ONE PERSON MAKES A REMARK: TEEN LOSES OPPORTUNITY
The intention was no doubt honorable, acknowledging our brave first responders. And in every eye the artwork was winning, commendable, and fine enough to be considered for a winning design.
The teenager, a student at an alternative school in the Chicago area, put all he had into that design. He wanted to do something positive, as he stated, which is always a good idea. He wanted to have a good life, and he still can…
But these immediate hopes and dreams were dashed by the grown-ups who belittled his artwork, who put down his work as containing gang symbols or hand signs. Again the gangs come into the picture and ruin everything for someone aspiring to do something right and good, brave and nice. The teen and his mother, his teachers and people in the city clerk’s office are sad, devastated, and in tears.
But what did the City Clerk do? She dismissed the teen’s efforts, downed him because of some “expert” saying that the hand designs, which were given to him by a loved and great teacher, looked like some sort of gang sign. The City Clerk shoved the boy’s idea aside, not even giving him a chance to design it over again, which should have been allowed. So what if there was no precedent for allowing a re-design: it should be in the works from now on.
And it should be allowed right now. After all, the teen did win the contest, he received the $1000 savings bond, the publicity, the honor, and the most important factor, a good and positive feeling, like he did something that really mattered and made him, his mother, and his teachers very proud.
So the contest goes to the second-place finisher, and what does this design contain? As shown on the news, it has superheroes that are meant to represent the first responders. But this one is gender-based, whereas the winning design was not, and I thought it much better than the second-place finisher. The winner had the symbols of the first responder departments atop the design, and other Chicago symbols, and the hands reaching up, in what I consider both a sign of reaching out to the responders and also thanking them for their services.
City Clerk Mendoza, do the right thing. Make a full and formal apology to the teen who won. Allow him to keep the savings bond, and allow him to redesign the sticker. He deserves the chance to shine after all your department has put him through. If there was such a problem it should have been addressed at the outset, and not at the last second. Your poor judgment has caused this boy distress and sadness.
I hope those who have offered him chances to speak, go to other schools or countries and talk about his experience will do things better than you and the other officials and so-called “experts” involved have done them, and show honor to keeping their word. And I wish all the best for the youth who showed such initiative, courage, and positive action. Good luck to him and to all youth who want to improve their lives and their communities.
Divi Logan and EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, 2004- 2012.