This article appeared in the August 24, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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When teens transform the neighborhood

Courtesy of Pascal Sabino/Block Club Chicago
Azariah Baker poses at Austin Harvest, a pop-up food market in a former liquor store. The market was started by a group of teens to combat food scarcity in their neighborhood.

These are not easy times when it comes to education. But a group of Chicago teens just got a crash course in the power of connection, commitment, and vision to spur positive change – and aced it.

Today, they are officially opening the Austin Harvest pop-up food market on the site of a former liquor store in their underserved West Side neighborhood. Spurred by the protests over the killing of George Floyd, they grappled with how to make a difference while participating in listening circles hosted by By the Hand Kids Club. They homed in on a long-standing problem: poor local access to good food that worsened after looting temporarily shuttered the few local groceries.

The undertaking received $500,000 in backing from current and former pro athletes in Chicago, as well as from By the Hand Kids Club. The Hatchery Chicago helped with the business plan.

Azariah Baker, one of the teens, told Pascal Sabino, who covers Austin for Block Club Chicago, that Austin Harvest was proof of what residents could accomplish when connected with the right resources. And others are starting to more intentionally recognize the importance of that link. In New York, for example, 27 CEOs just launched the New York Jobs CEO Council. Led by Dr. Gail Mellow, former president of LaGuardia Community College, the council has committed to supporting traditionally underserved young New Yorkers with apprenticeships and other pathways to good careers in their firms.

As Ms. Baker noted enthusiastically, “The amount of opportunities that we are creating for ourselves is incredible.”

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This article appeared in the August 24, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/24 edition
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