In 2019, an existing golf course in Douglass Park was redesigned by some teenagers on Chicago’s West Side. Now, with construction of the course expected to be completed this spring, another team of teens from out West is overseeing the marketing of the development. 

The Douglass 18 is a youth-led project coordinated by Lincoln Park Zoo, with the goal of building a bird-themed mini golf course in Douglass Park. The project began in 2018 when the first team of paid youth designers were chosen through an interview process out of a pool of applicants exclusively from the North Lawndale and Little Village neighborhoods. They completed their designs in 2019 under the mentorship of Chicago-based designer Eric Hotchkiss.

In an Instagram post, Hotchkiss called the program. “An example of the uniqueness and creativity that occurs when youth in our over-exploited communities are empowered.”

Plans to construct and open the updated mini-golf course in 2020 unfortunately fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic and were halted, but that additional time allowed the Lincoln Park Zoo to add another element to the project that would help teens develop professionally as well: Marketing. Shannon Waldron is a marketing professional who was hired in October 2020 to mentor a second group of eleven teens to run a marketing campaign for the opening of the golf course. 

“The teen initiative behind this is amazing to see,” Waldron told The TRiiBE in an interview on March 9. “We’re making sure that the youth have skin in the game [and] that they play a part in their community.”

Waldron runs an events and marketing company called Urban Fêtes that he founded in 2011. He has worked with brands such as Courvoisier, Remy Martin, Farmers Insurance and the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Each week, Waldron meets with his team of youth colleagues to update and create plans for the project. The goals of the marketing team start with the basics of promoting a successful launch for the course. But according to Waldron, that only scratches the surface. He believes that the value that the program has for the teens involved is multifaceted. 

“We’re telling the story of the partners who came together to fund this project. We’re talking about the youth-led design team that designed the course,” Waldron says. “But we’re also using this as an opportunity to collectively educate ourselves about Douglass Park, its history, it’s ecosystem. Did you know that over 200 species of birds migrate to Douglass Park?”

Courtesy of Awesome Foundation.
Courtesy of Awesome Foundation.

Douglas park was originally named for Illinois politician and slave owner Stephen A. Douglas, but was renamed to honor abolitionist Frederick Douglass and his wife Anna in 2020— three years after a group of students from Village Leadership Academy organized to have it changed. 

One of The Douglass 18’s primary missions is to highlight that particular factoid about the 200 species of birds who migrate to the park— hence the involvement of Lincoln Park Zoo. The designs that were created for the course all feature some kind of bird-inspired architecture. 

So far, Waldron says much of their team’s focus has been on social media marketing. It’s where they expect to make the most significant impact. He wants to make sure, though, that their education in the field is well-rounded. 

“We’re team building and bonding. They’re suggesting new marketing efforts, learning who the influencers and leaders are for our audience [and] finding organizations who we want to build partnerships with,” Waldron says. This list is just a sample of the things they cover in their daily meetings. “These are skills that they can take and do what they want with them.”

The mini golf course is expected to be completed during spring 2021, at which point one of their primary goals — which is to promote a successful launch—  will be accomplished. Waldron doesn’t want his team to stop there.

“One of my main goals is to help them develop the necessary skills to either position them for future career opportunities, or even start their own business,” he says, emphasizing that marketing jobs are available in nearly every industry. “We can use this platform not just to educate about Douglass Park, the birds, the golf course, but also to promote the community, the business owners and creatives.”

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.