STUDENTS | August 26, 2021
When I received an email from my principal informing students about the Civil Rights Summer Fellowship, I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of. It’s always been one of my goals to change something in this world, and, for me, that starts by making my community and school—Back of the Yards College Prep—a better place for everyone.
Something that caught my attention throughout the fellowship was the focus on kindness. We developed a #BeKind21 calendar that schools can use to create community as the school year begins. I definitely want to continue this mindset throughout the year because I believe that everyone deserves a second chance and, as you show kindness, it catches on to other people.
Spreading kindness throughout my school is a way I believe we can help stop microaggressions and other forms of bias-based harm that occur. I feel like these types of harm often come from the internet or are passed down. Being kind is a tool that we can use to destroy the different layers of this issue to reach the core of the problem.
I’m confident that students can play a big role in positively changing our schools’ cultures because I was able to meet so many amazing students from across Chicago this summer. At first, I was hoping more students from my neighborhood would have joined, but, in the end, I was kind of happy they didn’t because I wanted to learn from the thoughts and experiences of others.
We were all very open with each other and were able to build a community within the fellowship. So many different subjects were discussed—some positive and some negative—but we knew that we would all be open-minded with each other and our thoughts and opinions would stay within our group.
As a rising senior, I know that this is the year that I need to be a leader in my school, and the ‘talking circles’ that we had this summer were a great step toward building relationships with our incoming freshmen and sophomores. I even want to start a club at my school that would allow us to have these conversations regularly.
Math and engineering have always been my favorite subjects because I feel like my mind has been wired to think outside the box and understand complex ideas. I’m less comfortable with reading and explaining my thoughts, so, when I started high school, I was very talkative but only when I wasn’t supposed to be talking. When there were opportunities to participate in class, I would shy away from them.
When I think about how much I’ve grown in high school, it encourages me to keep the momentum going in this final year. Of course, my ultimate goal is to graduate, and I also want to get good grades and continue opening my palate for trying new—and sometimes uncomfortable—things.
Making my family proud is extremely important to me because I want to be able to support and give back to them in the future. We’re the type of family where, even if we’re not doing anything, I’m completely fine with that because their presence is heartwarming. Years from now, I see myself supporting them using my interests such as engineering. I want to work for a good cause and make a change in this world before it is too late.
Just like my academic interests will, in some way, continue being a part of my future, I know I will also keep the mindset I have developed. Wherever that mindset takes me, I know that I will always be trying to make myself a better person.
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—including how you can participate in #BeKind21—and keep your eye on the OSP website for information about its Civil Rights Scholars program for the 2021-22 school year.