Teen Wins $1,000 in Black History Month Essay Contest
An Englewood student’s vision of what she would do if she were the mayor has paid off in a big way.
Chicago City Treasurer Stephanie Neely surprised Morris with a giant check for $1,000 in front of her mother, classmates, teachers and Principal Peggy Korellis-Byrd.
Morris said she has already been accepted at the University of Illinois Chicago, and the scholarship money will go directly to the school.
The scholarship contest was based on this question: "As the new mayor of Chicago, what are your economic and neighborhood development goals for your administration specifically in the African-American communities?”
In her essay Morris wrote that she wants to be able to walk down the street "without feeling as if I needed to dodge a bullet."
She writes that fountains and green spaces, churches, and businesses that hire residents are all part of the solution. Morris also writes that the single word that best describes a mayor’s obligation is "responsibility"… "to make sure your city is happy and prospering."
Morris’ full essay:
As mayor of the city I would call upon the expertise of the Aldermen who are more familiar with the neighborhoods they serve and work with them to determine the best route to take. I would concentrate on bringing business and jobs to those areas in the city that people often say are hopeless and beyond repair. I would set up town hall meetings to determine what the citizens want and then go about planning to develop some of their ideas. I think it is important to include the ideas of those that live in the neighborhood. My ideas would be to bring both large and small businesses, some chain restaurants, land development for the properties that make up eyesores now; i.e. abandoned properties that have become dope houses. I would also like to see facilities that house programs that promote training and exposure for high school students from freshmen through senior year. I would like to see churches open their doors to students in the afternoon because everyone is not an athlete and those that are sometime get lost because they don’t have anything to do. Our schools have forgotten that students need the arts and everyone cannot participate in the After School Matters program because there isn’t enough space.
There are a few things I would like to see happen with regard to neighborhood development. I am aware that there are five Save-A-Lot stores being built in the city and one of them is in my neighborhood. I would work with large companies like Big Lots and Wal Mart to build stores in the city limits. This would bring jobs to the communities. While big companies require management level positions they would also need stock people, cashiers and customer service staff. These jobs would help both the adults and the students find employment close to home. For the adults that have degrees they would have the opportunity to apply for the mid-management positions and possibly have the option of making more money. I am convinced that if the people in my neighborhood had jobs making at least minimum wage they would be able to live better and provide for their families. Working parents in the neighborhood are then closer to their children during the day. I don’t live in Roseland, I live in Englewood however, and I have heard the stories about how south Michigan Avenue was busy and bustling with businesses including a theatre. I would like to see a theatre in my neighborhood. It would be another venue to provide jobs for adults and students. I would negotiate with the owners and builders to possible create an after school internship program for high school students in the area to work toward managing the food areas and doing more than just collecting tickets. I think they should include a program where the students create advertisements for special events, develop plans for family nights at the movies where a family of four gets a discount rate on tickets and refreshments. The working experience should include training that will help a student to be better prepared for the next level whether that is to continue to work after high school or attend college. These skills will be beneficial to the student no matter what they decide to do after high school. I think it should offer educational screenings for both elementary schools and high schools during the day so that teachers could take advantage of educational films for history and the social studies.
When I think of neighborhood development I think of playgrounds, slides and swings. I see green areas with benches and a fountain that create an atmosphere of calm. I would like to see more spaces made available to children and their parents for recreational activities. I would like to be able to walk down the street without feeling as if I needed to dodge a bullet. I think if free activities were available for students of all ages after school, close to home it would help to decrease the violence. I think my peers get into trouble because they have nothing to do. The park district should have more facilities maybe smaller ones in every neighborhood to accommodate students so that they don’t have to travel far from home to participate in supervised activities. This could also be used as a job training site for young men and women who are interested in pursuing careers in athletic training, education, sports medicine and or have an interest in tutoring or just being a part of something. These programs would help to create a sense of community for both the young and the old. When programs are available for residents in the neighborhood they help to change the attitude of the residents. If I know that Mr. Robinson is the coach for the softball team at the park, he lives next door I played on the team; I would be more inclined to tell if I saw some one trying to break in his house or I might call the police. I think we need to rebuild the neighborhood to bring back the sense of community. With a better sense of community we would all be better off. If I have a job and you have a job then we both have something to protect and preserve. However, if I never see anyone go to work I don’t know what going to work looks like and I may not realize how important that is or how it reflects on my attendance at school.
Leadership, dedication, triumph, and inspiration, are some of the words that come with the title of being mayor of Chicago, but there is a word that describes the role of a mayor to the last single note. That is responsibility, being mayor is far more than just shaking hands, fixing a few pot holes, and claiming the title. It requires effort and time in order to make sure that your city is happy and prospering from the job that you have done.