Not Alone - No Estamos Solos. It is an effort to link the black and Latino news media to tell different stories about Chicago's youth violence.

The event is FREE and open to the public

The Community Media Workshop and the Back of the Yards Council are the program's sponsors. Grants from the Field and McCormick Foundations support this effort.

For more information please contact:

Stephen Franklin, ethnic news media director, Community Media Workshop, office 312 369 6400 or cell 773 595 8667,

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