Imagining Main Street in South Chicago: Check out student interviews!

Hailee Moore contributed to this story.

“I learned that everybody can help improve [this community] in their own way.” –Nicholas, 16, Imagine Main Street student

Two weeks ago, intern Carrie Furniss did a fantastic post about the impact of innovative summer programs in our schools. And although the school year is just around the corner, students are beating the August heat by taking advantage of these programs, staying engaged both academically and creatively. One of Urban Gateways’ prime examples of this “transformation” of summer programming is happening at EPIC Academy in South Chicago, where summer vacation may be winding to a close, but “Imagine Main Street” is in full swing.

An artistic take on community improvement, Imagine Main Street gives EPIC’s high school students an opportunity to work with teaching artist Samantha Hill to imagine new storefronts in South Chicago – from conceptualizing the business model to developing logos and signs with computer software. They even welcomed a visitor from the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce, who spoke to them about local businesses and neighborhood revitalization. In creating these storefronts, students were able to consider what they might do to build a safer, more vibrant South Chicago.

In Carrie’s words: Many students stated that there isn’t much to do in their community. Creating a place for people to gather, to have fun within walking distance of their homes, even if only in their classrooms, was satisfying [for students]. Student-run storefronts ranged from an 80’s arcade and clothing store, to a pet and music store hybrid.”

Check out student interviews!

Alondra (15) is a future pet shop owner and, by all appearances, community change-maker:

Natalie, age 16, is a “party store” entrepreneur who feels her neighborhood needs fun hang-outs to curb local violence:

Plus, photos of the Imagine Main Street experience:

AND a promo slideshow created by students who designd a retro arcade/clothing store.

Imagine Main Street gives EPIC Academy students an artistic and skill-building summer opportunity in a safe environment. Some of these students said that had they not participated, they would have been stuck at home this summer due to neighborhood safety concerns.

To read more about the far-reaching impact of summer school programs like this one, check out Carrie’s blog post, “The Transformation of Summer School.”

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.