Stop The Chicago High School Hunger Games

Stop The Chicago High School Hunger Games

Why we need to stop the corrupt system that is getting into a Chicago Public High School.
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When I was in 6th grade, I came back from lunch one day to find a collection of statistics on the whiteboard concerning the odds of getting into a “selective enrollment” high school. In Chicago, when it comes time to look at high schools, families have four options: go to the local neighborhood public school, go to a private school, go to a “selective enrollment” high school, or move to the suburbs to go to a “good” public school. Going to a neighborhood public school in Chicago is frowned upon, because the neighborhood schools are underfunded and as a result, have lower test scores and graduation rates, and higher rates of violence. Yet, most families can’t afford to send their child to a private school that costs anywhere between $15,000-$30,000 a year, but they still want their children to go to a “good” school to prepare them for college. Thus, every year 15,000 kids compete for 3,000 slots in 11 selective enrollment high schools, where they would have access to luxuries like air conditioning and new textbooks, and have better chances of being ready for college… Basically, the “Hunger Games” of schooling. I was in the “Gifted and Talented” program at James G. Blaine school in the rich neighborhood of Lakeview… So it was the expectation that I was one of the children to get one of the 3,000 slots.

My high school was a special place. It wasn’t one of the official “selective enrollment” schools, but you still had to test or audition to get into the school to be in either performing arts program or accelerated academics program. Lincoln Park High School is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, the 3rd richest neighborhood in the city, with a rough income of $115, 856 a year. I went to a school where during lunch, kids would walk two blocks to MAC makeup to check out the latest makeup line, the school where Mean Girls was filmed. Lincoln Park is an average high school, the building is 116 years old, the textbooks are 10 years old, and the choir risers are one-year-old after the music department received a $12,000 grant after years of wobbly choir risers.

In the national realm of high schools, Lincoln Park seems like a typical public school. Yet, kids flock from all over the city to attend Lincoln Park. Many of my friends lived in neighborhoods on the west and south sides of the city, from neighborhoods like Portage Park and Chatham, having to handle commutes anywhere between an hour to two hours long on public transportation. Some kids had after school jobs around the school and would have to take trains and buses home at 11 or midnight, only to have to finish homework, and be up at 6 the next morning to get to school on time. Kids voluntarily made these sacrifices so they wouldn’t have to go to their neighborhood schools… When, if they had to their neighborhood high school, they would have had much more time to sleep in, hang out with friends, participate in extra-curricular activities, and their lives as a whole would’ve been easier.

You’re probably thinking: “was it really worth it to make those kinds of sacrifices? Why not just bite the bullet and go to the neighborhood school?”. TEAM Englewood Community High School is the local neighborhood school in Englewood, a large neighborhood on the South side of Chicago. Englewood is currently the deadliest neighborhood in Chicago, with 37 homicides and 286 wounded people in the last year. 97.5 percent of students at TEAM are from low-income households, and 10.8 percent of students are homeless, at Lincoln Park, 53.9 percent of students are from low-income households, and 2.8 percent of students are homeless. The average ACT score at TEAM is 15, and the average score at Lincoln Park is 22.7, as a result, 65 percent of Lincoln Park students are considered ready for college, and 2 percent of students at TEAM are considered ready for college. Unlike Lincoln Park, TEAM is not surrounded by a plethora of upscale businesses, there are no restaurants or shops within blocks of the school; so when kids get out of classes, they have to be really cautious when walking home because of all the violence in the area, and there aren’t any places for them to duck into if they’re in danger.

As a privileged child of the North side of Chicago, my classmates and I were taught that only 5 of the 11 Selective Enrollment high schools were acceptable options for me. Those 5 schools were Lane Tech, Whitney Young, Northside College Prep, Walter Payton, and Jones… Schools all located on the North side of the city. The other 6 selective enrollment schools are all located in Southside neighborhoods that have had over 10 homicides in 2015. Those schools have great resources for getting into college, textbooks, air conditioning, and beautiful, brand new facilities… but they’re in neighborhoods White, upper-class parents would never dare send their children to. Thus, the schools are left for children on the South side to risk their lives to get to. Every day, kids have to ask themselves: is a good education worth the cost of my own life?

Of the 13 kids in my “Gifted and Talented” 6th-grade class, every single one of them got into a Selective Enrollment high school. Each of those 13 kids got to stay in their nice homes in Lincoln Square, Lakeview, and Andersonville and make the half-hour commute to their respective school each day… None of them had to have the living fear of being at the wrong place at the wrong time and getting shot every day on their way to their first-period math class. Walter Payton High School was founded in 2000, it has a state-of-the-art, beautiful facility, yet it received $13.46 million dollars in 2014 for an expansion. That $13.46 million dollars could have gone to schools on the South side like TEAM, to give them luxuries like air conditioning so the students aren’t worrying about passing out of heat stroke in the summer. What if that money had gone to building new facilities in Englewood where students could go after school to do homework and participate in sports and clubs to keep them safe and off the streets? What about using that money to create a program to get students home safely after school, so they don’t have to worry about being shot? Instead of having 11 amazing high schools, we need to redistribute funds in Chicago so all the schools are equally safe. We need to stop having kids out-test each other to get into a great high school to have a great future, and instead, make high schools where all kids can have a great future. When will the high school Hunger Games end?

Cover Image Credit: http://healy.cps.edu/uploads/2/7/2/7/27271991/1408677343.jpg

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.

bethkrat
bethkrat
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I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.

bethkrat
bethkrat

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