I have a lot to say here, since this project has been a part of my life for many years, but I will start off by explaining why I decided to start a Patreon page. Then, if you're interested, I hope you'll read more about the background of StudentsXpress and the impact it is having (and has the potential to have) for Chicago's youth.
StudentsXpress is a quarterly publication by and for students in Chicago Public Schools (preK-8th grade), so by becoming a patron for StudentsXpress, you will be a patron to thousands of Chicago Public School students across the city—a patron of their writing and artwork. StudentsXpress is the way to support their creativity, their voice and their future.
In addition to the writing and artwork supplied by the students, I basically work on it all by myself. I create the prompts for the issues, work with the schools, collect the student work, scan and type in what needs to be, layout the pages, edit everything, sell and sometimes design the ads, work with the printer, schedule the delivery and market it all. It's a lot to do, but I absolutely love it. In order to keep a printed publication going, I rely on ad sales, donations and the occasional (very small) grant. Recently I partnered with Authors In The Schools, a program of the Near South Planning Board located in the South Loop. They do wonderful work and have made it possible for StudentsXpress to continue to be printed and delivered—to even more schools than before.
However, I know I can't rely on this funding forever. And I truly hope to be producing StudentsXpress for as long as I am physically (and mentally) able! So, I come to Patreon as a way to hopefully fund StudentsXpress for the long term, but more so, it is a way to get the community involved in the project I have worked so hard on. Don't get me wrong, I'll continue to do all of the work, but I believe the more people that are involved and aware of StudentsXpress, the better it will be for all of the students already participating (and hopefully those that will eventually have the opportunity to participate in the future).
So, I thank you for reading this far, and I hope you will seriously consider reading on and becoming a part of the StudentsXpress community I hope to create through Patreon. As a patron, I will update you with everything going on at StudentsXpress, and you will get to add your input as well. I am hoping to get as many people as possible to donate $1/month, which will get your name or your business name listed in the magazine and on the web site. It's a small amount, but every little bit really does help (believe me!). I've set up some rewards for small donations and for businesses/advertisers who might want to make a bigger investment. I truly believe that together we can make a big difference in the lives of Chicago's youth—our future.
Please read below to learn more about StudentsXpress, how it got started and where I hope to take it....with your help.
The first StudentsXpress was printed in 2011, but this is a project of passion that started years ago, as my thesis project while earning my MFA in Graphic Design from the University of Chicago around 1994 (yep, feeling old now).
So tired of seeing the tally in the paper of children being killed in the city, I wanted to do what I could to help the situation. While volunteering with the Chicago Peace Museum, I worked with students in the Cabrini Green housing projects on solving conflicts without using violence. Children expressed themselves on paper—through their words and their artwork—their energy being channeled into something positive. I compiled the students' work into a mini black-and-white 'zine called "Peaceful Times" and each student received a copy.
After producing a variety of similar pieces over the years, the first issue of StudentsXpress was printed in 2011. Our mission: While showcasing art and writing from students in Chicago Public Schools, StudentsXpress aims to promote creativity and literacy, encourage alternative expressions, create positive self esteem and open discussions. We have been doing just that for the past 5+ years, covering heavy issues from Bullying, Peace, Diversity and Courage to lighter topics like Superheroes, Adventures, Music and Animals. No matter what the subject, students look forward to writing and drawing about it and learning from their peers. Students are excited to express themselves when given the opportunity—and knowing they are not being graded on it! When they see their work and their names in print, they are encouraged to do more; they gain confidence in their point of view; they see that others feel the same way they do, and possibly more important, they learn that others have different views; they see what makes them unique and special, while at the same time feeling like part a bigger community, one that reaches far beyond their neighborhood; they know that their voice matters, what they say counts, as thousands of peers, teachers, families and community members read their words.
Today, StudentsXpress is needed in Chicago more than ever. Young, innocent lives are being lost, and others are growing up to live a life of crime they may feel they are destined for. We have to put the younger generation first. They are our future. They have to see they have a future too. Giving them the confidence to express themselves through StudentsXpress and knowing that others are reading and hearing them gives them the confidence to make the right decisions down the road—to believe in themselves.
StudentsXpress is currently in over 30 schools (the video above indicates a circulation of 40,000, however that number was due to a short targeted sponsorship at the time by the Chicago Dept. of Public Health, allowing us to reach even more students for a few issues. With your help, maybe we can get back up to 40,000+). We reach students of all backgrounds and abilities. We are all about inclusion, as we feel this next generation should be. I have done my best to keep this publication going, but at one point I had to start charging the schools to participate (a minimal amount of $1 per student for the entire year). We all know how strapped CPS schools are for money. I hope that with Patreon I might be able to eliminate the fee for schools in the upcoming school year. Thinking longer term, I would love to add more schools to our circulation and possibly even add more issues. But the main goal is to continue to produce this quarterly publication and offer it as a free opportunity for participating schools. I hope we can make a difference together. You deserve a reward for reading all of this! : ) THANK YOU!
- Promotes creativity and literacy
- Serves as an enrichment program for children in underserved communities in the city
- Provides a means for students to express themselves productively
- Builds self esteem: when students see their work, their name in print, they gain confidence in their abilities
- Highlights positive role models: when students read about positive things going on in the city, they see what is possible for them
- Expands students' world beyond their neighborhood: allows students to see how others in different neighborhoods feel about the same topic
- Opens up discussions: reading others' opinions allows students to think of things differently, in a way they may not have considered
- Builds critical thinking: as they write and draw about a particular topic, and as they read what others write about the same topic
- Crosses economic and racial borders: students can freely express themselves and read about others that might feel the same way, while at the same time celebrating their differences in a productive, educational way
- Each issue serves as a way to support our children and offer them hope for the future