This year, for the first time ever, elementary school students in sixth through eighth grade in Chicago Public Schools were able to run for their schools’ Local School Councils (LSC). These students will be working alongside parents, community members, and teachers on their LSCs to make decisions in their schools (aside from voting on contracts, the allotment of teaching and staff resources, and the principal’s evaluation). The Weekly sat down with four elementary school students who won a spot on their school’s LSC to get to know them and hear about their vision for their schools. 

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Zariyah Thompson. Photo by Madeleine Parrish

Zariyah Thompson 
George Washington Carver Elementary School, Riverdale
Seventh grade 

Can you introduce yourself? 

My name is Zariyah Thompson and I’m in the seventh grade here at Carver Elementary. I enjoy helping my technology teacher out. My true passion is baking, and it’s called Sweetz’s treats. I started it when I was eleven years old, about two years ago, and I’m determined to own my own bakery as an adult. My favorite things to bake are butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, caramel pound cake, and red velvet cake. I also like writing romance and comedy. 

What inspired you to run for Carver’s LSC? 

I was inspired because I wanted to be the voice for the students here at Carver and I wanted to be a part of the changes that were gonna be made. 

What changes would you like to see made at Carver Elementary? 

The kinds of changes I want to see are better funding for updated computers, and to make that happen, we would need more community events and fundraising. I would like to see more parent volunteers for trips, and more educational trips to colleges, high schools, and art museums for kids for the future. And tutors, more one-on-one tutoring for students who don’t understand the work. 

What are you most excited for in your new role as an LSC member?

I’m most excited about being a part of the changes that are gonna be made, and I’m excited to work with my teachers and the parents. 

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Paris Embry. Photo by Madeleine Parrish

Paris Embry
Ray Elementary, Hyde Park
Seventh Grade

Can you introduce yourself? 

My name is Paris Embry. I’m a proud member of Ray Elementary and I’m in homeroom 301 in seventh grade. I’m primarily interested in football, math, reading and video games.

What inspired you to run for Ray’s LSC?

I was mostly inspired by the fact that I will be able to speak, as a student, what I can do to help and improve the Ray school. Also, this will look good on my high school and college applications. I aspire to be a computer engineer when I grow up, and I think this will help me in my development in the future.

What changes would you like to see made at Ray Elementary? 

Since I came back from virtual learning, our principal has changed a lot and made the school much better. She has added new walls, rugs, and put the decor on the stairs. But there’s some small spaces for improvement. For example, all the boys’ bathrooms I’ve been to, they’ve been a little dirty. I know the janitors try hard to keep them clean, but it doesn’t last long since the students violate them. But I’m sure the girls are in the same predicament, they might not be, that’s something I couldn’t tell.

The cafeteria’s food could also improve a little bit. We have a good selection and the food isn’t horrible or anything. But some days the food isn’t quite as appealing as it could be. So I was thinking this year we could incorporate a special meal once a week or once a month. 

Also, I’ve noticed a few conflicts. It’s not horrible or anything, but it mostly happens when we’re playing competition-based games, or any type of sports. We have staff and security mostly around watching this, so it doesn’t go bad most of the time, but sometimes it can get out of hand. So I was thinking of brainstorming with the security and the staff that watches what I can do to help them and even if I could talk to them—they’re my peers—and see what’s wrong when they play sports. Also, today, for example, I got into a bit of a conflict myself, a student approached me with bad intentions. And since I’m on the LSC, I reacted differently than another student would. 

What are you most excited about in your new role as an LSC member?

I’m mostly excited to talk with other LSC members to see what I can do to help improve Ray Elementary. Also, I’m excited to speak on behalf of the other students on what they want to see change within school. 

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Hazel Negrete. Photo by Madeleine Parrish

Hazel Negrete
Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy, Brighton Park
Sixth Grade 

Can you introduce yourself? 

I’m Hazel Negrete. I’m in sixth grade. I like to use wire to make jewelry, do arts and crafts, bake, do my acrylic nails and also play with dad’s guitars.

What inspired you to run for Gunsaulus’s LSC?

One of my teachers, Ms. Cornejo, told me about the opportunity and that I could help make changes in the school and help other students’ voices be heard. I was interested in running after hearing more about that and that made me feel happy because I had the chance to help make my school a better place and a better community.

What changes do you want to see made at Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy?

I would like to see less bullying, teaching everyone to be kinder with their words and also the repercussions their words can have on others. Also, I would like every student to have the ability to fill out a weekly check-in survey to see how they’re doing. Both teachers and student leaders could look these over and see which students may need a check-in.

What are you most excited for in your role as an LSC member?

I will get to be a part of the decision making at the school. My voice and other students’ voices will be able to be heard and to learn new things and to help make a difference.

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Maria Zarco. Photo by Madeleine Parrish.

Maria I. Zarco
John A. Walsh Elementary, Pilsen
Sixth Grade

Can you introduce yourself? 

I am in sixth grade at Walsh Elementary School. I enjoy baking with my mom. She teaches me a lot about cooking. We enjoy baking cupcakes every week for my family. My favorite treat is chocolate covered strawberries. She loves them too! I love playing basketball with my brother Bruno. We are making a basketball court in my backyard this summer. I love visiting with my dad every weekend. He takes me shopping and we get to have special father and daughter time together at the mall. 

What inspired you to run for Walsh’s LSC?

My friends inspired me to run, specifically Donna. But my brother and parents listened to my plan to run and they said, “Go for it!”

What changes do you want to see made at Walsh?

I want to change the environment of all schools so students feel safe when they come each day. I don’t think much needs to change at Walsh because our teaching staff and security are great. As far as other schools, I want to make sure that all teaching staff treat students equally. 

What are you most excited for in your role as an LSC member?

I am excited to see the improvements and changes as they happen. We have a garden now thanks to Mr. Gomez and Ms. Serr. It’s a nice improvement. Also, our bathroom stalls are getting murals painted by the seventh graders. It’s great to see these things happen. I am kind of nervous about my new role because I don’t know what is going to happen in the future but I want to be a part of it.

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Madeleine Parrish is the Weekly’s education editor. She last wrote about segregation in Chicago Public Schools in partnership with WTTW’s FIRSTHAND: Segregation series.

Madeleine Parrish

Madeleine Parrish is the Weekly’s education editor.

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