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The CAC's new neighborhood Teen Ambassadors program launched in July with a week-long immersion into the past, present and future of Bronzeville.

By Jessica Cilella

The purpose of the program—which is being funded for two years by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant—is to foster empathy across communities and inspire civic engagement, in Bronzeville and beyond.

Sixteen Chicago teens ages 15-18 developed the program’s first research projects by exploring the architecture and history of a school (Overton Elementary School), a place of worship (Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church) and a residence (Rosenwald Courts Apartments).

The teens were introduced to Bronzeville with a guided tour by docent Kathleen Carpenter and a lunch with activist, historian, civil rights leader and lifelong Bronzeville resident Dr. Timuel Black. Real estate developer Urban Juncture served as an anchor partner and provided a home base for the teens while they explored the neighborhood. The Newberry Library provided the teens with in-depth archival research training.

In September, the ambassadors ran a workshop at Overton Business and Technology Incubator with architect Paola Aguirre, as part of her firm’s Creative Grounds initiative. This fall, they are finalizing short films they made with Free Spirit Media about the sites they researched in Bronzeville.

"My favorite Teen Ambassador experience was when we rode in a bus around Bronzeville and got to see some of the churches, schools and residences in the neighborhood,” said Teen Ambassador Antonio Lucero, an eighth grader at St. Matthias Elementary. “The program really helped me explore and enjoy other parts of Chicago besides my own neighborhood. I look forward to sharing all of the things I learned with people who attend OHC."

The photo gallery above provides a look at the teens’ immersion experience. To learn more about the CAC’s education initiatives, visit architecture.org/learn.


Get to know Bronzeville through the eyes of the 2018 Chicago Architecture Center Neighborhood Teen Ambassadors. This five-minute film features three significant sites (Overton Business and Technology Incubator, Rosenwald Court Apartments and Ebenezer Baptist Church) and Ambassadors' perspectives on the neighborhood and Open House Chicago.