South Side Stories Spotlight, February 2015: First Loves

South Side Stories February

Each month, Ci3’s South Side Stories features digital stories that spotlight the lives of adolescents and young adults from the South Side of Chicago. This month’s Spotlight focuses on first love, as told by our youth partners who are close to those “first” experiences. In the following stories, youth describe their first experiences with romantic love, reflecting on the role these experiences play in shaping their identity, relationships to others and hopes for the future.

Alexia’s story, Rumors, describes how powerful — and painful — a first encounter with love can be. She recalls, “Every girl never forgets her first love. In this case, I wish I could.” In high school, she met someone who made her feel cared for and accepted, as she explains, “The truth is, I felt special to be wanted. I wanted him to want me. Everyone loves the feeling of being wanted.” As the relationship progresses, Alexia describes how professions of love become requests for sex, leaving her feeling pressured. When the relationship becomes public, she becomes the subject of rumors, and describes feeling betrayed and isolated. She recalls: “What made me feel even lower was not having anyone to talk to. I realized who my real friends were at that moment.” Her experience changed her way of seeing the world, as she developed a fear of being judged and an inability to trust others. Despite the turmoil of this relationship, Alexia finds resilience within herself: “I still haven’t given up on love. I hope that one day, I will get my fairy tale ending.”


In his story, Bonds, Demetrius describes the critical role his partner plays in his social and emotional development. When his parents divorced, he is shocked and hurt by what happens to his family: “I never thought my Dad would betray my Mom.” He reacts by putting up walls to protect himself from being hurt by others. This coping mechanism works until his partner begins to ask about his real feelings,“My girlfriend is the closest person to me besides my family. She asked me recently: ‘how come I’ve never seen you cry?’…I told her how scared I was of being hurt…how I cover everything up with a smile.” In his story, he describes how he can trust her and as a result begins to trust others, “Because of her, I now am able to let people in, I now have the ability to create stronger bonds with people.”

Tia’s story, Closer, is about a cycle of loss and renewal. She falls in love with a young man in her South Side neighborhood“where every block is hot, and nobody is safe.” Her mom, concerned about the violence in their community, moves the family to a new neighborhood. But Tia wants to retain the relationship with her boyfriend, saying,“me moving away wasn’t me moving on.” However, with greater geographic distance, the relationship begins to fall apart. She describes trying to contact her boyfriend on her cell phone and the repeated cycle of “he picks up, hangs up, dial tone.” Tia blames her mother for her loss, “Mommy, I hate you”. . But then, as time passes, she forgives, understands, and accepts her mother’s decision. She describes spending more time with her mother and the joy that comes from their conversations and closeness. As she relinquishes her old love, Tia addresses her mother: “We’re closer now. The love you give is something many people put their hands together at night and pray for.”

A’jua opens her story, Four Corners, wryly: “I’m a teenage girl, so you guessed it right if you said it was about boys.” A’jua’s first love grew out of an important friendship. A certain intersection in Chicago, four corners, reminds her of their shared love of music and the places where they hung out together. But when the friendship tips into romance, the relationship sours. Following a first kiss, A’jua recounts “he texted and said that it didn’t feel right, and neither did I.” Disappointed and hurt, A’jua admits that “when I listen to certain musicians, or meet a new boy, I think about him, and how he doesn’t even care.” Despite her hurt feelings, A’jua comes to appreciate her own worth and envisions a healthy relationship in the future: “One day soon, I will have a boyfriend who appreciates me, and thinks that every day with me is a blessing.”

We thank the authors for sharing their stories.


Click here for the full Spotlight, including broader implications and a research guide.

South Side Stories is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation.

Ci3 Executive Director Named Keynote Speaker at April 18 Diversity Symposium

Ci3 Executive Director, Dr. Brandon Hill. Image courtesy of Dr. Brandon Hill.

Ci3 Executive Director, Dr. Brandon Hill. Image courtesy of Dr. Brandon Hill.

Ci3 Executive Director Dr. Brandon Hill will deliver the keynote speech at Ancona School’s 3rd Annual Diversity Symposium on Saturday, April 18 in Chicago. This year’s symposium will explore gender fluidity and nonconformity in the context of parenting and teaching. Dr. Hill’s keynote will be followed by breakout sessions such as “Reclaiming Our Gender Narrative” and “Custom You, Custom Gender Identity” and a performance by About Face Theatre. Educators, parents, school leaders, and community members interested in multicultural education are welcome to attend. Click here for tickets.

TOMORROW: Research/Playtest Opportunity for Teens at Ci3/GCC

the source hexacago
Ci3 and Game Changer Chicago are seeking high school students ages 14-18 to participate in a paid research study tomorrow night (Tuesday, Nov. 25) from 5-6:30 p.m. on The University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park. The time commitment is approximately 75 minutes, during which teens will play the Hexacago board game with peers and complete two short surveys. Teens will be compensated $15 for the session. Feel free to bring a friend! Please note, parental consent will be required for all participants under 18.
If you are interested, please contact Erin Jaworski through phone (773-834-9965) or by email (  You are not officially registered until you received a confirmation email from Erin. 


South Side Stories Spotlight, October 2014: Cultural Identity

SSS October

Each month, South Side Stories features digital stories that spotlight the lives of adolescents and young adults from the South Side of Chicago.

This month’s theme is cultural identity. These four young women explore language, music and social customs, both their own and those of others, reflecting upon how these discoveries enrich their own identities.

Click here for a full version of the October Spotlight, including broader implications and a resource guide.

In Bald and Beautiful, Jakina narrates the process of overcoming insecurity and acquiring a more positive self-image. Jakina, who has alopecia (hair loss), recalls teasing and bullying from other children in her neighborhood and school. As a young adult, she decides to embrace her baldness and go without a wig. “No longer will I allow hair to define my beauty. No longer will I be submitted to wear wigs because society wants me to have hair.”



The second story, Manifest, chronicles a young woman’s first concert experience. Gabrielle is excited to see her favorite group, but is overwhelmed by the sounds, smells and collective energy of the crowd surrounding her. Finally, she remembers why she came to the show and realizes she is part of something much larger. “Pushing through the crowd, closer to the stage, just feet away…I’m lost in the music.”



In Outsider, Kyla describes her “sheltered” childhood on Chicago’s South Side. “My whole life had been set up to please others and not myself.” While Kyla embraces both the North and South Side cultures, she is surprised when her peers are less understanding of her outlook. Kyla’s story demonstrates the complexity of balancing the expectations of her peers with her own identity development.



In the final story, Ringtones, Darnisha explains the origins and implications of her fascination with Korean culture. She finds that learning about another culture has only enriched her own African American identity. “My skin, my hair, the food I eat, my identity as a Black girl, a granddaughter, a friend, and an optimist, I still carry with me, so people understand that you,we, can be the best of both worlds.”



Together, these stories illustrate the sense of identity, gleaned from pushing boundaries, asking questions and navigating new environments in pursuit of a fuller human experience. We thank the authors for sharing their stories and honor their curiosity, intelligence and honesty.

South Side Stories is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation.

South Side Stories Featured on Be You Media

Larry Anticipation

South Side Stories, Ci3’s digital storytelling project supported by the Ford Foundation, has been featured on Be You Media, a collaboration of the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Mikvah Challenge. Be You Media posted the stories of Larry, a young man who ponders the ramifications of coming out to his mother, and Alexia, a young woman dealing with rumors. For more about South Side Stories, visit

South Side Stories Spotlight, September 2014: School Life

South Side Stories September

Each month, Ci3’s South Side Stories will feature digital stories that spotlight the lives of adolescents and young adults from the South Side of Chicago.

This month, in honor of the start of a new academic year, we present stories about high school. The stories explore young people’s emotional and academic experiences, particularly as they cope with Chicago’s highly segregated schools. We hear what it is like to be the only African American in a predominately white school or being in predominately African American schools, where teachers and even peers have low expectations. These stories are about wanting to fit in, wanting to stand out, wanting to be challenged, and not wanting to be dismissed.

Click here for a full version of the September Spotlight, including broader implications and a resource guide.

The first story, Walls, tells Spenser’s story of being the only African American girl in her class until her freshman year at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. There, she discovers “a type of diversity I’d never experienced before.” The emotional walls she constructed begin to come down when she and a classmate get lost one day in downtown Chicago and bond.



Najim’s storyConfidencedescribes feeling insecure at high school. Her classmates tell her she doesn’t belong and call her names: “fat”, “know-it-all”, “teacher’s pet.” “I believe everything people say and it hurts.” Yet, she also imagines herself as “fearless, courageous, brave and very bold.”



In the third story, School ZoneJerrold describes the first day of school, where uniforms and no earrings make him feel generic. His school does not matter to him, and he feels he does not matter to his school. Jerrold says, “High school teaches you about dead people and calls it history. I question: when is a dead person going to help me with anything in life?”



In Tested +, Charial confronts being discouraged by her teacher. “My 8th grade teacher made me feel in a way that I was not smart enough…I’d be fibbing if I said it didn’t affect the way I carried myself, the way I viewed things. But honestly, it made me feel like I had something to prove.”



Together, these youth illustrate that despite vulnerabilities, they are intellectually and emotionally resilient. We thank the authors for sharing their stories and honor their determination.

South Side Stories is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation.

South Side Spotlight, July 2014: Betrayal, Bullying and Resilience

SSS July

Each month South Side Stories will feature digital stories that spotlight the lives of adolescents and young adults from the South Side of Chicago.

This month, we feature digital stories by four young women who convey tales of betrayal, bullying, and inner resourcefulness.

The first story, Rumors, voices the story of Alexia and her feelings about being pressured into having sex by her boyfriend—convinced that this was the only way to prove her love to him. Later, Alexia feels betrayed when her boyfriend loses interest in her and the rumors begin to circulate. This story highlights the complex decisions young women face when learning how to develop healthy romantic relationships, including the decision to have sex. The betrayal Alexia expresses is common and highlights the gendered stereotypes that many adolescent girls confront when becoming sexually active, as well as the importance of having trusted friends and adults to make sense of such experiences.

“Hearing the story from an outsider’s perspective sounded so naïve and stupid…What made me feel even lower was not having anyone to talk to.”

In the second story, Overcome, a young girl confronts the realities of substance abuse by people in her life when she discovers some unsettling evidence in her boyfriend’s room: “I don’t speak; I just show.” Her denial that her boyfriend is using drugs gives way to anger and then, sadness. The images of cracks in the sidewalk, empty parking lots, a gated entrance, and discarded trash are potent symbols of her loneliness and despair. The story captures the hope, sadness, disillusionment, and longing that touch many youth who have witnessed the pain of drug abuse.

“My heart was shattered, and I no longer believed in the saying ‘Love can conquer anything.’” 

Bullying can have a profoundly negative impact on young people’s health and well-being and our third story, Bloodhounds, tells Priya’s story of being bullied by a former close friend. Her story captures the essence of a great friendship—“from the sleepovers to lunch outings to sitting next to each other on every trip. How we grew together from children to teens”—that is interrupted by the transition to adolescence, as “middle school brings change.”  The reoccurring motif of moving along a lonely path is a powerful symbol of the haunted pursuit of name calling. Along the way she becomes stronger.

“I will keep running as your words seem to find me like bloodhounds.”

The final story, Confidence, illustrates the inner strength of Najm as she describes her experience of being taunted and teased by people in her life. . Her struggle to fight against her insecurities and be “fearless, courageous, brave and very bold” is a common experience for adolescent girls, especially those who are bullied or teased by their peers. The repeated image of a young woman flexing her muscles is symbolic of Najm increasing self-esteem and exercising her will to believe in herself in spite of adversity.

“All my life people have been telling me what I’m not: not pretty, not cool enough…. Most of all that I don’t belong.

Together, these stories highlight the challenges and difficult transitions young women face during adolescence. Their collective voices demonstrate the need for safe emotional spaces and representations of healthy relationships in their social environment. Further, these stories demonstrate the resiliency of these young women.

We thank the storytellers for sharing their stories and honor their inner strength and courage.

South Side Stories aims to raise the voices of African American youth living on the South Side of Chicago, and to create an innovative body of social science research and education to better inform community members who work with youth. South Side Stories is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation. For more about the project, visit

Clear communication during appointment scheduling can increase LARC uptake

Portrait of a female doctor using a computer while being on the phone

UPDATE: the final version of this article is now online. Read the abstract and download the full article in PDF format.

A new study from Dr. Melissa Gilliam and former Section staff discusses why some scheduled IUD appointments do not result in placement.

“Impact of a revised appointment scheduling script on IUD service delivery in three Title X family planning clinics” was published in the June 2014 online issue of Contraception.

This study began by reviewing clinic administrative data, which showed that women did not receive a desired IUD because of cancellations, no-shows, the need for an IUD-specific appointment, lack of awareness of clinic guidelines, and unknown pregnancy status.

With these systems-level barriers in mind, the researchers created a simple and scalable intervention: revising the appointment scheduling call script. The revised script used by telephone schedulers at a call center addressed these common mishaps and met national Title X guidelines. Along with the revised script, visual tools reminded schedulers to explain behavior prerequisites such as “Do not have unprotected sex at least two weeks prior to an appointment” and “Continue to use pills, patches, or rings up until the appointment”. The script also prompted schedulers to communicate logistical requirements such as bringing an ID, proof of insurance or cash to pay for the procedure, and instructions to call and cancel an appointment if necessary.

Before the new script was instituted, only 47 percent of patients at these sites successfully received an IUD at their scheduled appointment. After implementation of the revised script, 60 percent of scheduled appointments resulted in the desired IUD insertion. Additionally, the no-show rates decreased from 40 to 23 percent, and in particular, young women were more likely to keep their scheduled appointment.

This study shows that a simple IUD appointment scheduling script with clear communication improves LARC uptake. Additionally, as many clinics in the US move forward to computerized and centralized call centers, improving patient communication during the scheduling process may have a broad impact on clinical efficiency.

Related: Development and testing of an iOS waiting room “app” for contraceptive counseling in a Title X family planning clinic


Use of an iOS Waiting Room “App” Improves LARC Knowledge

image from www.securedgenetworks.comSection Chief and Ci3 Founder and Director Dr. Melissa Gilliam has published a research article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology called Development and Testing of an iOS Waiting Room “App” for Contraceptive Counseling in a Title X Family Planning Clinic.

Data shows that long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods (the IUD and implant) are highly effective forms of contraception, but used by less than 10 percent of US women. After talking to clinic staff and analyzing appointment data at three Title X clinics in Chicago, this study found that a lack of contraceptive counseling during a scheduled appointment contributes to the under-use of LARC methods.

This study began by identifying key failures in IUD service delivery, including inadequate counseling time, non-use of waiting room pamphlets, and failure to counsel all women on LARC methods. As a result, the research team opted to create a counseling “app” to increase women’s contraceptive knowledge and interest in the most effective methods.

Results showed that users were highly satisfied with the app and it was easy to use. A brief (<15 min) app session significantly improved women’s knowledge scores on the relative effectiveness of LARC compared with other methods—before she even met with the healthcare provider. App testers (n=17) preferred the interactive, visually appealing design and video testimonials. In the pilot RCT (n=52), app users had significantly higher knowledge of contraceptive effectiveness (p=0.0001) and increased interest in the implant (7.1% to 32.1%, p=0.02) post-intervention. While app users reported increased interest in the contraceptive implant, the app had no discernible impact on women’s interest in the IUD.

The study concluded that integrating app usage into the Title X setting is highly acceptable, informative, and easily integrated into waiting room situations or downloaded onto smartphones in advance of a visit. Thus, apps could be a mechanism for implementing timely, evidenced-based educational information to a wide network of clinics and clients.

South Side Spotlight: Pride (June 2014)

SSS Larry

Each month, Ci3’s South Side Stories project will feature different digital stories in the South Side Spotlight.

In honor of Gay Pride Month, here is a rare glimpse into the lives of two young men living in Chicago.

First we feature Aaron’s story, “Black Rainbows”, in which he talks about the North Side gay community and the South Side African American community. The motif of the train is a powerful symbol of moving between separate worlds.  A number of issues arise through his words—Gay Pride, Black Pride, segregation, discrimination, belonging—as he asks “Why isn’t Black a color on the rainbow?”

The second is Larry’s story, “Inside/Out”, in which he talks about the relief and anxiety of disclosing one’s sexual orientation to parents and family. “Anticipation haunts me.” Sounds— long pauses, a phone ringing, a warm voice, a sigh of relief—illustrate how uneasiness and happiness coexist. Despite her kind reaction, Larry still states “no mother wants a gay son.”

Together, the stories highlight the importance of identity, resilience, and acceptance among African American gay youth and the larger LGBT community. We thank the authors for sharing their stories and honor their pride.

South Side Stories aims to raise the voices of African American youth ages 13-24 living on the South Side of Chicago, and create an innovative body of social science research and education to better inform community members who work with youth. South Side Stories is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation.

For more about the project, visit