"The decisions we make now greatly impact the future. And it’s all of our future so we have to work on it together."

—FLIP Students

In 2050, James Isaac Paschky, Jeromel DelaRosa Lara, and J’Khayla Johnson will be approaching middle age. James wants to be a sustainable farmer, bringing healthy food to his community and caring for the land around him. Jeromel wants to be a lawmaker, changing policies for people who need a voice. J’Khayla wants to be a journalist and a civil rights activist like her great-grandfather was in the 1960s.

The three are just teenagers today, but they are the future of the Chicago region.

All three come from different backgrounds. J’Khayla is 15 years old and was born and raised on Chicago’s South Side. She takes the train around the city and is mainly surrounded by people who look like her. Jeromel lives in suburban Bloomingdale in DuPage County, where he interviews local mayors for his student newspaper. James Isaac is from Port Barrington, a more rural community in McHenry County where he dreams about a future with “more nature and more peace.”

Despite their different upbringings, the three met during the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s summer Future Leaders in Planning (FLIP) program that teaches teenagers about how urban planning and civic engagement can make a difference. Meeting one another helped them realize how large and diverse the Chicago region is and how important it is to plan for a brighter future for everyone.

“It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in the world,” J’Khayla said. “I felt a sense of freedom that there is so much out there beyond my life in the city — it’s really eye-opening.”

“I learned that there are more people who care about what is happening to our world than I ever thought,” said James.

All three of them listed the environment as a top concern for the future. “It’s not just about humans. We need to set aside our differences and get the world healthy again,” J’Khayla said.

They also hope to live in a world that is more accepting of differences and provides opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds. “I hope that we have a community that prioritizes equity and reduces the gap between rich and the poor,” said Jeromel.

As teenagers, they hope adults are keeping their best interests in mind because Jeromel, James, and J’Khalya’s envision themselves as leaders by 2050.

“The decisions we make now greatly impact the future,” said James Isaac. “And it’s all of our future so we have to work on it together.”