Where Do Chicago Youth Fit in NATO 2012?

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By: Sydney Paul, Class of 2012

Photo Credit: World Sport Chicago


Chicago is getting restless. The NATO Summit begins in few days and we're beginning to hear about how it could affect the city. This is the first time the Summit will be held outside of Washington, D.C. and such a grand occasion will require grandiose amount of planning. But when we're talking about such a complex, large event, it is hard to remember just how many groups of people this could have an impact on.

Chicago's government administration has set up the city to host more than 50 world leaders. Chi-town's finest are prepared to protect and serve residents and guests alike. Local and visiting protesters will also be present throughout the weekend's events. And let's not forget about everyday Chicagoans who will be going to work and/or personally enjoying the city themselves on what promises to be a nice weekend weather wise. Seems like we've covered all parties, right? Well, where do Chicago's youngest citizens fall in this equation?

For at least four days, there will be a perceptively large change in the physical, mental and emotional state of Chicago. It sounds very dramatic, but think about this: (1) tens of thousands of visitors will be visiting the Summit in some capacity, whether it be diplomats, law enforcement, spectators or protestors, (2) the Chicago Transit Authority has already announced parts of train and bus routes that will be delayed, shut down or re-routed, and some schools will even be cancelling classes for the duration of Summit. With so much activity, businesses, residents and even tourists have a lot to keep their eyes on, but we not forget that children are also going to notice. Whether in a positive or negative light--they will notice. So, how will the city, Summit organizers, schools, and community partners help students understand the presence of this internationally watched event?

In the days prior to the NATO 2012, as well as during the event, Summit organizers have created and co-sponsored many events that help students engage with fundamentals aspects of what make NATO, well...NATO. On May 12, The University of Chicago's Henry Crown Field House housed the Third Annual World Sport Chicago Wrestling Festival, one of many events in the NATO Athletics Crossroads series. The festival, which was also co-sponsored by the city, USA Wrestling and other state and national wrestling organizations, hosted athletes from the ages of 10 to 35 and over who competed in several tournaments throughout the day.
On May 16, students at South Shore International College Prep High School will host a Youth NATO Summit Reception and Member Exhibit. According to event details, students "will participate in research and role play exercises mirroring events leading to the NATO Summit", which are sure to expose the kids to a broader view of how certain issues and the event as a whole affect their world. On May 19, NATO will be providing 5,000 kite kits as well as flags and fun facts about participating countries to children at Chicago's Annual Kites and Kids Festival.

The Summit committee has clearly shown their to support to the local youth community. They are making their presence known with the intention that it be a constructive learning experience. In addition, Chicago community organizations are providing their own supplemental events to help kids make sense of the heightened activity that has invaded their home.

As the city attempts to prove to the world their capacity to be a culturally rich world center, there are going to be tons of opportunities for Chicago leaders to open a fun and insightful dialogue about why their home is so simply spectacular. Moreover, I think that NATO is providing an excellent foundation for Chicago's youth to get excited about new things. Events like those I've mentioned are great examples. I'm hoping those in charge truly use this as an opportunity to enlighten our kids because there is so much here--in this moment--to learn about their hometown and more broadly, the world.



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