Elmhurst U. Partners with Non-Profit ‘The BASE’ for a Night of Arts and Opportunity

June 12, 2024 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

base chicago

Pictured left to right: Eric Davis, John Klein, Paris Parham, Christine Grenier, Kristyn Jo Benedyk and Alexander Blumenberg

*Photo by James Martin

During a glamourous red-carpet evening at Chicago’s historic Music Box Theatre, seven Chicago middle school students premiered original songs and music videos they had created as part of a yearlong project with digital media students and faculty from Elmhurst University.

The songs’ themes ranged from a lighthearted take on excelling at basketball practice to more serious reflections on challenges overcome by the students, who all participate in a non-profit youth organization called The BASE Chicago, in the city’s West Garfield Park neighborhood.

In recognition of the students’ talent and potential, Elmhurst U. leaders made a surprise announcement at the end of the evening: All seven were offered a combined $350,000 in scholarships, or $50,000 each over four years, to attend Elmhurst University. They also could potentially earn a place in the University’s United Scholars program, which supports students with additional scholarships and resources during their time as Elmhurst students.

In the meantime, the middle school students will receive guidance and academic support, especially throughout high school, to prepare them to thrive in college.

“I knew that these students could be and are future Elmhurst University students,” said Christine Grenier, vice president for admission. “So we are making this promise to them—not only a financial promise, but also a commitment of our time and heart.”

The Music Box premiere, held on June 5, culminated a first-time partnership between Elmhurst University and The BASE Chicago that aimed to bring music and filmmaking opportunities to kids on Chicago’s West Side.

The project was led by Kristyn Jo Benedyk, associate professor and director of Elmhurst’s digital media program; and Eric Davis and Frank Brim, co-founders of The BASE Chicago, which uses sports, academics and the arts to get students invested in finishing high school and serving their communities.

After launching the music and filmmaking pilot program last year, the middle school students were selected to write and record original songs with the help of mentors from The BASE. Then Elmhurst University students and faculty volunteered their time and resources to meet regularly with The BASE kids and help turn their songs into music videos.

At the same time, the program taught the Elmhurst students about music recording, film directing and producing, and how to be good mentors and guides. Programs like this provide Elmhurst students with hands-on opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills, giving them a professional edge as they prepare for careers and whatever comes next.

Benedyk described the premiere at the Music Box, when everything came together and everyone’s hard work had a moment to shine, as “just one of the best nights ever.”

“I hope there were people in the room that night that looked at what we did—Elmhurst and The BASE—and go back to their own communities and find ways to create partnerships,” she said. “That’s just as important to me as the individual opportunities we created for all the kids and young adults. Our world needs positive change, and I believe the way to do that is to start with your own community.”

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