Chicagoland students answer: ‘What’s the biggest issue faced by your community?’

Project Soapbox
From left to right: Elijah Barach, Jazlynn Yins, Lucy Berry, Mya DeLaRoca, Vanessa Walston, Daniel Ranson, America Carreon, Kashyap Rajesh, Angel Nailer. Chicagoland students participated Saturday in Project Soapbox at Jones College Prep. Photo credit Brandon Ison

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Chicagoland students made their voices heard in Project Soapbox, a public-speaking initiative hosted by Mikva Challenge, an organization that encourages young people to be active participants in democracy.

The students were asked: “What is the biggest issue faced by your community?”

“Anxieties about racial inequities, a desperate concern to protect our climate, lack of funding for schools, systemic racism, poverty, cultural appropriation, abortion right, medical bills and domestic violence,” said Kashyep Rajesh, a junior, who summed up the topics discussed by nine finalists at Saturday’s event, held at Jones College Prep.

Rajesh’s proposed solution to many of these issues was to organize, encourage voting toward policy change and resource distribution.

He was among several who also acknowledged that young minds, posed with such serious concerns, do suffer from ailing mental health, for which seventh grader Elijah Barach suggested a low cost solution.

“When you see a kid who looks a bit down, just start a conversation, look them in the eye, smile, and don’t judge,” Barach said. “That’s what every single person in this room can do to single-handedly help improve mental health and save lives.”

Project Soapbox
Seventh grader Lucy Berry spoke about her fear of abortion bans across the United States. Berry talked about the idea that if she, or others her age, became pregnant, they might be forced to give birth. Photo credit Brandon Ison

A student From Phoenix Military Academy on the West Side, America Carreon, spoke of unequal distribution of resources at schools.

“A friend of mine attends Revis High School in Burbank, Ill.,” Carreon said. “His school provides personal laptops for each student. My school has some working computers. They also have a baseball field, a soccer field, a softball field, and a football field. My school has a broken down playground and a pile of rocks.”

She proposed changing how education funding is distributed based on property taxes, and added that low income communities cannot provide the same resources to their schools as wealthier neighborhoods under the current structure.

“How are we expected to compete with those with more resources,” Carreon said. “Children are the future of the country, but not all have the same opportunities.”

All of the Project Soapbox speeches were met with wild applause, and some of the local students may be invited to participate in a national Soapbox event this coming spring.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Brandon Ison