Jacianna, one of several students who spent time at Open Studio Project this summer, showed the bird’s nest she crafted. For another project – making a beach – she made an entire island. She says she agrees with the quote from artist Alev Oguz displayed on the project’s poster: “Art is the journey of a free soul.” RoundTable photos

Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

Eight weeks of summer learning by more than 600 middle-school students were distilled in performances, demonstrations and descriptions at Y.O.U.’s annual Summer Showcase, held this year on July 27 at the Levy Center.

Students in the Chicago Neighborhood Project learned about a different issue of social justice each week, among them eco-terrorism, LBGTQ issues, police violence, and environmental racism. The middle-school enrichment program Explore Evanston took students to businesses, organizations and other places throughout the community. Other students focused on dance, fine art, and sciences

Y.O.U. Board member Sue Brenner says she loves to come to the Summer Showcase “to listen to the student tell what they have made. Then you can really see how the time was spent.”

Seth Green, who attended his last Summer Showcase as Executive Director in a casual shirt – not the signature YOU shirt worn by staff and volunteers – said that for him “the energy is the most exciting element. The kids have worked so hard and they are so proudly and confidently presenting themselves.”

Mr. Green added, “The summer learning gap is the biggest opportunity gap in our community. We are still promoting a camp-style program but social-emotional learning is embedded in the program.” Ms. Brenner said similarly, “We don’t care if they learn to draw or dance. We want them to work as a team, and dance is one vehicle to get that done.”