Word on the Street: Latin and StreetWise

Frani O’Toole To 105,338 Chicagoans, the street is home. To 430 Latin upper schoolers, The Street is a fashion blog. There is certainly a disconnect; however, as we know from partnerships like the one between Latin and StreetWise, there are more similarities in our thinking than differences. StreetWise magazine is an Uptown-based publication whose goal is to support Chicago’s poor and homeless. Latin is a Near North-located private school whose goal is to support its students and prepare them for the future. Our two communities may be different, but over recent months, Latin and StreetWise have managed to forge a lasting and meaningful relationship. It turns out that, though our communities may be on different “streets,” our destination—our goal to improve the world we live in—is the same. StreetWise is located at 4554 N. Broadway, in the heart of Uptown, and a Red Line train shakes the office every five minutes. Over my “Careers” project week, I worked as a reporter at their offices, and became familiar with many of its organizers and vendors. Gregg Pritchett, director of vendor services at StreetWise, describes the magazine as “a resource to get people who need help out of their situation. Sixty-nine percent of the vendors said that before they came to StreetWise they were living on the street, they were homeless.” Latin’s new initiative in Uptown and with StreetWise, Gregg says, is worthwhile because “as Chicagoans we owe it to our fellow Chicagoans.” The partnership between Latin and StreetWise began last fall, when Latin donated eight used iMacs for StreetWise’s computer lab. Clients of StreetWise now have access to fully-updated computers, to use for employment, housing, and other general research. “They really appreciated the donation,” director of Latin’s facilities Peter Brown said. The partnership has evolved, though, to allow for more hands-on involvement from members of the Latin community. Over project week, Mr. Cronister and Ms. Maajid brought their “Homelessness in Uptown” students to the StreetWise offices. There, students spent their time preparing a “vendor profile,” a weekly spotlight of a StreetWise employee. One profile, written by students Zach Barker, Alex Goff, and Kyle Robinson, was included in the March 27th issue of StreetWise. Sophomore Alex Goff liked his experience at StreetWise, adding that Latin is good at making similar service opportunities accessible to students. He says, “the community’s many food/clothing drives and encouraging of community service shed at least some of the light on the issue [of homelessness] that cannot be attained without direct contact.” Gaining this experience makes helping the homeless all the more beneficial for those involved. “My experience with working with the homeless has made me more aware of what happens around us and how fortunate Latin students are to be receiving an excellent education,” sophomore Zach Barker adds. It doesn’t always take a trip to Uptown, however, to help those in need; StreetWise is one organization that comes to us.  As it turns out, you can buy StreetWise at Potash — or, rather, in front of Potash. Louis Hale has been a vendor at that location for the past five years. “I love the people, the dogs, the school, and the history of the area,” he says, “it’s been one fun experience.” Polite and friendly, he has become familiar with many people in the neighborhood, including Latin students and faculty. Some students, he says, have even returned to see him after graduation. Nevertheless, the fact that he is right next door every day doesn’t guarantee that all of us are aware of his presence, or have chosen to reach out. Some people may attribute this to a kind of insularity our community sometimes succumbs to, commonly known as the “bubble.” The bubble should now include Louis, as a close friend of the community. The bubble should also include the StreetWise office, as a partner of Latin. The more we become involved in the city, the further the bubble will stretch. And, we all know what happens when a bubble gets too big—it pops.]]>