September 8, 2017
Free Spirit Media cultivates diverse youth voices on Chicago’s South and West sides to transform media and society. It provides arts education, access and opportunity in media production to over 700 underserved youth every year. With Voqal’s support, Free Spirit Media strengthened its solutions-journalism practices and participatory distribution ventures to activate critical social dialogue and civic engagement among Chicago’s youth.
Free Spirit Media’s philosophy of change is rooted in a belief that the voices of youths have the power to influence communities and mobilize positive change. Through digital media skill building, Free Spirit Media activates social-emotional learning. It provides a safe space in which youth participants can enhance their ability to manage emotions, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. Free Spirit Media participants access new channels of self-expression and build self-confidence while developing new skills and knowledge, motivating them to pursue learning and professional opportunities with vigor.
With Voqal’s support, Free Spirit Media enabled Chicago’s youth in several ways. First, it rooted them in strong relationships, a sense of community and a network of support, allowing youth participants to better collaborate when working in a group. Second, it connected and prepared them for a career, work and higher education, with 93 percent of participants saying they gained knowledge or skills they can use in a future career or job. Third, youth were empowered with a strong sense of self and believed that media making is a positive way to express their ideas, opinions and experiences. Fourth, youth became more informed and civically engaged. Of the youth participants, 89 percent felt the media made an impact on their community. Lastly, the voice of Free Spirit Media youth participants was amplified through their participation, with many of the participant’s work appearing in major media outlets such as PBS Newshour and ABC 7.
Free Spirit Media is a part of a vibrant local media and civic ecosystem that includes other Voqal grantees like City Bureau and Mikva Challenge. It’s work to partner with these organizations to enhance youth reporting is vital to creating a more just and equitable media. Voqal is proud to have supported this work and looks forward to the bright future of Chicago media that will no doubt result from the efforts of these youth.