St. Olaf News


New CNN documentary series features St. Olaf student

EscobarLilia325x400St. Olaf College student Lilia Escobar ’17 took center stage in an episode of Chicagoland, a new CNN series documenting life in the Windy City.

The series chronicles Chicago’s struggles with a slow economic recovery, public education system in turmoil, and crisis in neighborhood safety. While it’s gained media attention for following high-profile figures like Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the series also focuses on individuals — like Escobar — who are doing what they can to make a difference.

The episode featuring Escobar focuses on her involvement with the Albany Park Theater Project. The theater company creates original plays based on stories collected from Chicago residents. Members then bring these real-life stories of bravery and struggle, which often focus on social justice issues such as immigration and poverty, to life on a small stage in the Albany Park neighborhood.

Escobar says CNN contacted the theater company last summer, when members were staging the last run of a play called Home/Land at the Goodman Theater in downtown Chicago.


Lilia Escobar ’17 performs during a production of “Home/Land.”

“The show is about the immigration struggles in the U.S. and we tell the stories of families, students, activists, and many others involved in the movement for immigration reform,” she says, noting that the episode she’s in will focus on the arts in Chicago and the immigration movement in the city.

This isn’t the first time that Escobar’s involvement with the Albany Park Theater Project has landed her in the media. She’s represented the company and told its story to PBS, ABC, the Chicago Sun-Times, and La Raza, among other media outlets.

In addition to getting students involved in the performing arts, the Albany Park Theater Project focuses on youth development, providing a college counseling program and tutoring opportunities.

“Essentially, the company works on developing the perspective of inner-city high school students by immersing them in the culture within the neighborhood and beyond while also giving them leadership positions around the city and on stage and encouraging them to speak up about very prominent and important social issues,” Escobar says.

She did just that, becoming involved with immigrant rights organizations and attending countless protests, marches, and rallies.

“I became passionate about social justice and leadership,” Escobar says. “It was life-changing and extremely inspirational.”