My name is Susana Caizaguano and I'm a sophomore at De La Salle Institute. I'm a Chicago native and I live in Bridgeport. My older sister was part of the first class of Freedom Fellows, so I've known about the Chicago Freedom School for a long time. I finally got to be a Freedom Fellow in the summers of 2011 and 2012. I wanted to be part of the program because I wanted to help those who are oppressed. It was important to me to find a way to be part of something bigger than myself.
I love the Chicago Freedom School because the staff and other youth there are very open. I think being a Freedom Fellow has helped me to be more open. Now I'm willing to listen to someone's background and point of view before I make decisions about them. I wouldn't have done that before. We all got so close. Going on the retreat was a very important experience for me. In those two days I got closer to some people than I've gotten to others in years. It helped me to share things about myself.
This fall, I got to be part of the Healthy Communities Cohort that worked on the "Better Options, Brighter Moods" campaign. I liked this campaign because we got to build on what the Freedom Fellows in 2011 had started. We were focusing on increasing the amount of healthy food which is available in Englewood, which is one of the largest food deserts in Chicago. We decided to work with one corner store owner who didn't have any fruits or vegetables available in his store. In our cohort, we organized a "Better Options Day." On this day we set up tables outside of his store with samples of fresh fruits and vegetables. As people walked by, we gave them samples and asked them to take surveys about what fresh and organic food they would be interested in having available in the store. It was a great day, and we got to talk with over 55 members of the community.
We are still working on sharing the results of our surveys with the store owner and helping him to change his inventory. But no matter what happens next, I know I have learned a lot from being involved in this campaign. I have learned how important healthy food is for reducing risks for diseases like diabetes. I also understand better the connection between having a healthy body and a healthy mind. I have also learned that food deserts are mostly located in neighborhoods where there are people of color.
I'm proud of how much I've grown. I look forward to staying involved with Chicago Freedom School in the future.