Algebra students struggle to find formula to end violence

Written By BY STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporter Posted: 06/10/2014, 03:12pm
Array "What is the real solution to violence?": Kenwood Academy Student-Created Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence, Domestic Violence, and Police Brutality in our City on posters. Tuesday, June 10, 2014 | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times

The task for 300 South Side high schoolers: Brainstorm ways to quell the city’s violence.

The solution for some: Move to Florida.

“When we first started this project, we were going to find a cure,” said one of the participants, 15-year-old Kiara Coker. “As the project began to go on [it became clear] there’s not really a perfect solution. At 15, it’s sad you’ve got to have that kind of mindset.”

Poring over countless grim statistics — and reflecting on their own life experiences — a number of students involved in the Kenwood Academy High School project, which went on display Tuesday, concluded the future holds little hope for change.

“There isn’t a solution,” said Jade Anderson, 15.

Several students said they hoped for a better life in Florida — or perhaps suburban Chicago.

“If I have children, I don’t want them to grow up … all around gang members,” said Jonet Coleman, 15. “I understand gang members are everywhere, but Chicago is just out of control. If they grow up in a more safe community, they won’t be a part of that.”

The Kenwood violence project was one the school’s first-year algebra students came up with after teachers asked them to pick the most important issues affecting their community.

Students looked at all sorts of data as they considered gun violence, domestic violence and police brutality.

Teacher Kayty Himmelstein, one of the project organizers, said she was surprised by how open kids were in talking about violence in their lives — and by the consensus on what must be done before things can change.

“I was struck by the unanimity of support for gun control in every class,” Himmelstein said. “Almost every student was confused about why people need to have access to guns.”

Anderson suggested boxing classes for women facing violence in the home.

“If they’re ‘getting abused, then they would know how to fight,” she said. “It would be a way for women to reduce stress.”

One student, Destiny Boyd, returned to her elementary school to survey students and teachers about violence.

In the survey, a student wrote: “Last summer me, my sisters and brothers were outside with friends and they started shooting directly at us, but they didn’t have aim.”

One teacher wrote: “Home training. Home training. Home training. Teachers model good habits, but parents/the neighborhood ingrain it.”

A number of Kenwood students called for far greater investment in education and afterschool programs in gang-infested areas — as well as a big increase in cops.

Himmelstein said that if some kids have decided there’s little they can do, then adults need to sit up and take note.

“That speaks to the depth of the problem,” Himmelstein said.


Twitter: @slesposito

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