As the city of Chicago was preparing for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit, Chicago students learned about participating countries and their cultures and traditions through a variety of programs organized by the Chicago NATO Host Committee. Consul General Gitane De Silva and staff helped their discoveries by hosting hands-on activities, participating in information sessions for students and advising and judging student competitions. The students involved in the events were enthusiastic about their new-found knowledge of Canada and proudly represented their adopted "friend and ally" country.
On May 20 and 21, Chicago hosted the first NATO Summit to be held in the United States outside of Washington, DC. Although the proceedings were closed to the public, the Chicago NATO Host Committee worked with many city groups to engage Chicago residents with activities themed around this historic event. The Committee contacted the Consulate General with an invitation to participate and help the students represent and understand Canada.
The Festival provided an opportunity for participants to play bearing the colours of a country participating in the Summit, and to learn about that country's culture and people. The basketball and soccer teams were made up of children aged 11 to 13 from across the Chicagoland area. The event was open to the public, so spectators were able to join participants in sports clinics and visit the International Festival representing over four dozen countries.
The Consulate General of Canada organized a street hockey demonstration area in the International Festival, giving everyone a chance to take a shot at the goal and learn about Canada's connection to and love for hockey. This popular booth had kids lining up to take their turn and try to earn a Canada flag sticker. Even Benny the Bull, the Chicago Bulls' mascot, gave it a try.
The Festival was held with the coordination and support of the Illinois Youth Soccer Association, Girls in the Game, Urban Initiatives, the Chicago Park District, the University of Chicago, World Sport Chicago, the Chicago Bulls professional basketball team, the Chicago Fire professional soccer team and many consulates and international cultural organizations.
South Shore International College Preparatory High School held a NATO student event on Wednesday, May 16. South Shore International, one of the newest public high schools in the city, opened in the fall of 2011, offering the International Baccalaureate program. Guided by their teachers, the participating students used role-play exercises to explore issues related to NATO military campaigns and diplomatic initiatives. They discussed issues with academics, diplomats and security experts over a three-week period, and created exhibitions representing their research of NATO's campaign "Science for Peace and Security". Canada and seven other countries were represented by the student teams.
Consul General De Silva and Public Affairs Officer Colleen Duke attended the event, meeting with students and teachers to discuss their work and explore future collaborations with the school.
During this same week, the Consulate General coached a culinary Team Canada for the "Passport on a Plate" program. The events were incorporated into Chicago Public Schools Department of Career and Technical Education capstone events, highlighting the work of high school students training in culinary arts programs across the city. While a capstone program is held annually, Chicago Public Schools took advantage of the NATO Summit to put an international spin on the culinary showcase.
Seventeen schools across the city represented NATO countries with student-prepared international cuisine representing traditional foods and information from their assigned country. Canada was represented by Southside Occupational Academy, devoted to the education of students aged 16 to 21 with various disabilities.
The students were visited earlier in the month by Toronto chef Jason Bangerter, who was in town to take part in the Chicago NATO Host Committee's international restaurant program. Chef Bangerter served as a guest lecturer and helped the young chefs plan their menu.
Consul General De Silva and Public Affairs Officer Duke visited the students in their kitchen classroom several days before the formal program, sampling the dishes and answering questions about Canada. The final event was held on Friday, May 18, just prior to the start of the actual summit. Despite a very busy schedule, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended the showcase, taking time to meet with Team Canada and try their maple pork, as well as their poutine.