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7 Chicago area students honored in Expressions Challenge

Walgreens honored seven Chicago area high school students for using their talents in creative writing, visual arts and multimedia to voice their perspectives on challenges teens face as part of the 2016 Walgreens Expressions Challenge on January 12 at an awards ceremony at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Avenue.

The Expressions Challenge is a creative contest for high school students in the Chicago and St. Louis area sponsored by Walgreens. From October 1 through November 30, more than 2,000 teens submitted entries in the form of creative writing, visual arts or multimedia expressing their perspective on topics that affect their peer group while attempting to help other teens make healthy decisions for their future.

The first place winners from the challenge were:

  • Creative Writing: Ketandu Chiedu from Walter Payton College Prep
  •  Multimedia: Patricia Frazier and Natalie Ayala from Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep
  • Visual Arts: Javier Gutierrez from Reavis High School

The second place winners were:

  • Creative Writing: Jessica Foster from Percy L. Julian High School
  • Multimedia: Gabrielle Barrett from AALC
  • Visual Arts: Kyle Reese from Thornton Fractional South High School

“I believe that a challenge like this tells young people that there is no wrong way to express yourself,” said Foster who submitted a creative writing piece called, “I Can Fly” which discussed suicide and depression. “We all go through different struggles, and we all handle it differently. So why not take the stories from the table of our hearts and morph it into something that will be heard and understood.”

“A challenge like this is important for students like me because Chicago is overflowing with youth talent. However, there aren’t many opportunities for us to get noticed for that talent, let alone receive an award in some way,” added Frazier who entered a self-esteem video called “Boxing” with Ayala as her partner.

This year’s keynote speaker was Andre “Add 2” Daniels, a local rapper and songwriter formerly mentored by Chicago rapper Common and is known for his past collaborations with BJ the Chicago Kid, Talib Kweli and Vic Mensa. Daniels is also a youth mentor and founder of Haven Studios, a nonprofit free-use music studio, and music mentoring program for teens throughout Chicago.

Dawn Hasbrouck of Fox 32 News emceed the occasion, and West Dundee, Ill. native Riley Elmore, who made the Top 20 during the past season of “The Voice” paid tribute to finalists by serving as the musical talent for the evening.

At the conclusion of the event, the first place winners received $2,000, and the second place honorees took home $1,250. The recipients noted that they would use their prize money to help pay for college tuition and expenses, prom, developing their project further, and supporting family members.  However, one student is using her winnings to finance a summer program she was accepted into.

“I recently was accepted into a summer program at Harvard Medical School,” said Chiedu who submitted a short story on teen pregnancy. “However, it is extremely expen- sive, costing more than $3,000, not including transportation to Harvard. I would use the prize to help fund this summer program.”

To view the student submissions, please visit (link expires 1/19/17).

About Walgreens Expressions Challenge

The Walgreens Expressions Challenge is a peer-to-peer based “healthy choice” awareness initiative for high school teens age 14-18. At the core of the Expressions Challenge is an incentive-based contest for teens to showcase their creative perspective on healthy lifestyle choices. The Challenge motivates participants to voice their opinion on critical life issues they face daily through creative writing, visual arts, and media arts. The Expressions Contest runs October 1 through November 30 in the Chicago and St. Louis areas. To learn more about the challenge and to view the student submissions, visit


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