The Student Congress Goes to College

Hundreds of high school and middle school students from dozens of schools in the city and suburbs will gather on the campus of Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) in Chicago for the 27th annual Chicago River Student Congress on Saturday, February 24.

Registration is required and information is available on our website

Held for the first time at a university, the interactive student-led environmental conference is a distinct forum for students to interact in a professional conference-like context, teaching each other what they have learned through their studies of the Chicago-Calumet River system and science, nature, and the climate crisis through Friends’ Chicago River Schools Network (CRSN). Unprecedented access to environmental professionals will be boosted this year by the participation of NEIU students who will share their college experiences and river-related course work with the high school age participants.

“The Student Congress is a unique opportunity for the next generation of environmental leaders to explore river issues together and learn from each other,” said Mark Hauser, Friends’ ecology outreach manager. “The sense of collective action is so powerful,” Hauser continued, “and the opportunity to meet with student and environmental leaders provides a rich context for understanding how what they are learning now applies to their adult lives and our shared funding partnerships in the future. 

An Award Winner!

At the Student Congress, Friends of the Chicago River will present the 2023 Educator of the Year award to Gerard Kovach, a 6-8th grade science teacher at Decatur Classical School in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago for his creativity, student education, and community engagement in the CRSN. 

Since its founding in 1996, the CRSN has engaged more than 475,000 students and teachers in science, language, and history activities at river locations, north and south. During the past school year, the CRSN’s student impact totaled 20,592 including hands on experimentation and research on field trips to the river with Friends’ staff and through the hundreds of teachers who have been trained to use our river curricula, which is designed to meet state learning standards.

The CRSN is one of Friends’ most diverse and inclusive programs. Public schools represent 90% of CRSN participants. A five-year analysis of the CRSN conducted by Friends in 2019 found that 69% of schools served were Chicago Public Schools, with 53.1% of students from low-income families. Over that same period, students served were 37.1% Latinx, 29.6% Caucasian, 20.6% Black, and 7.3% Asian.

Open to All Teach and Students, and Free

The Student Congress is open to all teachers and students for free throughout the Chicago-Calumet River watershed. Registration is required and information is available on our website