StudentsXpress started as a quarterly publication for elementary students in CPS. While promoting creativity and literacy, StudentsXpress encourages alternative expressions, creates positive self esteem and opens discussions, often between students or within classrooms. It also highlights positive role models in the city. Each issue serves as a way to support our children and offer them hope for the future. When a child sees their words, their art, their NAME in a publication such as StudentsXpress, it builds confidence in themselves and their abilities. Reading about positive things going on in their own communities and throughout the city lets them see what is possible for them.
How did StudentsXpress get started?
This is a project of passion that started as my thesis project while earning my MFA in graphic design from UIC. 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 Cabrini Green schools 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 used what I had learned in school to produce a mini black-and-white ‘zine called “Peaceful Times” and each student received a copy. Seeing their work and their names in print made them so happy, gave them confidence and made them feel that their voice matters.
Fast forward 20+ years (has it been that long?), and my children are now attending Chicago Public Schools. Chicago’s youth are being killed at an alarmingly high, unacceptable rate. I believe we need to reach them before they get in trouble, when they are young enough to be reached—starting when they are in grade school. Though StudentsXpress might not directly save a life, the impact it can have on a young person’s future is immense. Young people need to know that their voice matters, they can make a difference, their views are important enough to be printed in a publication such as StudentsXpress and read by thousands of their peers and adults in Chicago. The benefits are huge.
StudentsXpress gives all students a voice, equalizing students from underserved communities and those from neighborhoods with abundant resources. It is an essential publication for Chicago Public Schools, and should be a part of every student’s formative years.
—Rachel Switall, Founder and Creator
• Promotes Creativity & Literacy
• Serves as an enrichment program for children in underserved communities in the city
• Provides a means for students to express themselves peacefully and productively
• Builds self esteem: when children 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 children 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 that same topic
•Crosses economic and racial borders: children 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