"I didn't let the pandemic stop me from pursuing the things I wanted to do. For example, I didn't get the job I wanted, but that gave me room to improve as a person and gain more experience. I eventually got a job. I am resilient because obstacles can't stop me from pursuing my dreams."——Nina West, Comer Alumna, University of Illinois, 22
We've remained committed to providing meaningful education and enrichment programs through virtual and safe in-person learning experiences throughout the pandemic. When schools shifted online this spring, we adapted quickly, creating virtual engagement opportunities. Realizing how our families were affected by an evolving situation, we sprang into action as new needs arose.
“Knowing we would have a fresh and healthy meal during the pandemic made things less stressful for our family.”——Community Member
During the summer, Comer Crops handed out 1,330 individual bags, totaling about 3,400 lbs, of free, sustainably grown produce twice a week to youth, families, and community members in front of the center. Our Culinary Team also distributed over 1,000 lbs of produce used in daily meals so far this year. We donated about 3,000 lbs (and counting) to food pantries within a couple of blocks of the campus, and we partnered with neighborhood restaurants who have received over 1,200 lbs of our produce so far this season, much of it free or discounted.
“The meal service helped fill the void when we didn’t have enough money for food.”—— Community Member
This summer, we offered a variety of virtual employment opportunities covering media, technology, journalism, culinary arts and urban agriculture. We provided kits containing supplies and equipment and offered incentives for participants throughout the program. This allowed for an educational and tactile experience for youth to engage in activities at home. We provided laptops and other equipment to eliminate technological barriers and ensure youth participation. Learn more: 2020 Youth Opportunities Summer Showcase.
We hosted Dare to Rise, our first-ever Virtual Career Day, with 21 panelists and 300 young people participating. Our diverse panel represented careers from science and technology to the arts, from business to political activism. Youth reported that the experience inspired them to stay open to different careers, to never give up, to be focused and determined to succeed, and to not be afraid to do what they love.
“I enjoy making and programming robots. I am learning how to program and how electronic items go, and how that relates to math and technology.”——Rebecca Brutus
"Together," by students in this summer's art program, was inspired by Milton Glaser, a renowned graphic designer who passed away this summer. Glaser, an old friend and former colleague of our founder Gary Comer, actually designed the original Gary Comer Youth Center logo. He also designed several murals for the youth center, including the one pictured in the background. Glaser's typographic treatment of the word "together" was done in response to the pandemic, and our youth continue to reflect on what the word "together" means to them during this unprecedented moment.
We are looking forward to 2021 with hope and we are ready to secure the future for our young people and our community. We invite you to connect and get involved!