On Friday, July 22, four Northwestern student-athletes traveled to the Illinois Youth Center -- Chicago, a Level M Juvenile Detention Center located in Chicago's West side. The Center, which handles a population of 104 with an average age of 16, offers transitional programs for delinquent teens, hoping to provide them with the proper education to help them stay out and stay clean once their term has been served. The Northwestern student-athletes, along with a member of the Illinois Bar Association, held a short, two-part program for some of the inmates with the highest academic standing. The first part of the program consisted of a question and answer session, during which members of the IYC talked with the student-athletes about athletics, about college life, about their high school days and their professional dreams, and about what it takes to stay focused, go to college and stay clean. This was followed by some time on the basketball court, where the Northwestern students engaged the IYC members in a few light-hearted small scrimmages. The following is what 2011 NU graduate Michael "Juice" Thompson had to say about the experience...
Last Friday four Northwestern University student-athletes, in conjunction with Northwestern University staff, traveled to the Westside of Chicago on a dark and gloomy morning to the Illinois Youth Center.
We arrived with the mindset of providing guidance, motivation and inspiration to young men within ages 13-18 for their futures.
Upon our arrival, we were reminded that we must leave our cell
phones in the car. I instantly thought "what am I going do for two plus
hours without my cell phone, this is going to be terrible." Little did I
know that this would turn out to be quite the memorable experience. Once we
entered the building we signed in and went through a medal detector and from
there we entered into the gymnasium where we all sat and talked to the young
men of the Illinois Youth Center. It wasn't too difficult to get acclimated to
the situation. It was a question and answer style conversation and moved along
pretty smoothly. The boys came prepared and had many questions to ask, thank God
Northwestern prepares us students for public speaking and answering questions
in an interview because some of these kids were asking questions tougher than
the Big Ten Network interviews. It was exciting to answer their questions, ask
them questions and get to know them.
After the question and answer portion, many of us went straight to the cooler for what might have been the coldest, yet most refreshing water I've ever had. After the water break we went onto the basketball court for a 3-point competition which us student-athletes won (obviously... They had Michael "Juice" Thompson on their team). After we scrimmaged, they had five players against our four and the boys of the youth center took it to us and won the game! Not going to lie, these young men had serious game. After the game it was time to go, we all exchanged words which mainly consisted of "good luck" and handshakes.
Overall, it was a great experience for us all. We got to meet new people and share our personal experiences with others. Inspiring others inspires me!
The other student-athletes that were present were freshmen, two basketball players Dave Sobolewski and Tre Demps and one football player Zack Oliver. As the lone graduate and oldest of the four I was looked at to answer more questions and provide more of my personal experiences as I not only tried to inspire the boys of the youth center, but the student-athletes and myself!
Michael "Juice" Thompson