Loyola University Chicago

Community Relations

School of Education Summer Civic Academy

Students from Local School Participate at Loyola's Summer Civic Academy

Loyola University was home to civically engaged middle school students from Edgewater and Rogers Park this summer. The 2017 Summer Civic Academy (July 5 -28) brought middle school students together from Armstrong, Kilmer, Field, Swift, Hayt, and Peirce to engage students in community problem solving on issues that impact young people.  

Fostering confident speakers and excited learners, the four-week long program was designed to engage middle school students in developing direct action and policy proposals to address community problems.

Students researched issues in their Chicago neighborhoods and formulated public policies as solutions to their chosen topics. Student groups focused their research on homelessness among youth, gun violence, and school discipline.

“Our students demonstrated an enormous amount of academic skill, passion for important community issues, the ability to think across disciplines, and a wonderful spirit of collaboration as they worked toward and presented their community action projects to address complex social problems,” program co-director Jon Schmidt said.

Throughout the four weeks, students worked on pubic speaking, improving their researching skills, and becoming more engaged citizens in their communities.

“This program has helped me get into deeper knowledge about the issues that are happening in the community,” Armstrong student Laura said. “It gave me a different side of things and gave me an opportunity to talk to people by collecting data from them.”

Literature and Math activities were integrated into the civic learning programs to demonstrate how different fields of learning can be engaged to understand and solve local problems.

Students gathered data and research information and surveyed community stakeholders on their community issues and presented their solutions for family, friends, and neighbors at the end of the four week program.

Alderman Harry Osterman was present at this event and let the students know that their voices are powerful, important, and listened to.

“When you’re young, sometimes you don’t think you are heard. Well, I heard you,” Osterman said to the students.

Loyola undergraduate Education students, Sania Zaffar and Nicole Karwowski taught the classes at the Summer Civic Academy on the Lake Shore Campus.

Pushing their students to develop their communication skills, become active in their community, and work as a team, the teachers hoped to show the young adults how their age does not stop them from being civically involved.

“I think what we were really asking for students is just the realization that they can do something, that they have the power to do something,” Zaffar said.

With hopes of expansion and sustainability of the Summer Civics Academy leading into next year, program directors Diane Schiller and Jon Schmidt hope to expand the program in current schools and grow with other neighborhood schools to build civic leadership capacity in schools and communities.

For more information, contact Jon Schmidt at jschmidt12@luc.edu.