Chicago teens are getting to be kids again.
After more than a year with severe limits because of the pandemic, this summer has been about regaining some freedom.
Teens can now spend less time watching TV or playing video games in their bedrooms and more time at skate parks, basketball courts and the beach shaking off the stress and boredom brought on by the pandemic.
WBEZ visited La Villita Park in Little Village on the Southwest Side and the Jackson Park football field on the South Side to capture the sights and sounds of 2021 teen summer life.
A skate park comes to life
A group of middle schoolers warm up before hitting the skate park at La Villita Park on July 21 during a skateboarding class. Instructor Spencer Cotton watches as his students laugh during a team-building exercise. Cotton is a program coordinator for the Chill Foundation, which connects young people across the U.S and other countries with outdoor activities.
Instructor Karina Campos gives student Jalaya Williams some pointers about how to push off. Campos, also with Chill, grew up in Little Village. She says this summer La Villita Park is coming alive again with more teens and kids showing up to play and skateboard.
Karina Campos gives student Mya Ambrose some pointers. Mya said being inside the house during the pandemic got her upset and left her feeling moody. Now that she can be outdoors, she says she’s feeling better.
On the same day as the Chill Foundation skateboarding class, other teens rolled through the park. They showed off their moves, giving the beginners some ideas about what may come next. Some of the teens said last school year was a blur. They were distracted with their video games, had a hard time focusing and completing school work.
Nathan Shoop watches as Mya Ambrose manages to roll down the ramp on her own during class.
Footworking in the park
At Jackson Park on the South Side, a group of about 15 teen and pre-teen girls gathered on July 22 for their first footwork dance lesson, a style where you move your feet fast to a beat. Instructor Jemal “P-Top” De La Cruz, teaches his new students how to warm up. The group Open the Circle is coordinating these footwork summer sessions in collaboration with other dance companies.
From left to right, Talia Davis, Aalyiha Colquict, and Aniyah Farrow practice a footwork routine they are getting ready to perform in front of the class. Their instructors say working up the courage to footwork in a circle is one of the biggest steps.
Aniyah Brown, 11, and Aisha Glasscoe, 10, goof around during a break in class. They are part of a South Side dance academy. Some of the young dancers say not being able to dance during the pandemic was extremely hard.
Talia Davis, 12, demonstrates her new footwork moves as she and other dancers get ready to dance in front of the whole class.
Hannah Collins, 15, shows her classmates a dance routine she came up with after spending more than an hour learning the basics of footwork. She and other dancers will learn more about footwork over the next few weeks.
De La Cruz, the instructor, cheers as Aalyiha Colquict, 12, Nevaeh Glasscoe, 15, and Andrea Calahan, 13, demonstrate a routine they worked on during class. De La Cruz and the other instructors want to see more footwork circles across the city and to get more boys to sign up. Calhoun says some boys think dancing is only for girls or don’t see it as cool, but he and others aren’t giving up on the boys.