by Guillermo Gomez, HSC Chicago Director
As part of a social studies project, fifth-grade students at Little Village Academy recommended simple solutions to curbing violent activity in their neighborhood. They thought schools should give students other outlets to socialize and spend their time and energy -- Like recess, gym and fun, educational afterschool activities.
Eleven year-old Marissa Juarez said: "Kids would be interested in after-school programs and it would keep their minds off gangs. It would keep them inside and safe." But these types of programs are often viewed by schools as "extra" -- and are cut when budgets run tight, which they often do at schools in low-income neighborhoods, just where students need these outlets most.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, among fifth- through eighth-graders at Sexton Elementary in Woodlawn, "98 percent have heard gunshots in their neighborhood; 85 percent know a friend or relative who has been shot at, and more than three-quarters have lost a friend or relative to gunfire." This statistic suggests students are at high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that refugee camp administrators and psychologists treat with just what the students at Little Village recommended: Healthy activity, positive social outlets and creative expression.
HSC supports programs that encourage recess and gym as part of the regular school day, and in Little Village we've helped parents to stand up for their children's right to a healthy, positive learning environment. Parents are taking exercise and cooking classes, pushing for wellness education in the classroom, and hopefully spreading these values to the next generation.