Exchange Neighborhoods. Educational Programs

The Exchange Neighborhoods program is an educational youth outreach program of HI Chicago. It teaches high school students from Chicago’s often segregated and culturally isolated neighborhoods to build pride around their own culture, while opening their minds to learn about a new neighborhood and culture of their peers. The program pairs two high schools to host the other school in an exploration of each others’ cultures. Participants of Exchange Neighborhoods complete the program with greater respect for themselves, their peers, and with a greater understanding of the cultural diversity in Chicago and the world.

Opening Minds

“The Exchange Neighborhoods program helped the students to understand the meaning of culture, the value of diversity and the benefits of individual differences in urban settings like Chicago.”

Benito Juarez

High School teacher

“My students rarely interact with people of other races and ethnic backgrounds. Participation in this program helped them to break down and dispel some of the stereotypes they had about Hispanic people.”

Simeon High School teacher

“I thought that Hancock would be full of snotty people who thought too highly of themselves. After this Exchange Neighborhoods project I look at them in a whole new light. They are cool, nice, generous, sweet people who I would love to keep in contact with.”

Simeon High School student

“Exchange Neighborhoods will help me by opening my mind instead of closing it when I get the chance to get to encounter a new culture.”

John Hancock High School student

Strong Educational Standards

Exchange Neighborhoods brings our youth of Chicago together to work against mistrust, misconceptions and ignorance. Each year 300 students from 12 high schools learn important life skills. The curriculum integrates with teachers’ classwork by meeting 12 Illinois state learning goals and 30 state learning standards.

Exchange Neighborhoods teaches local high school students to:

  • Gain a greater understanding of our world’s rich cultural diversity
  • Respect different people and cultures as they travel through their own communities, their lives, and our world
  • Appreciate learning opportunities that extend beyond the core curriculum in their schools
  • Strengthen their ability to communicate with others
  • Enhance research, presentation and analytical thinking skills
  • Become open and sensitive to cultures different from their own when encountering new peoples and places
  • Experience the world of hostelling and travel while meeting people from around the world
  • Earn 20 of the 40 service-learning hours needed for graduation

Exchange Neighborhoods builds bridges between diverse communities of high school students in Chicago and exposes students to a world of cultures through hostelling.

Support for a More Peaceful Chicago, Country, and Planet

Exchange Neighborhoods is a powerful educational program that builds bridges between communities in Chicago. The local community recognizes the strong educational standards and outcomes of Exchange Neighborhoods. Chicago Public Schools and the Service Learning Initiative offer their partnership and support, and National Geographic’s Education Foundation awarded us with a teacher grant to help fund the program.

Because of the success of this program, Chicago Public School administrators, teachers, students, and hostel staff want to see the program grow. Can you help HI Chicago reach more youth? Please consider helping with a donation or by becoming a volunteer. It costs the hostel over $2,400 for each pair of high schools that benefit from the program. Please help to bring this important program to more Chicago neighborhoods.

Who to Contact

For more information on the Exchange Neighborhoods program, please contact:

Michelle Aldridge
Education Coordinator