By Deborah Goldberg
Coordinator of Teen Programs
Two weeks ago, JCUA partnered with Chicagoland Jewish High School on a three day advocacy and social justice retreat for members of their junior class. By the end of the time we spent together, we’d met with Jewish clergy throughout Chicago, learned about gun violence in the city, heard from young activists fighting for a Level 1 Adult Trauma Center at the University of Chicago, learned basic community organizing skills, examined systems of oppression, practiced our advocacy skills, prepared presentations on gun violence prevention legislation, advocated for that legislation in 5 state legislators’ in-district offices and in meetings with both Senator Kirk’s and Senator Durbin’s Chicago staffers, and reflected on the Jewish imperative to build a just world. It was an empowering (and exhausting!) three days.
“My legislator asked me questions about my views as if I were an adult!”
One of the many reasons I love JCUA is because we are constantly looking for ways to empower teens to be advocates and activists for positive social change. We know that teens’ voices and power are an important part of building a more just Chicago. For me, one of the highlights of the three days we spent together was hearing teens after they’d met with their elected official. Before our meetings, teens said things like, “Does it really make a difference when we meet with state legislators?” and “They won’t listen to me, I’m just 16.” After our meetings, teens said things like, “The person I met with took notes on what I was saying because he wanted to repeat it to his boss!” and “My legislator asked me questions about my views as if I were an adult!”