Thursday, January 20, 2011

Student Spotlight: Kevin Stanfield

Cabrini Connections alumnus Kevin Stanfield moved to Cabrini Green at the age of 3. He says it was hard growing up in the area because he had trouble fitting in with people from his building. It was like a competition to see who had the nicest things. But this is something a lot of young people struggle with and Kevin made his way through.

At the age of 13, Kevin’s mom took a chance and moved with him (her only child) to California. That didn’t last long, though, as they came back after just a year. They missed their family too much, most of which is in or near Chicago. Kevin loves Chicago because it has activities for every season. “This city is like a never-ending event,” he says. Whether it’s the beach during the summer or hay rides during autumn, there’s always something to do.

Kevin started at Cabrini Connections in 7th grade. His first tutor left unexpectedly and he was followed by a string of substitutes. However, Kevin was involved in the tutoring program and art club and tech club in order to keep him busy, so he kept coming. One of his greatest accomplishments was co-creating the documentary, “Cabrini Green, ‘This is What I Know’: Our Lives, Our Truths, Our Stories,” which won the “Strongest Voice” award at the Columbia College Raw Voices Festival.

Once in high school, Kevin had a regular tutor whose name was Robert. Kevin says he was “like the father figure I didn’t have as a kid.” Robert helped him with time maintenance and scheduling. He also came to his school and talked to his teachers and counselors. Kevin wasn’t used to having so many assignments before high school, so Robert helped him plan out his time accordingly.

Kevin is very thankful for all that the program has done for him. “Cabrini Connections showed me new things and was a way to meet new people. I told myself I would never get on a plane, but this place put me on a plane to go to Ireland.” In 2006, five teens and one volunteer had the opportunity to travel to Ireland. Kevin fell in love with the place and wants to retire there when he gets old. “It has cool things you couldn’t see in a city, like stars! I saw a sky full of stars; a city in the sky!”

Part of Kevin’s artistic side certainly comes out when he describes his trip to Ireland. Kevin was a six-year member of the Art Club and continues to contribute as an alumnus. Kevin actually taught himself how to draw. As a kid, he had nothing to do and he didn’t want to go outside with friends because they were always getting in trouble. Instead, he used art as an escape. “It’s like an extension of my life,” he says. “I can express so many feelings [and] once I’m done with it, I won’t feel the weight any more.”

To future alumni, Kevin says, “Come back.” Kevin was here this past weekend for a light art workshop. Though he is an artist, it was his first time doing poetry and he appreciates the opportunity to try new things. As for school, he says, “Never give up. It’s going to get hard. It’s meant to get hard. But stick through it and you’ll be surprised what you get out of it. Put up a fight and you’re going to win.”

Spoken like a true poet! Thank you for living up to the mantra, “Once in Cabrini Connections, Always in Cabrini Connections.” We’re happy to have you.

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