Excel Academy Southwest Student wins MLK Weekend Trip to DC in 2017 Mikva Challenge

Vivian Grayson

Vivian Grayson

Vivian Grayson, a senior at Excel Academy of Southwest, has been selected among eight Chicago-area students as winners of the Mikva Challenge. That means she will be joining peers from across the nation in Washington, DC for a three-day celebration of and reflection on the role that youth voice can play both in building inclusive communities and strengthening American democracy.

Students will have the chance to participate in a youth summit, visit several national museums/monuments, and meet with elected officials and other “change-makers.”

Mikva Challenge was founded on the premise that youth voice and participation matter, and that our civic and political life will be stronger when young people participate and help shape their own destinies.

Additionally, Mikva Challenge engages youth in action civics, an authentic and transformative learning processes built on youth voice and youth expertise. A program of Mikva Challenge is Project Soapbox that Mr.Funes, Civics Teacher of Excel Southwest, facilitated in his classroom, with the assistance of Ms.Simon, Democracy in Action Coordinator, of Mikva Challenge. This program allowed students to voice their concerns of political and socioeconomic topics affecting them and their peers in and around the Southside of Chicago.

Project Soapbox is a public speaking competition that calls young people to speak out on issues that affect them and their communities. These powerful speeches have lasting, transformative impacts on classrooms, schools, and communities. Soapbox speeches are two-minutes long. A soapbox speech is about an issue that the student identifies, and includes relevant research and evidence on the issue. Furthermore, it addresses a specific audience, and includes a call to action.

Vivian Grayson’s participation in Project Soapbox heightened her interest even more and she chose to enter the MLK Washington DC essay contest. Students were asked to compose a 3-5 paragraph essay, video, or some other form of creative expression to explain why they wanted to attend the trip and why they should be chosen.  Vivian selected the writing prompt “How do you feel about the outcome of the 2016 election? What do you think this outcome means for the future of our country?  Vivian composed a powerful essay on of the effect of politics of youth on the Southside of Chicago.

“Vivian makes a continuous effort to go above and beyond the call of duty as a student, expressing her viewpoints and concern affecting herself and peers, in regard to politics and civics,” said Excel Southwest Executive Director Jamal Tillery. “She is an amazing student on a quest to better her environment through expressing her viewpoints.”

Vivian and the others depart on January 13 and return on the 16th.

The Mikva Challenge is named for former Chicago congressman and federal judge Abner J. Mikva, who passed away last year.

Recent Posts