Full Bloom: Sydney Jackson works with students. | TERRY DEAN/Contributor

Oak Park high school student Sydney Jackson spent her sophomore year a couple of years ago volunteering for a South Side youth mentoring group.

That experience inspired Jackson to start her own organization closer to home on Chicago’s West Side. Jackson, 18 and now a senior, started Roses 4 Austin, originally with about five her classmates at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

There are about 40 students working with the kids at St. Catherine of Siena -St. Lucy School in Oak Park, located on Washington at Austin Boulevard.

Once a month on a Friday after school, Jackson and her classmates teach dance as well as arts and crafts to about 100 students at St. Catherine-St. Lucy Parish, the church Jackson attends.

Its grammar school serves primarily African-American families; the student population is about 98 percent black. Jackson said the school has no art teacher, which struck her because she’s had dance and other performing arts throughout her school years in Oak Park.

“It’s just my small way of addressing how rich in resources Oak Park is and how other children are just as deserving as those of us who grew up in Oak Park,” said Jackson, a dancer who’s performed in middle school and high school productions.

After volunteering two years ago at Roses 4 Roseland, located in the South Side neighborhood of Roseland, Jackson approached her church and asked how she can help their students. Jackson recruited some classmates and got support from some Oak Park High faculty.

Jackson said she wants to bridge the gap between the two communities and inspire more Oak Parkers to do more on the West Side.

CONTACT: austintalks.org@gmail.com  

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