Community Walls. Ecuational Programs

Community Walls empowers Chicago-area students to exchange experiences with the world. Teachers and youth leaders guide students through an exploration of culture and community utilizing an engaging week-long curriculum. Students learn cultural awareness and research skills as they prepare to share their daily experiences with others through creative expression.

Students then put what they have learned into practice when they come downtown to HI-Chicago, dine with world travelers, share their creative works and present their community to an international audience. Students experience the world beyond their own neighborhoods – the world of travel – by sleeping at the hostel before spending the morning reflecting on their learning.

Powerful Outcomes

“As I met these different people from all these different places I learned how much we are all alike. I learned that we may be from opposite sides of the world but we all have something in common. We all come from different backgrounds and different communities, but when you take time out to get to know someone, you sort of become part of their community.” Cassandra, Kelvyn Park High School Student

“Community Walls is another example of how people are much more similiar than they are different. The students and the travelers found much common ground as they shared dinner last night and strengthened their connection through the presentation. Although we come from different backgrounds, everyone was laughing and enjoying each other’s company.” Heather Pavona, Service Learning Coach, Chicago Public Schools

“Hostelling International Chicago fulfills an unmet need for youth – the need for young people to think mroe broadly about their school or their neighborhood. Students learn about themselves and about being world citizens when they interact with young people from other communities, when they study culture, and when they meet international travelers at the hostel. The program gives students from different neighborhoods common ground to meet and become friends.” Brenan Smith, Mikva Challenge

Meeting a Need

In our globalized world, students need to gain proficiency in intercultural interaction as they move from high school to college and the work-force. Through greater understanding of, and appreciation for difference, students become more caring world citizens. Upon completion of the Community Walls program, students:

Exchange Neighborhoods teaches local high school students to:

  • Strengthen their ability to communicate positively and effectively with others
  • Practice and improve their ability to work as a team
  • Gain a greater understanding of and pride in personal and community cultural identity
  • Become open minded and respectful of different people and cultures
  • Enhance research and presentation skills
  • Experience the world of hostelling and travel while meeting people from around the world
  • Earn up to 15 Service Learning hours

Opening Minds in Partnership with the Chicago Community

The hostel partners with teachers, local community based organization leaders and Girl Scout Troop Leaders to bring Community Walls to youth throughout the Chicagoland area each year. Community Walls scheduled so far for the 2010-2011 school year:

  • February 8, Curie High School, Focus community: Archer Heights
  • March 28, Chicago Discovery Academy, Focus community: South Chicago
  • March 29, Washington High School, Focus community: East Chicago
  • May 5, Kelvyn Park High School, Focus community: Kelvyn Park
  • May 11, Orr High School, Focus community: Garfield Park
  • May 12, Gage Park High School, Focus community: Gage Park
  • May 14, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana: Focus communities: Little Vilalge (Chicago), West Lawn (Chicago), Countryside, Hometown, Oak Park

To Participate With Your Students

Community Walls is a meaningful program that takes learning outside of the classroom. The cost of the program for up to 30 students is $2,000* and includes:

  • Community Walls curriculum which meets Illinois State Standards and is a recognized Service Learning program
  • Teacher training
  • Classroom visit by HI-Chicago educator
  • Cultural Passport
  • An exhibition of your students’ artwork for a minimum of 3 weeks
  • Accommodation at HI-Chicago for students and chaperones
  • Food for dinner with world travelers facilitated by HI-Chicago educator
  • Breakfast
  • Printed photo of each participant and Community Walls scrapbook

*If you are a Chicago Public School teacher or leader at a community based organization, please inquire about funding support.

Strong Leadership

Educational Programs Coordinator, Arielle Semmel, partners with strong, motivated teachers and youth leaders to ensure the success of the Community Walls program. Arielle has her undergraduate degree in Peace Studies, with a graduate degree in Peace Studies from Univeristy of Ulster in Northern Ireland. She has served as a youth worker for a variety of Chicago non-profits since 2001 and has traveled in Europe, North America, and South America. She has earned recognition for her work at the hostel, including Hostelling International USA’s Robert B. Johnson Award for leadership by individuals under the age of 35.

Support Intercultural Understanding

Community Walls is a powerful educational program benefiting the youth of Chicagoland. Can you help HI-Chicago reach more youth? Please consider helping with a donation or by becoming a volunteer. It costs the hostel over $2000 for each group of youth that benefits from this program, and we utilize volunteers to deliver the program and during the dinner preparation.


Who to Contact

For more information or to register your group, please contact:

Anna Lucas Marin
Education Coordinator
312-360-0300  Ext: 1545