Chicago Schweitzer Fellow Josh Taylor is implementing his project, “the Noble Nine,” at Johnson College Prep (JCP) High School in Englewood, where he also teaches science. The Noble Nine aims to empower young men to pursue leadership roles, use their strengths to support their school and neighborhoods, develop an interest in service, and cultivate passion for the long-term health and wellness of their communities. One of the Noble Nine members, Troy Olive, recently wrote this reflection on participating in the program:
My name is Troy Olive and I’m a sophomore at Johnson College Prep High School. I participate in sports, Noble Nine, and other school activities. In Noble Nine I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned to be a better scholar, athlete, and person overall. In Noble Nine there are nine great young men who all have bright futures. These young men are very intelligent, funny, smart and great guys to hang around with. These scholars are very trustworthy, and this is one reason why they’re in Noble Nine.
In Noble Nine we work very hard to come up with ideas to change the community and our school. We want to bring the community together so young kids can have fun instead of being outside where it’s dangerous. In December, Demario Bailey, a JCP student, was killed when walking to [play] basketball with his twin brother. In Noble Nine, I’ve been able to show respect to Demario’s family by selling wrist bands that we made to raise money to buy textbooks for students in Demario’s honor. The wrist band includes a quote by Demario’s mother when he passed away. On one side it says, “I will live and not die.” On the other side it says, “Twin.”
To bring the community together, this spring we are holding a basketball camp in our gym for kids in the neighborhood. This event will have kids smiling and having fun, but most importantly they’ll be in a safe environment. This camp will hopefully remind kids to stay off the streets and away from violence.
Another thing I’ve done is run a 5k run in Englewood. This was a really cool experience! I met a lot of new people from around the city. I was one of the youngest contestants and finished in the top 10!
In Noble Nine I’ve learned a lot about Englewood. I’ve learned that Englewood has the highest poverty rate in children and in the general population in the city of Chicago. I’ve learned that Englewood has more people over the age of 65 than the Chicago average. I also learned that hospitals collect information about communities like this, and we discussed why that might be. We thought hospitals might want to know this information because they want to provide solutions for their patients, they want to determine where to put clinics, and they want to figure out what kind of doctors to hire for the community. The most interesting facts to me are the leading causes of death in Chicago. Two of the leading causes of death in the city are obesity and violence/homicide. Starting a program to keep kids busy could really cut the violence rates because there would be fewer kids in the streets with nothing to do.
In Noble Nine we use this information to make better health choices, create programs for kids, and learn about our community. The information we saw was horrible; we noticed that there are not many healthy food stores around. This may be why kids eat junk food every day; this may be why they’re out of shape. Another reason may be that kids don’t work out like they need to; the closest they may get to working out is at school or through an organized sport. Unfortunately, not everyone plays a sport. Not everyone works out on his or her own time. If kids work out or jog and stop eating so much junk food, Englewood could be a healthier place. To make a difference, the community would need to change the convenience stores to healthier food stores and have food kids are interested in. A healthy food I see my classmates eat is green apples. Most students love green apples! Many students would also eat oranges or pineapples. Having access to healthier foods and regular exercise would be a great start to making Englewood healthier; kids just need access to good fruit they like to eat and fun games they