MAPSCorps Youth Showcase Summer Community Research in Chicago

Friday, August 17, 2018


Chicago public high school students from MAPSCorps—a nonprofit youth group that is a William Blair community partner—showcased their summer research findings from Chicago’s South Side and West Side at a symposium on August 8 at Malcolm X College.

Ten youth teams presented their summer data collection and research findings on community healthcare, support programs, community outreach, health trends, and youth empowerment to a cheering crowd of city officials, civic leaders, local educators, and William Blair staffers who attended.

“It is exciting and rare to see kids from underserved communities have an opportunity to be employed, learn STEM skills and present their ideas in a forum of stakeholders within the community who care about what they are doing,” says William Blair advisor Laura-Min Proctor, who nominated the MAPSCorps group as a community partner last year.

As a 2018-2019 community partner, MAPSCorps received $200,000 from William Blair to use over two years to grow its programs, which aim to dive deeply into high-poverty Chicago neighborhoods to improve health and community services. The group trains youth to document or “map” community assets and that data is used to drive practical solutions by local authorities.  

With the funding this year, MAPSCorps launched an alumni council and added the Hermosa neighborhood to its Chicago data mapping region. In 2019, the group will expand mapping to six new areas, bringing their coverage to 57 of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.

MAPSCorps, which is also active in New York and North Carolina, was founded in Chicago 10 years ago as a youth employment and data-research program.

Its focus is on underserved urban neighborhoods and hires local youth over the summer to collect data on businesses, people, and organizations—name, address, phone, online contacts, and primary services. The Chicago Department of Public Health, the Cook County Land Bank, teachers, researchers, and other organizations use the data to provide better health and social services to local residents. 

The Malcolm X symposium showcased the work of 124 high school students walking neighborhoods four days a week all summer, collecting data for a total of 24,000 business assets.

Kenny Riley with MAPSCorps said its youth mappers studied many community concerns, building their sense of empowerment through the facts and civic engagement to vitalize their neighborhoods as a counter to helplessness.

The topics they investigated, he said, varied widely, including the effects of gentrification on youth service groups in Hyde Park; barriers in receiving quality trauma care in South Side neighborhoods; violence prevention in Brighton Park; and the positive effects on wellness from community gardens and gardening.

“Through all those experiences, youth are gaining skills to prepare them for college and career choices,” Riley added.

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