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Hundreds of Evanston Township High School sophomores attended the Civics Fair on Tuesday and Wednesday, taking part in a yearly event informing students about civic engagement in the Evanston community.
This is the event’s fifth year, with more than 40 community organizations from around Evanston and Chicago participating.
Organizations gathered on the second floor “Hub” at ETHS as civics classes filtered in. Students switched tables every seven minutes, moving from Evanston Made, Curt’s Cafe, the City’s Clerk Office, Rainbows for all Children and more.
Andrew Ginsberg works at ETHS as a social studies teacher and was both an emcee for the event and also one of its organizers.
“Civics is a fun class because it teaches students how to make a change in the world and engage in their community,” he said.
Ginsberg said that his own childhood memories of outside speakers coming to talk to him really stuck with him.
“I think our students learn more, and it’ll stick with them … if they meet actual people,” he said.
The organizations represented at the fair spanned topics from disability, racial justice, criminal justice reform, environmentalism, as well as a fair share of ethnic-affinity organizations.
Willie Shaw represented the Evanston-Northshore branch of the NAACP on Wednesday. The local NAACP chapter has been attending the fair for four years now and Shaw, who has been involved in civic engagement for more than 50 years, says she always looks forward to the event.
“The young people have been very engaging,” she said. “They have asked a lot of questions.”
Lisa Zschunke sat at a nearby table representing the organization Evanston Grows, which she described as a collective of organizations in Evanston that come together to build gardens, grow food, and share it throughout the community. She said the youth at the event were “energized.”
“We depend on volunteers, so we’ll be able to do some, maybe, internships for 2022,” she said.
Sari Oppenheimer and Lily Aaron, seniors at ETHS and members of E-Town Sunrise, were seated at a table at the event. While E-Town Sunrise is not an ETHS-sponsored organization, many members are students from ETHS, Northwestern University or Roycemore School.
Oppenheimer said their goal is to bring better climate awareness to students and residents and push the city to enact a Climate Action Resilience Plan.
Aaron said she feels there is a lack of opportunities at ETHS to discuss climate change.
“This is a big overarching issue that affects all of us and has so many intersections,” she said. “This is an opportunity for students to speak with us and learn. There is a lot to do and we are here to address.”
Clare Kelly, 1st Ward council member, also attended Wednesday morning. She said she was excited for students to ask her questions and wanted to be more focused on listening to their concerns.
“I ran for alderman because I believe so strongly in participating in the community and improving Evanston, particularly having the youth involved,” she said. “Without that, we won’t have a strong city, government or democracy.”
While the city continues its search for a new city manager, Kelly said she advocated to have a student on the search committee to ensure that Evanston youth had a role.
Ella, a sophomore at the high school, said this was her first year at the fair. She said most of her interests are in environmental justice, and she enjoyed the Evanston Grows station.
“I was looking forward to meeting a lot of, like, prominent people in the community and learning, but a lot of things I haven’t heard of before,” she said. “And as expected, I’ve been learning a lot.”
While she was leaving the NAACP table, ETHS sophomore Annika told the RoundTable she was also enjoying learning about civics from different perspectives.
“I like that there are so many options for us,” she said.