CHICAGO  — Twenty-two students in the Columbia Links high school journalism and news literacy program at Columbia College Chicago this summer wrote about their fears and hopes for their city to be a safe place to live. The resulting letters, compiled into a booklet “Don’t Shoot, I Want to Grow Up,” available at, detail student fears about gangs, domestic violence, neighborhood safety and perceptions about Chicago.

The idea for the publication came from reporter Celia Daniels, a Columbia Links mentor. Daniels said she observed that many of the high school students’ applications to be considered for the program expressed an urgent desire to write about the violence enveloping them.

Excerpts from the teen essays, which include students across Chicago, include a quote from a student who compares Chicago to Iraq, because it feels like he’s living in a war zone. Another student says it’s difficult to be proud of her city and invite others to visit. Several suggest there are negative tourism implications as a result of all the neighborhood violence.

These quotes show the impact of violence on the young author’s lives:

  • “Chicago is also known as ‘Chi-Raq’ to my friends because it feels as if the streets are at war.”–Raymond Roundtree, 17, a sophomore at Options Laboratory School who lives on the South Side.
  • “I love my city, but I’m finding it harder to defend it.”–Taylor Nazon, 17, a senior at Trinity High School who lives in Beverly.
  • “Living each day as if it were my last.”–Asia Williams, 15, a sophomore at Westinghouse College Preparatory Academy who lives in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood on the Northwest Side.
  • “I don’t want to be scared.”– Diamond Trusty, 15, a junior at Prosser Career Academy who lives on the West Side.
  • “I don’t want to be next.”–Victoria Susberry, 14, a freshman at Lindblom Math and Science Academy who lives in Beverly.

Columbia Links students hope to present the booklet to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Chief Garry McCarthy in the coming weeks. “Don’t Shoot, I Want to Grow Up” is viewable online at the Columbia Links website,, and in hard copy by contacting Links Executive Director Brenda Butler.

The Columbia Links program, founded in 2006, is primarily funded by the McCormick Foundation, with additional support from the Dow Jones News Fund.