Downtown Expedition Helps Teens Make Chicago Their Own
A group of public high school students from Chicago’s Northwest Side headed downtown for an adventure on a recent May morning. They call this city home, yet they don’t venture outside their neighborhood very often.
Once downtown, the students from Kelvyn Park High School set off on a scavenger hunt that took them to some of the city’s civic and cultural landmarks.
The goal of the hunt — now in its 29th year — is to teach kids new skills and help them see all that Chicago has to offer. It is organized by Youth Guidance, which runs school-based mentoring and job readiness programs.
WBEZ reporter Adriana Cardona-Maguigad and photographer Marc Monaghan followed the students as many of them discovered their city’s downtown for the very first time. WBEZ is only using each student’s first name to help protect their privacy.
Noelle and other Kelvyn Park High School students take the Diversey bus to the Blue Line as they make their way downtown for the Loop scavenger hunt. Some had never taken public transportation downtown on their own. “We always lived around an area where it had a grocery store and a laundromat so we really don’t need to go anywhere else,” said Wendy, one of the students.
The Thompson Center is the first stop downtown for Kelvyn Park High School student Giselle and her classmates. She and other students are on their way to offices of Youth Guidance, which runs the scavenger hunt and mentors youth across the city.
James Zeckhauser works for a Youth Guidance program at Kelvyn High School. Zeckhauser has been organizing the Loop scavenger hunts for three decades. He says many students see downtown as a foreign land: “There is a large amount of fear that young adults have out in the neighborhoods,” he said.
Kelvyn Park High School students use highlighters to mark the names of north-south streets on a map of the Loop as they prepare for the scavenger hunt.
Kelvyn Park High School students Anthony, Brandon, Yaritza, and Melissa try to answer one of 18 questions on their Loop scavenger hunt. They are looking for the building that houses both City Hall and Cook County government.
With the help of a building security guard, Kelvyn Park High School students Anthony and Brandon realize they are in the wrong building.
Once the teens find City Hall, students Anthony and Yaritza analyze portraits of Chicago’s mayors on a wall to answer this scavenger hunt question: What is the last name of the other father and son (besides Daley) who were mayors of Chicago?
The Kelvyn Park High School students and chaperones walk through the Harold Washington Library. The students didn’t know the library had a youth media center and rehearsal rooms for musicians to practice.
Noelle and other Kelvyn Park High School students take the escalator to the 8th floor at the Harold Washington Library. Noelle and other students say going through the library was their favorite part of the scavenger hunt. “I have never seen an actual library like this,” Noelle said.
Kelvyn Park High School students Giselle, Noelle, and Diamond listen to someone playing violin in a music practice room as they explore the Harold Washington Library. “I thought the library was just for books” Diamond said.
Kelvyn Park High School student Giselle receives a medal from James Zeckhauser for completing the scavenger hunt. “I discovered a lot of new things,” Giselle said. “I didn’t know there was a library in downtown and I definitely be going out there more often.”