LaHannah Giles (COL ’23) was first drawn to community service after interacting with the younger members of her neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago and witnessing the lack of support adults had for her community’s youth.
Determined to change what she saw, Giles launched March for the Hood, a youth-led organization with a mission to invest directly in the education of young people in predominantly Black neighborhoods such as Chicago’s South Side. In August, the group successfully delivered book bags of school supplies and food to 250 Chicago students.
March for the Hood aims to guide youth in marginalized communities, according to Giles.
“It’s to change the narrative surrounding youth leadership and to, in some ways, empower youth to be change agents within their community,” Giles said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “I guess through taking initiative they could make a huge difference.”
As Giles learned about her neighbors’ experiences, she realized her peers were not receiving enough praise and support from their teachers. In one conversation, a high school neighbor told her that instead of thinking about college visits or attending pre-college programs, he felt as though the adults in his life were urging him to join the army after graduating, according to Giles.
“There’s nothing wrong for fighting for our country, but it was hard for this student to hear someone tell him that was all he could be,” Giles said. “It was heartbreaking to hear that no one was inspiring him.”
Giles originally planned to launch March for the Hood with an Aug. 15 citywide march in an effort to increase awareness about investing in Black communities, according to a March for the Hood July 28 Instagram post.
“We must demand that the City of Chicago invest in Black communities as disinvestment accelerates issues such as gang violence, youth detainment, mental health issues, and more,” the post said. “By the end of the march, community members will leave aware of how much investment is needed.”
Due to unexpected circumstances, Giles was forced to cancel the march, but she hopes to reschedule for this summer.
Because hosting an in-person event was not possible, Giles instead focused her attention on gathering resources for South Side students, including backpacks of food and school supplies donated in August. Using a GoFundMe page, Giles worked alongside Kariel Bennett (COL ’23), another Chicago organizer, to raise funds to purchase school supplies for students on the South Side. As of Feb. 10, the page has received $802 in donations, the majority of which came from Georgetown students, according to Giles.
“Increased resources in communities of color, instead of increased police presence, would and could save many lives,” Giles wrote in an email to The Hoya.
In addition to her work with March for the Hood, Giles was awarded the Patrick Healy Scholarship this fall. The scholarship aims to promote diversity at Georgetown by supporting undergraduate students, specifically minority students, with a demonstrated financial need.
It was an honor to be recognized for living up to the honor of Patrick Healy, former Georgetown president, according to Giles.
“It means a lot because it means I can continue my education without worrying about how I’m going to pay for it,” Giles said. “Not having to worry about where my financial support will come from has been really rewarding. It’s something most people don’t get to experience.”
Giles’ leadership propelled the March for the Hood forward last year despite how new the group is, according to Nia Welch, co-founder of March for the Hood.
“LaHannah is very hands-on and dedicated, and once she puts her mind to something there’s nothing stopping her,” Welch said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “There were challenges along the way, but what makes a great leader is someone who keeps it all in control and thinks on their feet. She challenges us to go out of our comfort zones.”
Confidence is the key to continued success with March for the Hood, according to Giles.
“Something I’ve learned is that I need to always have confidence in the work I’m doing, not having confidence leaves people questioning their vision for community work,” Giles said. “You can have a vision for your community, but the vision won’t really be impactful unless you talk to people in the community you’re trying to impact. Understanding their experience is very important.”