Columbia Links Teens To Host Chicago Town Hall Meeting


Panelists Include Community Leaders, Violence Prevention Group Members, E.R. Trauma Surgeons and Teen Journalists

CHICAGO (November 6, 2012) – Chicago teens in the Columbia Links journalism and news literacy program housed at Columbia College Chicago will present their findings on violence as a public health problem and join a panel of professional experts to discuss how communities such as Chatham, Roseland and Beverly deal with violence. The presentations will take place during a town hall meeting titled “Don’t Shoot, I MUST Grow Up” on Nov. 15 at 5:30 p.m. in the Music Center Concert Hall on the first floor of 1014 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.

Columbia Links’ investigative team (I-Team) of five Chicago high school students has been researching and analyzing the strategies that some communities are using to successfully fight against violence.  The students will present their findings during the first half of the evening. Then, a panel of adults involved in local violence prevention work also will speak about their efforts at the town hall meeting.  Audience members will be able to ask questions of both students and adults.

Journalist and Columbia Links mentor Celia Daniels has guided the student investigative work the past few months with consultation from Alden Loury of the Better Government Association. Daniels says that this summer she observed how many of the high school students’ applications for the program expressed an urgent desire to write about the violence enveloping them and them and their neighborhoods.

Links students then wrote essays about violence and possible solutions in a publication called, “Don’t Shoot, I Want to Grow Up,” posted on the Columbia Links website, Brenda Butler, Links executive director, said, “Teens are often the victims of violence, so their voices should be heard regarding the problem and how to solve it. Following the print publication, this presentation is the next step in letting the students’ voices be heard.”

Daniels added, “This time we’ll examine how violence is a public health crisis, how it should be approached like a disease, and how communities, politicians, police and health officials are trying to treat and eradicate it.”

In their research, the teen I-Team found that specific strategies are used by some communities to buffer and prevent violence.  These strategies include residents being proactive about organizing and communicating with each other when negative changes first begin to take shape on the streets.  They also take advantage of quick Internet communication tools like e-blasts and social media to alert residents and police of potential crime in their neighborhoods.

More specific strategies will be discussed by the teen and adult panels at the town hall meeting, and will form the basis of an action plan for further Columbia Links work to document and help stem the tide of violence, Butler said.

The teen I-Team panel for the town hall meeting includes:

  • Lily Moore, sophomore at Northside College Preparatory High School
  • Wesley Bogard, senior at Harlan Community Academy High School
  • Alan Peck, junior at Mount Carmel High School
  • Kyler Sumter, sophomore at Lindblom Math & Science Academy
  • Matthew Wettig, junior at Lane Tech High School

The adult panel for the town hall meeting includes:

  • Diane Latiker, founder, Kids Off  the Block, a community program which serves more than 1,500 youth in Roseland
  • Harold Pollack, Ph.D., co-director, University of Chicago Crime Lab, and expert on the intersection of poverty policy and public health to reduce violence
  • Roosevelt Vonil, president, Greater Chatham Alliance, an organization that works to improve the viability of the community
  • Bob Jackson, executive director, CeaseFire Roseland, an anti-violence program that uses “interrupters” to quell confrontations
  • Hieu H. Ton-That, M.D., assistant professor of Surgery,  Trauma & Emergency Division, Loyola University Medical Center, and a medical advocate for combatting youth violence

The town hall meeting is open to the public. To attend, please RSVP at the Columbia Links website,

Columbia Links provides three academies each year in which Chicago high school teens can learn about news literacy and reporting.  They are taught how to research the crucial issues that affect them, seek out authoritative and credible sources and produce stories that bring new awareness to their readers and for themselves. The McCormick Foundation and Dow Jones News Fund provide funding for Columbia Links.

Columbia College Chicago is an urban institution that offers innovative degree programs in the visual, performing, media and communication arts for more than 11,000 students in more than 120 undergraduate and graduate programs. An arts and media college committed to a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, Columbia is dedicated to opportunity and excellence in higher education. For further information, visit