Three Roosevelt University students who were competitively selected to participate in last month’s inaugural Obama Foundation training day in Chicago are on a mission to change the world.
Taylor Trentham, 20, a sophomore voice performance major from Gatlinburg, Tenn., aims to mentor refugee youths. Alex Fruin, 21, a junior from Kalamazoo, Mich. who is studying musical arts, wants to engage people of color from under-served communities in the arts. Beckett Costello, 22, a political science major and honors student from Shawnee, Kansas, has his sights set on reforming America’s penal system.
The three were among approximately 150 young people, ages 18 to 24, selected from hundreds of applicants, as Obama Foundation trainees.
As part of the foundation’s first major program on Oct. 14, young people from all over Chicago, including the three Roosevelt students, learned how to put civics into action in order to make a positive difference in their communities.
For instance, Trentham worked with a small group to come up with ways to make America’s healthcare system more equitable – a challenge he admits will take much more thought and discussion than the hour spent at the summit.
“The summit helped me see that Millennials, like myself, have a calling to solve problems – but that it has to start at a personal level with empathy,” said Trentham, who is studying at Roosevelt’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) to become a touring opera singer.
Fruin explored poor education outcomes in the city of Chicago, including what it would take to change the trajectory.
“We spent a lot of time working on root causes and solutions to problems, and then Barack Obama surprised us by showing up with questions that really made us think,” said Fruin, who hopes to become an arts management leader.
Meanwhile, Costello looked at obstacles many young people face in getting through college, and how they can overcome high costs and the stigmas associated with attending junior college.
“It wasn’t a political event at all, but it was challenging because we had to come up with solutions that are new,” said Costello, whose small group proposed starting a campaign to better promote junior college as both a respected and acceptable means for reaching the dream of a college diploma.
“We are proud that Roosevelt students were selected to be part of this high-profile training opportunity,” said Katrina Coakley, associate provost for student success at Roosevelt University. “They had a chance to learn and develop themselves as leaders, activists and organizers, which is right in line with Roosevelt’s mission of educating and graduating socially conscious citizens.”