Chicago students encourage youth to interact with police to reduce violence

FOX 32 NEWS - Some hard-working high school students from Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood will get some national recognition next week for their efforts to improve relations between young people and police.

They’ll appear on-stage in Aspen, Colorado before some of the country's most influential movers and shakers.

Students from Wendell Philips High School beat out 19 other high schools in what's called ‘The Aspen Challenge.’ It’s sponsored by the Aspen Institute, a think tank which encourages leadership and problem solving. The Wendell Phillips kids took on the challenge of encouraging young people to interact with police, and hopefully reduce violence.

Marketing expert Lauren McCadney Williams was one of the judges.

“Wendell Phillips completely stood out, not only because of the problem that they were tackling, but also because of the approach that they took it terms of building something that's sustainable,” Williams said.

The students came up with a curriculum which will help young people of color understand the role of police and also their own rights when dealing with police. Their coach, Gabby Benoit, won't soon forget the excitement of winning the challenge.

“Oh my god, I almost ugly cried. I was so excited. I was so proud of them,” Benoit said.

Benoit says the students deserve all the credit.

“They were the ones that came up with the idea to create the curriculum, and they were the ones that wanted to share it with all the schools in the community that they could meet and interact with,” Benoit said.

“Bringing the police in the school and having them interact with the kids, they learn that not all kids are trouble, and not all police officers are trouble,” said student Shavanti Williams.

Their project included a video and all 20 teams met with Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and other officers to discuss their ideas. The Wendell Phillips winners say the ‘Challenge’ has given new direction to their lives, and hopefully others.

“It actually has given me a sense of need, or I want to help my community in different ways, whatever ways I can,” said student Joshua Scott.

The kids get several days in Aspen, but only have appear on stage once, so they'll be able to take in the scenery and have some fun while they're there.

Second place in The Aspen Challenge went to the Al Raby School for Community and Environment, and third place went to Northside College Prep.

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