Works and Days



Connecting with Minority Youth in the Greater Chicagoland Area, McGill Lawrence, Rosa Leal

McGill Lawrence Internship Award recipient Rosa Leal, '18, interned with the Choices Youth Outreach organization, implementing youth programs in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago.

Coming back home this summer has been a truly eye-opening experience. These last few months have been some of the most rewarding and hectic times. I was originally intended to intern with the Chicago Freedom School (CFS); however CFS contacted me two weeks into the summer apologizing that they could no longer offer a position. At first, I panicked! Then I realized I could work with an organization that I had contacted earlier in the grant process. After a week of delegation, I went on to intern with Choices Youth Outreach (CYO), a nonprofit located in the greater Chicagoland area (right in my hometown of Kankakee). Despite however stressful, my path with CYO has turned out to be a truly invaluable experience!

One of my goals this summer was to gain knowledge of the sociological issues facing the area. I wanted to work with an organization that addresses the aftermath of the Chicago Housing Crisis. A devastating policy failure that culminated in the displacement of some 181,000 residents of mostly black neighborhoods in West and Southside Chicago. As a result, concentrated poverty levels were exacerbated and started filtering into nearby towns. Wealth and jobs concentrated into newly-formed mostly white neighborhoods as a result of redistricting and complete neglect by local/federal government. In fact, I didn’t realize the severity of the situation until I was actually back home: boarded-up houses, failing schools, defunded social programs, over-policing, increased gang-affiliation, and violence every day.