Target of ABC Project Students’ Anti-Smoking Project—Not Who You’d Expect


Haines Elementary School 6th-8th grade ABC Project Students point out the many cigarette butts that litter their school yard. Students are fed up with people smoking around their school. Not only are the students in this Chinatown neighborhood of Chicago sick of cigarette butts covering their school grounds, they are tired of walking out of the building and right into a cloud of cigarette smoke. The smokiest time of day around the building, according to the students, is right as school is dismissed every afternoon. The culprits, the students reveal, are parents and other adult relatives of Haines students picking up children from school.



Using the steps of the ABC Project, the students investigated relevant, existing rules in CPS. What students learned was that smoking is already not allowed on or around the school grounds and they realized that rather than pass a new rule, they needed to find a way to better enforce the existing one. After receiving the go-ahead from their school’s administration, the Haines ABC team attended a meeting of the school safety patrol squad. There they taught student volunteers polite ways to remind smoking adults to stay a distance from the school, or put their butts out. What happens if the smokers don’t listen to the patrol squad, you ask? That’s when they call in the school security guard, Mrs. Hunt. According to the students, you don’t want to mess with Ms. Hunt! To remind parents and students of the no smoking rule, students are using Infographics, a type of data visualization, to create signs that will be placed on school grounds and provide information about the negative effects of smoking and remind students and parents about the rule.

The Haines ABC team is also planning several activities that they hope will help prevent future smokers at their school. For the 5th-8th grade students at Haines, the ABC students are planning to hold an assembly in which smoking and its effects are the focus. For this, they’ll have a speaker from the Chinese Community Health Center talk to students. For the younger students, the ABC team will lead interactive lessons that help students learn the dangers of smoking, and they have a very engaging plan for doing this. Students will take part in grade-appropriate scavenger hunts in which the younger students search for clues—either ingredients of a cigarette (including Butane, Formaldehyde, and Tar) or the effects of smoking on the body (like lung disease, high blood pressure, bad breath) in order to win.

Using thoughtful and varied approaches to the problem at their school, the ABC students from Haines have learned that they can influence the way their school operates and parents behave, and know that they can serve as positive role models, for younger students—and adults!


Beautification from the Inside Out – How Chicago Middle-Schoolers are Changing the Bullying Culture in their School

Beautification from the Inside Out - How Chicago Middle-Schoolers are Changing the Bullying Culture in their Chicago School

How can you go wrong with a theme like “Beautification from the Inside Out”? Ms. Parodi’s eighth grade class from Richard Yates Elementary School would say that you can’t! This group of creative and enthusiastic students is participating in CRFC’s ABC Project: Action-Based Communities. Together they identified bullying as a problem in their school and together they devised a plan to help make Yates Elementary a bully-free zone.

The centerpiece of their plan is to create three murals throughout the school to help beautify everyone from the inside out. The students will need to raise some cash for paint supplies, and they’ll need to seek and get approval from the school administration. No matter the outcome, these students are learning how to be active and civically engaged members of their community. Their slogan is “Proud to be me.” Team Yates – we’re proud to know you!

Chicago Democracy Week Found to Increase Voter Turnout Among 17, 18-Year Olds

Student testimonialsToday, Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, alongside a coalition of voting rights groups, announced more than 6,000 CPS students and over 3,500 17-year-olds in suburban Cook County were registered as part of the first annual Chicago Democracy Week (2/3/14-2/7/14)  – leading to a record voter turnout in the March Primary among young voters.

The registration totals are part of a report released today, “Voting Early and Often: An Evaluation of Chicago Democracy Week 2014,  the culmination of a week-long effort to expand voter registration  among younger voters led by Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, the Cook County Clerk, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, Inc., Chicago Votes, Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, Mikva Challenge, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Rock the Vote, and the League of Women Voters of Chicago. The report also details lessons learned for other communities interested in conducting a similar voting drive.

While Chicago Democracy Week’s principal aim was to register 17-year olds to vote, the report finds that the turnout of those who registered surpassed that of 19-45 year old voters for the first time in history.  The turnout of CPS students at the March Primary was 12.0%.  This is slightly higher than the average Chicago turnout of 11.9%, breaking a decades long trend of young voters (18-25 year olds) turning out at around half the rate of all other voters.

“This Report shows that when civic groups combine their efforts with that of election authorities and public school administrators, we can close the registration and turnout gap between young people and all other voters.  I feel a real sense of accomplishment that we managed to work together so well and achieve such fantastic results,” stated Ruth Greenwood, Voting Rights Fellow with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

Langdon D. Neal, Chairman of the Chicago Board of Elections, said, “Even though we saw low turnout rates at this election, it was remarkable that the turnout rates of 17- and 18-year-olds were higher than the turnout rates among voters in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The new voters were more likely than many of their parents to participate.”  On Wednesday, May 7 at 10:00 a.m., 69 W Washington St, Chicago IL, 60602, Eighth Floor Conference Room, the Chicago Board of Elections will convene a press conference, featuring representatives from the groups involved, to discuss results and next steps.

“I think we were so successful because we pulled together groups that know their audience and could target voter registration activities directly at young people engaging in the election process for the first time.” said Nisan Chavkin, Executive Director of Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago.

In Celebration of Law Day: “The Rule of Law in American Democracy: Why Every Vote Matters”

by Anita Dellaria
Elementary and Middle School Programs Manager at CRFC

“[I]f we know enough to be hung, we know enough to vote.” – Frederick Douglass

“Suffrage is the pivotal right.” – Susan B. Anthony

“[Young people] possess a great social conscience, are perplexed by the injustices in the world, and are anxious to rectify those ills.” – Senator Jennings Randolph

In part, Congress’ purpose in designating May 1st as Law Day was, “the reaffirmation of [our] rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law.”   Carved beneath the pediment of the Supreme Court Building, the promise of “equal justice under law” paraphrases the words of the 14th Amendment that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Yet, as permanent as these words appear, written into law and carved into stone, they are not so powerful that they can’t be defeated by apathy and bigotry.  In celebration of Law Day and in commemoration of these ideals and their fragility, this year’s theme is “The Rule of Law in American Democracy: Why Every Vote Matters.”

Since we frequently take our enfranchisement for granted, it’s useful to remind ourselves that not long ago far fewer voices had a say in defining what “equality” and “justice” looks like.  We may think, from the vantage point of 2014, that all the important battles have been fought and won, but in doing so, we forget that the work to perfect these ideals will never be complete.  The irony is that the way to work toward perfecting equality and justice for all under the law is to vote for those who write and execute the laws.  And, the only way to vote for those who write and carry-out the laws is to have the right to vote in the first place.  It’s a bit of a chicken and an egg dilemma.

Imagine you don’t own land, or are a slave, or black, or a woman, or under 21.  How do you, through your own voice and agency, remove from office the people whose voices have silenced yours?  I guess you have to convince those with the right to vote that they will benefit from your being able to vote too.  And that’s just what folks did. By the mid-nineteenth century, male suffrage was nearly universal, if you were white.  The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, prohibited disenfranchisement on the basis of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” unless you were a woman.  The 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, extended the franchise to women, unless you were under 21.  Then, in the midst of the Vietnam War, the slogan “old enough to fight, old enough to vote” summed up the movement leading to the ratification of the 26th Amendment in 1971, extending the franchise, once again, to those 18 years of age and older.

But, the right to vote has not always been in step with one’s ability to go to the polling place and cast a ballot without having to overcome obstacles, like paying a poll tax or passing a literacy test.  Next year we’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, whose passage was necessary to enforce the provisions of the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution.  Whether it’s voter ID’s, motor-voter registration, early voting, absentee ballots, electronic ballots, ballots for ex-felons, or registering 17 year-olds as did Illinois, the struggle to perfect those ideals continues.

In celebration of this “most pivotal right,” why not read the 15th, 19th, and 26th amendments?  Each comprises only two sentences, itself a lesson in the power of the rule of law.  Six sentences and a mere 113 words enfranchised millions of United States citizens.  Indeed, every vote matters because they’re the only ones that are counted.