Marquan Jones, a senior at Proviso Math and Science Academy, poses during his trip to Washington, D.C. for the Congressional Cities Conference hosted by the National League of Cities. He was one of five youth delegates from Maywood to accompany Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon to the capital. | Photo submitted.
Friday, March 18, 2016 || By Marquan Jones
Marquan Jones, a senior at Proviso Math and Science Academy, went along with four of his peers from PMSA and Proviso East High School, to Washington, D.C., earlier this month for the Congressional City Conference hosted by the National League of Cities. They were guests of Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon. It was the first time an elected official from the village participated in the youth program. Below, Jones describes his experiences in the nation’s capital:
“Our youth have within them a vibrant energy that is both refreshing and inspiring,” said Avelira Gonzalez, a former dean of students and teacher recruiter at Proviso Township High Schools District 209.
“It is vital that as educators and a community, we step forth and create platforms that are motivating and encouraging for our youth, and that serve as springboards to bounce off their ideas. [Those] ideas have been there all along, waiting for an opportunity to be shared. Maywood is in desperate need of these platforms; for the solution is in [our young people’s] hands. They are the youth of today! Youth of the now. It is time!”
We faced many obstacle and challenges prior to the trip, since Trustee Isiah Brandon is new to office. In addition, the community has a certain perception of Proviso students. Even though we lacked funds, we still managed to make it to the capital.
It was the first time many of us had been on a plane or even owned a suit. As youth from Maywood, we have seen the horror of violence and the lack of support for the youth. Many people in Maywood suffer from learned helplessness, they have gone through so much trauma that they believe things will not get better. This sense of helplessness, and the degree of trauma, causes apathy within our community. People don’t get involved, because they feel that they don’t have a voice. The youth turn to violence, because they don’t have a positive way to exert their energy. For all of these reasons, Trustee Brandon believed that this trip was essential to the betterment of our community.
Day 1: When we got to Washington, D.C., Trustee Brandon emphasized the importance of being prepared for anything and for any occasion.
“It is Washington, D.C.,” he said, “anything could happen.”
Although our first youth meeting wasn’t until Sunday, March 6, Trustee Brandon insisted that we all go with him to register early. We were one of the only groups there. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Melody Colbert-Kean, the president of the National League of Cities. We didn’t realize who the woman was, because she was humble, down to earth and very approachable. She even insisted we take a picture; we didn’t fathom how important she was to our very reason for coming to Washington D.C. After President Kean revealed her identity, we all knew how imperative this trip was for our community.
The next day we started our youth delegate conference. We started with an icebreaker that resembled musical chairs. We rotated groups to converse with other delegates from other communities in the United States. The topics of these focus groups were various problems ranging from environmental sustainability to police policy reform. Although we all had different stories and originated from different places, we all came together collectively for the greater good.
Youth delegate Dominique Wallace described the experience, saying, “It was amazing to interact with other communities around the United States, and many of them faced the same problems our community of Maywood, Illinois faced.”
Day 2: We visited the Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials. We took pictures and became overwhelmed by the rich history that we were witnessing. We stood among thousands of individuals from all different walks of life. This experience encapsulates the beauty of America. Youth delegate Noah Salazar stated, “It was interesting to see how we’ve grown as a nation and even though these people are gone we still look at the great things they achieved!”
Although the National League of Cities conference is over, our fight for reformation is not. My fellow youth delegates and I took the initiative to address the problems we face in our community by bringing them to the attention of the federal government.
As Maywood residents, we all face the burdens of violence, poverty and infrastructural damage. These things have been overlooked over the years or people, with people in power having ignored them as a whole. We as youth delegates are not afraid to take action. There are conversations that we still must have. A lot of times, we as citizens complain from afar; but I believe that we are equally as responsible as the politicians we put in office. We must all stay involved and hold our elected officials, as well as our peers, accountable.
More statements from youth delegates:
“Thank you for your leadership,” and “That’s good leadership.” These are two phrases I heard multiple times by Trustee Brandon. I spoke with many youth delegates while in DC and they each had a city board that supported them. I understand that some board members did not support our trip, but what those board members fail to realize is that our youth are what will bring this great Village of Eternal Light from the dark days and back into the light.”
“The hands of the youth weave the fate of these Soto lands tomorrow. For the people, by the people— the true key to movement now, and forever.” VFP