Grant Spotlight – Social Science

New Trier and Perspectives Charter School Partner for Peace

“The solidarity and collaboration between New Trier and Perspectives is showing how young, creative minds from varying backgrounds can connect and work together for a common goal – more peace in Chicago.”
– JJ Hill, Modern and Classical Languages Faculty

New Trier’s Integrated Global Studies School (IGSS) and Perspectives Charter School on Chicago’s south side have formed a “partnership for peace.” Their goal is to build solidarity and discuss ways they could work together to decrease violence and bring more peace to Chicago. Forty-five New Trier students from the IGSS program and 45 Perspectives students have met several times within a school year to get to know each other and to start laying the ground work for a collaborative project.

“This partnership has huge potential to be personally transformational as well as to positively impact the wellbeing of communities and the city as a whole,” says JJ Hill, Modern and Classical Languages Faculty. “What gave us so much hope was seeing that despite different external circumstances, students seemed to see the humanity in each other that makes us so similar on the inside.”

The Foundation provided $1,000 funding support to pay for a facilitator to guide the first of three exchanges between the students from both schools. The facilitator, who has experience working with youth from different communities, helped all of the students get to know each other by creating a safe place to share personal stories. By leveling the field between the students, the facilitator helped students from both schools to engage around issues of race and class, while also helping them see their common humanity.

“It was important to facilitate them getting to know each other before they could do meaningful work together, particularly given the stark differences between the schools in terms of race and socioeconomic background,” points out Lindsay Arado, Social Studies Faculty. “It was essential in finding common ground.”

“We’ve witnessed students becoming vulnerable with each other and sharing personal stories, as well as having insights around peace, what peace means to them, and action they could take individually and collectively to decrease violence,” recalls Hill.

“What was so striking was the commonalities they found between the groups even though they have, in a lot of ways, much different experiences growing up,” says Arado. “The conversations revealed how the experiences of being an adolescent crosses racial boundaries and socioeconomic boundaries. They found a lot in common despite significant differences.”

Students from Perspectives were struck by the internal pain that a lot of New Trier students experience such as depression and anxiety. Our students were struck by the external violence that Perspectives students face. Lack of peace was a common experience but manifested differently.

The partnership began when teachers JJ Hill of New Trier and Lindsey Schwartz of Perspectives attended a conference and came up with the idea to connect their students in a meaningful way. Although their students come from diverse backgrounds, the two educators wanted them to put their minds together to discuss the issues plaguing Chicago and create a peace initiative.

Perspectives students visited New Trier for team building activities and group meetings to plan the Peace Summit including designing a t-shirt logo.

The Peace Summit was hosted and led by the Perspectives students, and co-emceed by students from both schools. Students attended workshops throughout the day where they learned how to express peace through art like spoken word, music and visual arts. Participants discussed ideas and plans to spread peace throughout their communities and beyond.

As teachers from New Trier and Perspectives think of ways to build on the connections formed between their students, they are looking toward collaborations where students can roll up their sleeves, tap into their creativity and work on something tangible that can be used by groups of people or individuals for positive outcomes.

“We want the exchange between our students to be meaningful and for them to be working on something together, says Arado. “We want them to realize that both groups can affect change which is even stronger when they continue to work together.”

Moving forward, Hill and Arado envision students from New Trier and Perspectives collaborating on an entrepreneurial project that, for the most part, can be student driven.

“We are committed to maintaining and strengthening our relationship with Perspectives,” states Hill. “Continuing the collaboration between both schools would be a way to bring students together from different parts of the city to build community and work toward uniting a more peaceful Chicago.”

The IGSS is designed to provide a small school setting for students who are passionate about learning and who wish to help direct the path of their own education. The IGSS is driven by individuals whose open mindedness inspires the spirit of inquiry, whose personal involvement is fueled by compassion, and whose convictions lead them to be responsibly active, both locally and globally, in the world outside the walls of New Trier.

To support programs like this, call the Foundation at (847) 784-2346 or go to our giving page.


Read more impact stories:

Grants Spotlight 2018-2019

Grants Spotlight 2017-2018

Grants Spotlight 2016-2017

Grants Spotlight 2015-2016