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“I realized I couldn’t just tell stories over and over again,” Dear Evanston co-founder Nina Kavin said. “The stories in and of themselves are valuable and beautiful and powerful, but if you don’t follow stories up with action, then they’re just stories.”
The site launched as a social media campaign out of the Evanston Community Foundation’s “Leadership Evanston” program in 2016, where Kavin worked alongside five other community members to investigate youth gun violence in Evanston. The project was only designed to last three months, Kavin said, but after it officially ended, she began running it on her own.
Susan Trieschmann said she started Curt’s Café because she was horrified by the high rates of incarceration and recidivism in the justice system. A study of recidivism rates in 30 states by the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that within nine years of release, 83 percent of previous offenders were rearrested. At Curt’s, only three students out of almost 300 have gone back to jail — and two of them are currently employed with help from the organization — Trieschmann said.
“We’re just all the same in the core parts of our heart,” she said. “And we’re all trying really, really hard. I would say that to my students as well. Don’t judge.”
First quartered in Robinson’s home, then in the former Foster School building, the nonprofit center now operates from the basement of Sherman United Methodist Church, 2214 Ridge Ave. The room would be spacious were it not filled with bookshelves and tables, each piled high with volumes of records, photographs and other items.
The collections have gone from three file folders labeled “Color” to more than 250 linear feet of archival material.Still, even with all the work the staff puts in, some community members said Shorefront does not get the respect it deserves city-wide.
Y.O.U. was founded in 1971 as a drop-in center at Nichols Middle School, and the organization has since expanded into 11 different schools throughout Evanston, Skokie and Morton Grove. Y.O.U. operates offices within each of the schools, except for Evanston Township High School, which is serviced by the organization’s center located across the street.
Y.O.U. serves more than 1,600 students from third through 12th grade, striving to close the opportunity gap — the disparity in access to resources needed to have post-secondary and life success — and prepare them for post-secondary success. Its board president, Cindy Wilson, said it emphasizes social, emotional and academic growth to help them succeed regardless of factors like race, income and sexual orientation.
The Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, where Keenan-Devlin is the executive director, strives to “humanize the human” by getting to know the personal challenges at-risk youth face in Evanston. The center provides free legal services for youth in the criminal justice system and schools, focusing on restorative justice programs and other support systems.
The center attempts to keep Evanston youth out of jail and prison, but is also equipped with resources to connect them back to their community.
Student activism at ETHS has even manifested into concrete policy change. In response to students protesting the gender disparity in dress code citations during the 2016-2017 school year, ETHS administration implemented a new dress code the following school year. The new dress code focused on “body positivity instead of body negativity,” ETHS teacher Michael Pond said.
Still, sometimes, Liana Wallace said she sees activists who aren’t always participating for the right reasons. “People want to join in when its popular, when its fun,” Wallace said. “Activism shouldn’t be about just because everyone else is doing it. If someone was to come up and interview you, (you should be able to answer) why are you here.”