Since we launched our pilot project in 2012, Illuminated has evolved quite a bit. Below is a summary and an update about who we are, what we have done so far, and what’s coming up next!
The Illuminated Cities Project (ICP) is an organization rooted in youth-engagement that utilizes travel and an analysis of heroism in segregated cities as catalysts for self-actualization and social innovation. We make use of citizen journalism, digital storytelling, and other creative methods to inspire our youth-fellows towards social change and innovation.
We launched our global pilot project in 2012 by taking a team of five to Mexico City where youth-fellows were exposed to social innovators, social-justice creative artists, youth activists, and members of faith communities. The collaborative process deeply impacted our small team of five.
In 2013, ICP launched its summer internship program with four high school youth-fellows (students from the South Bronx), seven college students, and five facilitators, most of them educators in high-needs communities in New York City. Our culminating event for the summer internship program was titled Educated in America: Voices from a Broken System. During our panel, students from Detroit, Chicago, and the S. Bronx spoke about how they were impacted by segregation, resource allocation to school communities, and discussed innovative work they have done. We also discussed how travel and creative arts can be revitalizing tools for youth empowerment and community building. Our youth-fellows from the S. Bronx investigated the question, “Can art revitalize a community?” We invited participants at our event to come out to the S. Bronx and see it through the lens of our youth people. During their research, our youth-fellows contextualized themselves in the United States, several for the first time. They learned that while art can beautify and call attention to the current state of a community, it is not always a revitalizing force and helped many of us recognize the significance and necessity of systemic change.
During the 2013-14 academic year, Illuminated tested its heroism and legacy curriculum in a South Bronx high school, which culminated in student work and reflections being showcased during A Night of Heroism and an upcoming event Legacy Detour 2014.
This summer of 2014, Illuminated will test three small projects:
1. A local, NYC-based experiential learning project that will expose youth to faith communities, social-justice creative artists, social innovators, and journalists.
2. A multi-city national citizen journalism project with youth to investigate questions about heroism, “What is the culture of heroism in a city? How can city-spaces be illuminated and transformed into spaces of everyday-heroism?” In order to document why and how cultures of heroism are created, evolve, and can be sustained, Illuminated is working to connect youth with journalists to receive trainings on Citizen Journalism. We will travel and do workshops in NYC, DC, Detroit, and Chicago (all cities targeted by segregation). We will select five students from our local NYC program to participate in this national program.
3. A global initiative supported by a scholarship grant for a trip organized by Putney Student Travel, a for-profit organization that provides travel experiences to youth. This comes in the form of a youth-fellow from Chicago’s Gage Park High School being fully funded to go to China. She will be trained on Illuminated concepts before her departure, and will also be investigating heroism during her time abroad. Upon her return to the United States, this student will meet with our national youth-fellows during their journey to Chicago and share what her experiences were like in China.
Back in NYC students will present their work. Their findings will be utilized to create curriculum for our local, national, and global projects.