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Young People’s Budget - You Got the Bag

Lead 2022 Senior Fellows: Ivan Arenas (2018 Fellow), Tamela Meehan (2019 Fellow), Jessica Sullivan (2018 Fellow) and 2022 Fellows: Troy Gaston, Cuitláhuac Heredia, Lyndon Valicenti

Young People’s Budget identified priorities for the Chicago Public Schools budget to make needed changes in schools that are historically disinvested.

The goal of the Young People’s Budget is to engage and activate young people through a community process in 10 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) that have been historically disinvested in order to identify key spending priorities for those CPS schools. Through this community process, young people had the opportunity to share what they need to feel safe and to thriving in their school communities, determine what the focus should be for their school’s budget, message Local School Councils (LSC) and CPS leadership about the changes they want to see, and establish a Young People’s Collective bringing together students from across the 10 schools for continued involvement.

The Why

YPB creates a space for young folks to share their stories, engage with their educational communities, and advocate for their needs with CPS leadership.

The Young People’s Budget (YPB) project is critical in that it centers a collective workshop to activate and highlight what is important to young people and to generate a greater connection and involvement in collective decision-making for their educational communities. The YPB project focuses on schools from neighborhoods that have low levels of childhood opportunity and curates a space for students to tell their story and impact how dollars for their schools are spent. YPB also connects youth with adult allies who walk alongside them in this process, connects them with peers, and school leaders and decision makers to effect long standing changes. The YPB workshops honor and value the voices of young people as problem-solvers and provides them with compensation for their time and work.

Project Gallery

The Collaborators

2022 CUE Senior Fellows, 2022 CUE Fellows, UIC’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, and almost 150 CPS students.

The collaborators on this project are Chicago United for Equity and UIC’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy. Development of the project was led by CUE 2022 Senior Fellows with sessions and workshops facilitated in collaboration with 2022 CUE fellows. The workshops included almost 150 youth at two CPS middle schools and seven high schools in partnership with multiple community youth serving organizations.

The How

We connected with our CUE network and youth serving organizations to recruit youth to participate in workshops centered on the People’s Budget Chicago framework.

A guiding theme for us is a quote from Adrienne Maree Brown “there is a conversation in the room that wants and needs to be had. Don’t force it, don’t deny it, let it come forth.”


To set a foundation for the program, the CUE 2022 Senior Fellows followed the framework established from the People’s Budget Chicago. The Senior Fellows reviewed extensive budget data from CPS to determine where funds are currently being spent, select key categories, use our collective knowledge to identify schools/community organizations to hold workshops and recruit youth to participate. Senior fellows also connected with our CUE network and other youth serving folks to assist in solidifying the project and moving it to fruition.


We met weekly as senior fellows and with 2022 Fellows to plan, organize, and lead youth workshops. We established a budget and plan for the flow of our work and ensured that youth voice and engagement were at the center of our work.

The Outcomes

The YPB completed 10 workshops with nearly 150 young people across the city and organized together to form a Young People’s Collective to continue the work.

We completed 10 workshops with nearly 150 young people from across the city of Chicago. All of the sessions were documented. Documentation included responses from students playing the Young People’s Budget game that highlighted young people’s thoughts regarding how CPS/LSCs can better serve the needs of their students and also fostered improved connections and ownership between students and the schools they attend.

The data from the budget game and narrative-based data obtained will be used to craft a report that outlines the outcomes, budget demands, and expectations that young people outlined. Additionally, the YPB curated a Young People’s Collective. Three sessions were held and facilitated by 2022 CUE fellows which provided youth with skill building opportunities to support them in speaking with CPS/LSC leadership and decision makers and to create a set of six demands for greater school accountability to young people’s needs.

The CUE Influence

The YPB was shaped based on the People’s Budget Chicago, a 2020 CUE Senior Fellows project.