Chicago neighborhoods shown through students' eyes on My Block, My Hood, My City tours

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's often said that Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and who better to educate others about those neighborhoods than the young people who live within them? An organization is helping students on the South and West sides do just that this summer.

Civic organization My Block, My Hood, My City offers teens the chance to learn more about their neighborhoods by training them to be tour guides and lead tours of their own neighborhoods.

"A lot of these students here, they order their food from bullet-proof glass windows. There's an overwhelming police presence in this community. Just a divested area," said the organization's founder and CEO Jahmal Cole. "It gives them presentation skills for college and also teaches them history as a neighborhood."

The three-hour tour aims to connect local youth to areas that they never knew existed and connect Chicagoans from outside these neighborhoods to places they'd otherwise never visit.

"Instead of hearing about the deficits in the community, we want them to talk about the assets," Cole said. "So, 'Hey, here's where Dr. King Jr. lived when he lived in North Lawndale.'"

This is the second year the organization has hosted these summer student-led tours.

Some of the student tour guides themselves were surprised to learn about places just across the street from where they lived.

"I love this program. It's a good program for kids to do; to come and be successful in life and have a better opportunity than what they have," said Lonzail Johnson, one of the student guides.

Local tourists say they love it too.

"I had not heard of it before and to be able to walk around with these kids and learn about their neighborhood is just so much fun," said Blaire Strom, who was on a tour through Lawndale on Sunday.

Strom added that she may never have visited the neighborhood if it weren't for the tour.

In addition to the educational component, the youth tour program also offers these students a paid summer job.

"A lot of the kids don't have nothing to do in the summer time so what better way than try to employ them to talk about the assets of their community?" Cole said.

Tours will continue through the end of August.

Visit My Block, My Hood, My City's website to learn more and sign up for a tour.
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