Re-think: This is Casey
Hello, Darst Center and friends, my name is Casey Kaldahl and I am your media intern for the summer! As well as helping the development team with social media, I’ll be taking part on retreats as a facilitator this summer. In my junior year of high school, I was a participant on a Darst Center retreat and five years later I’ve found my way back. I am beyond excited to see what the summer holds!
Last May I graduated from Miami University in Oxford, OH with BA’s in Social Justice Studies and Professional Writing. I also minored in Community-Based Leadership and Spanish. This background has prepared me well to come alongside the Darst team in the education of youth around social injustice. As a Chicago native, my heart is for this city. I returned after school because I was pulled back by the people I’ve met and the stories I’ve heard that make this city so special. My passion lies in finding solutions to the educational inequalities present among today’s youth, particularly in Chicago. I firmly believe that bridging this gap will lead us all to a brighter future. Our children are the key to sustainable change and we have a responsibility to invest in their well-being. I have experience in working with high school students in a variety of learning environments towards college readiness, job readiness, and future planning. Direct service is where my heart lies.
Last week, I took part in my first retreat as a facilitator. I came alongside a group of six students from Manhattan College, crossing the city and visiting a wide array of partner organizations. We focused on topics like homelessness, food insecurity, immigration, mass incarceration, and the education system. Facilitating this retreat was a wildly different experience from my memories of my time at the Darst Center in high school. I learned far more from these students than I anticipated. It was exciting to see a group of New Yorkers fall in love with this city. Beyond that, it was fascinating to see and hear how spending time in Chicago and talking to its people forever changed the students’ perspective on the city. We all know that, in recent years, Chicago has not been portrayed well in the media. There is corruption, violence, and an increase in gun-related deaths. This city is not perfect – but neither is any other city in America. These students arrived with a media-influenced perspective on Chicago but left with perspectives they had formed on their own. Through site visits, talking to the people we served, and seeing Chicago for themselves, our students were able to humanize the issues that we were seeing. In doing so, they saw that Chicago is so much more than what the media depicts it to be.
This is the kind of learning that excites me. I hope that this summer is full of more stories like this. I hope this summer is full of open minds, open hearts, and open eyes. This city and the issues we cover with our students are so much more than how they are presented in headlines and cover stories. It is our work here, at the Darst Center, to have the hard conversations, to challenge the norms, and to equip our youth with the tools of change.