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CAC Neighborhood Teen Ambassador Site Visit

On Monday, July 15th, teens from the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Neighborhood Teen Ambassadors program visited former Overton School. As part of their place-based research program, teens visit historic buildings and culturally-important sites throughout Bronzeville, like Overton, to write, produce and edit their own audio stories focused on interviews with community members. These ambassadors will also be onsite interpreters during CAC's annual Open House Chicago in October. To help these students better understand what Overton was and is becoming, Creative Grounds gave an hour long tour along with a quick design exercise to recap their experience.

The group arrived at 10:30am to gather in the yard and introduce themselves. There were three students in charge of producing an audio story on Overton (see end of this post for audio story link), and each of them had a specific role to play during the visit: one wrote down notes, another recorded the tour, and the last one asked questions during the tour. They were all very well prepared and professional about the whole process that I couldn't help but get excited about answering their questions.

As they were guided around the school classrooms, the students learned about who Anthony Overton was, why the Perkins+Wills' design for the school was important in relation to the time it was designed and built, and how the building was connected to the modernist movement.

They were also shown how the classrooms are now being used for multiple programs including Creative Grounds' 8x3: Art+Architecture, as well as the upcoming Process(ing) Transformation workshops.

During the tour, many of them asked insightful questions and tried to make connections between the school and what's happening, or has happened, around Bronzeville. One of such questions was about how the existence of Robert Taylor Homes, a public housing project for lower income families, and its demolition in 2007 affected students at Overton Elementary. To answer this question, it was explained how public housing was used for discrimination and why a neighborhood such as Bronzeville needed schools like Overton to accommodate the growing population of children.

At the end of the tour around 11, students were asked to write what was the most interesting aspect that they've learned during tour and why and pin them on the hallway walls. Some wrote short impressions, some drew pictures, and some wrote questions that reflect on their experience.

Although I'm a very shy person who's nervous around a large group of people, the teen ambassadors' enthusiasm and openness to learn about Bronzeville encouraged me to give as thorough a tour as possible. That being said, I hope to see them again at Overton, and can't wait to hear their Overton audio story!

More resources about the CAC Teen Ambassadors work:

Flickr page with photos from the course:

The Ambassadors’ audio story about Overton Elementary School.

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