All posts by Jasmine Cen

Black youth in Chicago and the future of American politics

A Medill Newsmakers Report

By Jasmine Cen

In this episode of Medill Newsmakers, we invited three guests to help us understand the black youth in Chicago.

Three topics were discussed during the show: how community violence impacts the black youth in Chicago, who the young activists are, and what the political scientist thinks about the protests led by the young activists in Chicago.

PHOTO AT TOP: Antonio Dyson talks about his experience as a young activist in Chicago. (By Jasmine Cen/ Medill)

When volunteers help connect beat cops with communities, crime often goes down

By Jasmine Cen

A beat facilitator is a volunteer who connects Chicago police officers working a beat with members of the community to help combat neighborhood violence.

Beat facilitators meet monthly with the officers to talk about safety concerns at Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meetings. The CAPS program began in 1993. More than 200 meetings happen every month. Continue reading When volunteers help connect beat cops with communities, crime often goes down

Third graders get real about race and guns in school program

By Jasmine Cen

With so much on the news about violence and crime in Chicago, it’s difficult to shield young people from hearing about it. But psychologists say parents and teachers should not ignore the issues, and children need to talk about what’s happening in their communities, even at a young age.

That’s the spirit behind a program at Village Leadership Academy, where six and seven-year-old students are delving into the city’s most intractable problems.


Students at the Academy recently had their third presentation of several year-long projects on topics like littering, school safety signs and unsafe driving.

This year, some of the third-grade students did research on one of Chicago’s toughest issues: gun violence.

Photo on top: The students give a presentation about their research on gun violence in their neighborhoods. (By Jasmine Cen/ Medill)

Students cook up a healthy lunch for Chicago Public Schools

By Jasmine Cen

A student-designed healthy lunch option was on the menu at Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday.

The dishes were created by four George Washington High School student chefs who won the “Cooking Up Change” competition in Chicago this year. The annual contest encourages culinary students to develop tasty and healthy meals for their classmates.

The winning meal was prepared in the George Washington High School cafeteria, and community members were invited to attend and have lunch with the students.

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Why Chicago teachers rejected a contract offer as schools brace for budget cuts (video)

By Jasmine Cen

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) held a mass rally in downtown Chicago last Thursday after the union rejected a contract offer from Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

On Tuesday, CPS announced cuts of up to $120 million from the current school year budget.

Continue reading

Bernie Sanders Fans Let Chicago “feel the bern” (video)

By Jasmine Cen

More than 1,000 people shouted “we are the 99 percent” as they marched on LaSalle Street in downtown Chicago Saturday to endorse presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

“Feel the bern,” the excited participants chanted, along with other slogans.

March for Bernie is a movement that spread across the nation via Facebook. Many organizers of these events are activist groups located in different cities.

“The march idea popped up on Facebook, and we said ‘wow’ that will be a really good action for the type of politics we want to do,” said Nick Wozniak, a Chicago activist and one of the organizers of the march.

After the event posted, more than 1,000 people signed up to attend within a week.

The participants came to support Sanders but many of them also spoke out for other causes such as immigration reform, eliminating police brutality and funding Chicago schools.

“I thought it was inspiring to see so many people come together talking about real issues, like immigration reform and campaign finance reform, especially,” said Daniel Schmidt, an environmental activist.

At the beginning of the march, the organizers brought in several speakers to talk about real issues including police brutality, immigration, and corporate America.

Schmidt said he believes Sanders will stand up to the misinformation  and will support renewable energy to stop global warming.

George Lenze, a college student at DePaul University, shared her passion about minimizing the wage gap, LGBTQ rights, and  minority discrimination.

The peaceful march lasted about two hours and ended at the Chicago Board of Trade. New York City’s march is scheduled for this weekend.

Photo on top: Lots of kids joined the march and listened to speeches in Daley Plaza before it began. (By Jasmine Cen/ Medill)

State start-up investment hopes to create new jobs in Illinois (video)

By Jasmine Cen

The second round of the Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund will create an estimated 3,600 jobs in technology start-ups in the next three years, according to Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs.

The state of Illinois is investing $220 million in the fund. Eligible candidates for investment funding must be businesses in the biological science or technology sector. The company also needs to be in Illinois and employ a large workforce from the state.

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Despite potential dangers, hoverboard sales glide along (video)

By Jasmine Cen

Sales of hoverboards in Chicago have not gone down even as safety concerns are being investigated, according to the manager of a major hoverboard retail store.

Several incidents of the hoverboards catching on fire or exploding have been reported across the country. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urged large-volume online sellers to stop selling the self-balancing two-wheeled devices until it completes an investigation.

In a recent statement, the CPSC said its “engineers continue to test hoverboards – new models and those involved in fire incidents” at the National Product Testing and Evaluation Center in Rockville, Md. But it has made no determination yet about the safety of the brands it is testing.

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With the spotlight comes criticism for cop-staring activist (video)

By Jasmine Cen

A few young African-American activists in Chicago became well known late last year during a series of protests following the release of a video showing police shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, but along with recognition for these young protesters came some criticism.

Among the thousands of young people led by Black Youth Project 100 was Lamon Reccord. On the day after Thanksgiving, while protesters took over Michigan Avenue on Black Friday, Reccord stared down a police officer.  A photograph of the moment was featured prominently in newspapers and on television around the world.

As the image spread, and he continued to stare down other police officers, the young protester was in the spotlight, leading some on social media to say he was more interested in bringing notice to himself than to the cause.  Continue reading

Alleged police torture victim seeks to clear his name (video)

By Jasmine Cen

Anthony Jakes is fighting to clear his name after he spent years in jail. He was charged with first-degree murder and taken into police custody in Chicago  when he was fifteen.

Jakes is still working to fit back into the society since his release from prison in 2012 and he is fighting to be vindicated. He is currently employed and living with his aunt in Chicago. Continue reading