Chicago Public School high school students debut films documenting lives during COVID pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) — Four Chicago Public Schools high schools took part in a special project documenting students’ journey through the COVID pandemic years.

The 18 students got the red carpet treatment Wednesday at the Siskel Film Center.

“This is iconic. This is really big,” said Michaela Turner, Hyde Park Academy.

Four student teams from Curie High School, Hyde Park Academy, Juarez Community Academy and Phoenix Military School took part in the district project called “Shifting Chicago Narratives.”

Done in partnership with multiple community organizations, the years-long project tasked the four teams to create a film reflecting their journey since the beginning of the pandemic.

“They were so eloquent. They talk deeply about their feelings, how the pandemic affected them, but then also how they rose above all,” said Damarr Smith, senior program manager at CPS Competency Best Education Team.

Those were the only instructions. The topics and stories were all up to them.

“This was just the opportunity for your voice to be elevated, to be amplified,” Smith said.

Natorian Johnson from Curie High School and his team featured the creation of a new club while also tackling mental health issues and changes to activity school funding.

“Evolution is really about how robotics started. But it’s even it’s even more than that. It’s really about cultivating different mindsets,” he said. “My true inspiration is that really allowing students especially coming from like, predominantly black and brown neighborhoods to have like the opportunity so do things as different.”

The Hyde Park Academy team took on the tough issue of violence and trauma through the eyes of Micaela Turner’s family tragic loss almost a decade ago.

“I’m going to keep going because that’s the person who I am,” she said. “I know that anything that I go through I can always pick myself up from. I always have my trials and tribulations but I never let them step in.”

Turner is certain if her father was here today, he’d be as sure as her that she was bound for success.

“It touches me a lot because I know that you know, I wanted my father to always see who I was becoming as a woman,” Turney said.

You can view the films by visiting

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