Through City Year's work in Chicago, and the relationships our AmeriCorps members build throughout the schools that they serve in (with students, teachers, and other staff), we begin to candidly hear of students' experiences in between the final bell-and-first bell. Not surprisingly, as those stories grow more numerous, it's clear that gun violence in-and-around their neighborhoods affect them in varying degrees. These experiences, from hearing of a friend being shot, to actually being shot at, place a strain on the socio-emotional development of these students. Despite that strain, however, they are still students, and are still expected to perform at a certain level in order to successfully continue on their academic journey.

On Monday, April 25th, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin heard those experiences first-hand, as he visited students at John Hope College Preparatory High School, and met with some of them to discuss – not only the gun violence in their communities – but also to expand on how they try to avoid it.


Senator Durbin, sitting alongside City Year Chicago Executive Director Rebeca Nieves Huffman, and students from John Hope


Sophomore student Amari perfectly summed up why City Year, and other AmeriCorps programs, strive to provide crucial socio-emotional support to students when he said ““I had a choice of going gang-banging…shoot, but I feel like…I don’t want to do that…when you got people on your side…you want to show them good.”


Another student, Christopher, explained how he’s experienced being shot at, and attributes that experience to hanging out with the wrong crowd of people. He explained, “If you have around shooters and gangbangers all day….that’s what’s going to happen. You going to gang bang and shoot…but you have the power to change that…so I changed my crowd.”


Senator Durbin, speaking with students and City Year AmeriCorps members during his visit 


The ‘people’ Amari was referring to included (among others) the City Year AmeriCorps team serving at John Hope, whom seek to proactively encourage and motivate the students they work with by setting up goals with their students, and using the relationship they’ve built with them to find the right buttons to push to motivate them, and keep them accountable to their academic success once that school year (and year of service with that particular City Year team) is over.


Team Leader of the John Hope Team Marcus, Senator Durbin, and City Year Chicago Executive Director Rebeca Nieves Huffman 

Senator Durbin agreed, stating that organizations like City Year are part of the answer to the effects of gun violence on Chicago’s students. Thank you for visiting the students and the City Year AmeriCorps team serving at John Hope, Senator Durbin! We appreciate your support of our work as we look to end the school year on a strong note!



Be sure to check out what other media outlets are saying about Senator Durbin’s visit! 

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