By Mentor Andre Daniels, aka. Add-2

Two different cultures from two different parts of Chicago coming together through a mutual love for one thing: creative expression. Last year I had the honor of being one of Niles North High School’s speakers during their annual Writers Week. This year they wanted to come to my environment to get more insight of my creative process and to hopefully inspire theirs. As the students walked into the basement of the community center not knowing what to expect they were pleasantly surprised to see the studio, music equipment and a projector with a Nintendo Wii on. Not your average writing environment to say the least. As both Niles North students and Haven mentees joined in a circle, we discussed our various inspirations, shared some of our art (writing, sketching and singing) but things took a dramatic but powerful turn after we had a paperball fight. I asked them to write their insecurities on a piece of paper then ball it up and we proceeded to throw them all around the room. When we joined back together we put the paper in the middle of the floor and shared our insecurities without using the paper. Then magic happened. The students all began to open up about their experiences, their fears, their struggles, their pain and things they haven’t exposed to each other. Through their honesty and vulnerability they were able to see how many of their peers were ready to catch them as if they were human safety nets. They were able to see that many of us shared the same insecurities and that we are not alone in this journey. I believe this excercise not only pulled the students closer to each other but also encouraged all of us to continue sharing our stories. Not only for our own personal healing but for others as well. Thank you Niles North High School and Haven Studio for such an unforgettable experience.