More than 500 family and community members joined over 135 young people for a night of exploration and community-building at Y.O.U.’s annual Summer Showcase on Friday at the Levy Center.

Visitors learned firsthand from Y.O.U.’s youth ambassadors about the projects and experiences they have engaged in throughout the summer. A common theme among their projects was building new skills and community exploration.

Set up like an expo, Summer Showcase guests were able to interact with youth’s projects through youth ambassadors’ teach-backs about their specific projects, youth performances of original choreography and spoken word poetry, and even by testing their hand-eye coordination on home-made pinball games designed and built by Y.O.U.’s young inventors.

Highlights of the night included high school poetry performances about social justice and identity; survival videos filmed and produced by middle schoolers on how to create survival tools such as flashlights using recycled materials; edible science experiments from the Science You Can Eat group; and a lemonade stand and bake sale where visitors could contribute to Children’s International Charity, a cause researched and supported by Y.O.U.’s young changemakers.

Gabriela, a 7th grader, served as a youth ambassador for two groups at the Showcase — The Talking Farm gardening group and a civic engagement group focused around ending hunger. “I’m excited to see if people like what we made,” she said of the veggies and home-grown salad they had for people to try at the gardening table. Her favorite part of the summer, however, was the anti-hunger group: Throughout the summer, the group made “blessing bags” with necessities to donate and they plan to volunteer at a soup kitchen before the summer ends. 

Y.O.U.’s no cost, daily, eight-week summer program engages 600 youth across Skokie and Evanston in fun-filled activities exploring arts and culture, science and technology, and sports and recreation. Activities focus on exploration, leadership, and aspiration-building – giving young people the tools to delve deeper into their learning and to explore new interests and career paths. Studies show that participation in high-quality summer learning programs adds up to a five month learning benefit for students when they return to school in the fall.

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