STUDENTS | August 17, 2021
Rising Lincoln Park High School junior Ibrahim has spent his summer participating in After School Matters, taking on small jobs around his community, and being a part of the district’s first-ever Civil Rights Summer Fellowship. By giving high school students from around Chicago the opportunity to come together to share their experiences and discuss ideas to positively impact the district, the fellowship amplifies student voices to create more inclusive and equitable learning environments.
Ibrahim’s decision to join the fellowship was personal; he recalls issues occurring as a high school freshman when some of his peers were not treating him with respect. He explains that he wanted to gain a new perspective on how to approach similar occurrences in the future.
“I think microaggressions and other types of harm connect back to the fact that we were all raised differently and our circumstances at home and elsewhere vary as well,” he said. “I think we can educate each other by setting good examples and showing what a week without a microaggression would look like and how that would benefit the school community.”
He notes that, when the fellowship started, a lot of the students involved were fairly shy. But through all the discussions, exercises, and projects that they collaborated on, they began to speak out more and were not as nervous. Now, he believes they are ready to make a difference at their schools during the upcoming year, which begins on Monday, August 30.
“My favorite part of the experience was being able to create change for an issue that I’ve faced so that other students might not have to go through that in the future,” he said. “Learning all of the ways to become more of a leader and exhibit those leadership qualities was really cool as well.”
One of the ways that Ibrahim believes that schools can do a better job of transforming their culture to include all students is by harnessing the power of clubs and other extracurricular activities. While he stops short of believing that school administrators should make participation mandatory, he thinks they can offer incentives like extra credit or school merch to implore students to build stronger relationships with each other and connect with students who they would not normally interact with.
Participating in the fellowship has given him more confidence to speak with the adults at Lincoln Park about his ideas for building a more inclusive school.
“I’m going to tell the staff about all that we’ve done during the Civil Rights Summer Fellowship, and I feel like they will implement it, or at least try to listen to us,” he said. “With the staff on board, I’ll feel more comfortable telling my peers to work with the staff if they are having issues. I want it to be a normal thing in our school for issues to get resolved easily through all the practices that we’ve been trying to implement.”
As he looks toward the future, Ibrahim has his eyes set on either becoming a doctor, going into business, or studying architecture. His current interest in math and history—especially learning about different religions—will definitely be useful regardless of the career he ends up choosing. On top of that, he knows that the lessons he’s learned this summer will continue to be relevant even when high school is no more than a collection of memories for him.
“Being inclusive and kind is something that you can practice on a daily basis regardless of how old you are or what you are doing,” he said. “When you do that, it becomes a natural habit, and I know that I am going to keep remembering it and keep showing it to other people.”
The Civil Rights Summer Fellowship was created by the district’s Office of Student Protections and Title IX (OSP). Learn more about OSP’s other efforts to transform schools here.