What happens when you have a room full of outstanding out-of-school time mentors? Something energetic and influential happens when advocates for mentorship gather — even online!
On December 21, 2020, Elizabeth “Liz” Reyes from Yollocalli Arts Reach of the National Museum of Mexican Art was named the recipient of this year’s Brother Mike Award!
Liz is an example of an artist and mentor who wants to make positive change in the lives of young people and her community. She got her start as a mentee in the Yollocalli program while attending Curie High School. There she honed her art skills and developed an interest in graffiti; as her skill set grew, she learned how public art can be a powerful social change tool within a community.
As an instructor and mentor, Liz combines her knowledge of art, graffiti, and community to teach the next generation of young art leaders. She leads the classroom as a collaborator, asking students for their expertise, as opposed to a traditional teacher who holds all knowledge.
Reyes’ understanding of all youth having as much knowledge and creativity as she does allows them space to define their own themes in their work. A youth from her 2019 class stated, “I’ve known her since I was 14. I am now 19 and I have grown so much as a person as well as an artist through this program. I create freely in an open space too, I like that. The instructor makes the environment friendly and everything just falls in place.”
In her nomination application, the Director of Yollocalli Arts Reach, Vanessa Sanchez states, “Elizabeth Reyes lights up a room when she enters… Her laugh can be heard across the hallways as she engages young people in an authentic and caring manner.” Reyes began working as a teaching artist at Community Links High School: there, she created connections with youth through programming that creates murals within the school as well as the Maxwell Street Market. She not only encourages personal interests and supportive relationships among all her students, but also connects them to opportunities after high school.
In all, nine mentors from the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX) network were nominated for the award. See a full list of all the amazing nominees, as well as the event presentation, here. The virtual ceremony was filled with an energy of love and connection that exuded Brother Mike’s tremendous legacy of love and support. A recording of the event can be found here.
To Liz and all of our nominees, there is not enough praise that can be given for your incredibly important work. On behalf of those inspired by the Brother Mike Award ceremony, our partners, and the entire CLX community—thank you for your impact!
This post originally appeared on the Chicago Learning Exchange and has been reposted with permission.