Englewood Education Summit Held to Prepare Youth for Successful Future

Self-esteem workshop instructor Ashley Phillips (right) gives a high five to student KeJuan Sample, 14, during Breaking the Chain’s LEARN Summit, held Saturday, Sept. 22 at Excel Academy of Englewood, 7141 South Morgan Ave. Photo by Erik Unger

Photo by Erik Unger

By Princess-India Alexander

Dana Stamps is the omnipresent educator, moving with precision and dedication as the youth education summit that she’s been organizing for just a month has come to fruition.  It’s amazing to witness. One moment she’s setting up donuts and directing volunteers for the continental breakfast. And the next, she’s three classrooms and a hallway over prepping workshops with teachers and board members.

Her organization, Breaking the Chains, held a LEARN Summit for youth in the sixth through 12th grades on Sept.22 at Excel Academy of Englewood, 7141 S. Morgan Ave.

“Englewood is my passion. I grew up in Englewood. I don’t only service Englewood but that’s my priority,” said Dana, who holds a doctorate degree in community psychology and has worked in the education field for 16 years. “I was going to different [On the Table] meetings and tried to figure out what I could do that would be the most effective, and I figured this summit was the best thing.”

The fifth annual On the Table, organized by The Chicago Community Trust, brought together Chicago-area residents on May 8 in mealtime conversations to engage in meaningful dialogue, develop new relationships and inspire action to make a difference in communities.

Photo by Erik Unger

Instructor Mekayla Brown (center) helps Brooke Clemons, 14, with creating her first resume during Breaking the Chain’s LEARN Summit. 

Photo by Erik Unger

Dr. Dana Stamps (third from left), founder and CEO of Breaking the Chains, poses with her board members. From left to right: Tammy Rutledge, Ashley Phillips, Dana Stamps, Danenya Cochran, and Justina Baker.


In July the Chicago Community Trust named Breaking the Chains as one of its 37 Acting Up   award recipients. Using the $5,000 in prize funding, Dana created the LEARN Summit, geared toward filling all of the education gaps she noticed within her community.

The summit covered everything from self-identity to financial literacy and college resumes. For the 30 students attending, the summit was an opportunity to gain the knowledge not typically covered by parents or high schools.

“I like how they’re making me answer questions that I haven’t come across before,” said freshman Brooke Clemons during the resume workshop. “One of the questions they asked was ‘What is your greatest strength?’, and no one had ever asked me that before.”

A few seats over sat her brother, Damion Clemons, a rising high school senior looking to attend dance school in the future. Like his sister, Damion had never attended an event like Breaking the Chains.

“They’re actually explaining a lot of stuff like that colleges are actually looking for,” he said. “I’m here to get an understanding of how getting into college is supposed to go, because I know it’s like a challenge. And they don’t talk about it during high school. They say ‘going to college’ is what you’re supposed to do,’ but they don’t help you get there.”

Students like Brooke and Damion drive Breaking the Chains’ overall direction. For Dana and her fellow board members, it all begins with simply listening to what their students say and need.

Photo by Erik Unger

Siblings Damion (left) and Brooke Clemons (right) answer the question “What is negative body image?” during the LEARN Summit.

Photo by Erik Unger

Damion Clemons, 17, smiles during a self-esteem workshop at the LEARN Summit.


“Breaking the Chains’ mission is ‘Fostering excellence one youth at a time,’ said youth educator and Breaking the Chains board member Ashley Phillips.  “That is something I identify with in the work that I do. So, I love to work with young people and kind of give them the guidance. “I’m stepping along with them and not just leading them on the front end.”

In the future Dana sees the summit expanding and becoming an annual event. As always, it’ll be driven by the students in the Englewood community and inspired by her mission to give the next generation the necessary educational tools to succeed.

Breaking the Chains, founded in 2015, is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and educating youth in Chicago’s underserved communities. With programs focusing on career preparedness, college prep and financial literacy, this organization works to combat the disadvantages faced by youth in these areas.

“With a lot of our youth, it’s not that they don’t want to succeed. It’s just a lot of them don’t have the resources or the family like I had,” she says. “So my whole goal with even starting Breaking the Chains was just to provide youth with what I had growing up.”

View the Breaking the Chains Acting Up award video application: