Exploring issues, guiding the future

Exploring issues teen girl image

Teen girls receive myriad messages about how to define and value themselves from popular culture, parents, peers, other adults and school. The Research Training Internship will provide an opportunity for young Jewish women to discuss and explore issues that directly affect their lives, conduct research to test their ideas and report on their findings-which will help guide the future of the Chicago Jewish community.

RTI is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, in partnership with Ma'yan and the Beck Research Initiative for Women, Gender and Community at DePaul University, with an additional grant from the Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.

"This is really innovative, bringing together these community partners," said Beth Catlett, Associate Professor and Chair of the DePaul University Department of Women's and Gender Studies and director of the Beck Research Initiative.

DePaul University researchers will train interns to design a study, collect data from their peers and analyze the results by using participatory action research. The focus of the study will grow from the interns' immediate concerns and interests.

Hallie Shapiro, Assistant Vice President, Israel Experience and Youth Initiatives at Federation, said, "The program will provide a safe space for young women to talk about things like race, class, gender and social issues through the lens of Judaism."

"We're hoping to learn what's on the minds of young Jewish women," said Amira Proweller, Ph.D., associate professor and chair, Department of Educational Policy Studies and Research, DePaul College of Education. "We're also hoping to see young people learn about how to design focused inquiry that's meaningful, that helps them learn not only about the communities around them but also about themselves."

"We'll guide them within a social justice framework," said Catlett said. "It's going to be a wonderful opportunity to bring together their Jewish and feminist identities."

Stephanie Goldfarb, Senior Associate of Youth Initiatives at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, said, "We're hoping to bring together a diverse group that includes girls from the city and neighboring communities." She said a majority of the group's work would be done at meetings, because many teens are already busy with homework, sports and other activities.

"This is an opportunity for them to meet other Jewish girls and produce something meaningful to them and to the community," Goldfarb said.

"This project is an opportunity for them to cultivate purposeful relationships with other young women, and learn who they are and how to relate to and engage the world around them," Proweller said.

After conducting their research, the interns will present their findings to the community through a written piece, multimedia project, video or other format. "They'll think through how to disseminate this information throughout the community in a way that has the most significant impact," Catlett said. "We really hope the interns will come to see themselves as agents of change in their own communities."

Interns will participate in training sessions twice a month from October 2014 through January 2016, at the DePaul University Lincoln Park campus. No meetings will take place in July or August. Kosher meals will be provided at each session. There is no cost to participate. Interns will receive a $200 stipend upon completion of the project.

Jewish girls starting their freshman, sophomore or junior years of high school in the fall are eligible to apply. Applications are available on the Jewish United Fund website. Up to 12 interns will be chosen for the first cohort of the program. The application deadline for this fall is May 31.

For information, contact Stephanie Goldfarb at 312-444-2802, or at teens@juf.org.

Visit the website at www.juf.org/teens/rti.aspx.

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