Excel Academy Senior Selected for Chicago Mayor’s Youth Transition Committee
How about graduating high school and immediately going to work for the mayor? That’s exactly what’s happening for Chicago Excel Academy of South Shore’s Nala Cotton. She has been selected for incoming Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Youth Transition Committee, a group that will advise the new mayor on issues Chicago teenagers face in their neighborhoods.
“I want to make Chicago a better place,” Nala said. “We need better public safety, transportation, and education. I want to do something about all of those things.”
The director of student services at South Shore, Tirrell Taylor, said it was clear Nala had a great spirit from the day she walked in the door and encouraged her to apply for the position.
“She was always helping out, always giving advice to other students to try to help them become better,” Taylor said. “She has always had the drive to give back to her community, and that’s one of the reasons she is a perfect fit for this committee. It’s also why she’s maintained a 4.0 GPA since she’s been enrolled at our school.”
Nala maintains the role of executive, the highest level a student can achieve in Excel Academy’s student government. As an executive in the student government, Nala takes on more responsibility in school and acts as a mentor to her peers. Taylor said Nala exemplifies everything that Camelot’s Excel Academies would like to show the community.
She will be among roughly 20 students from different schools around the city to serve on the committee. Nala was recommended by My Block My Hood My City, an organization she has been involved with for two years that “takes teens from under-resourced communities on explorations around the city” and provides them with new experiences, exposing them to possibilities beyond their own neighborhoods.”
“It’s an honor. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I’m proud of myself and my school. And I’m grateful to my school for giving me this opportunity,” she said.
Nala left Chicago for Texas and fell behind in her studies. After returning to the city and enrolling in Excel Academy of South Shore about two years ago, she is completely caught up and graduating on time. She says the biggest lesson she learned at Excel South Shore is accountability. “The environment at Excel absolutely helped me become a better person.”
Camelot operates four Excel Academies in Chicago. This June, roughly 200 students, who were not on track to graduate high school, will earn their high school diploma from Chicago Public Schools.
Nala says gun violence is the number one problem she wants to help the new mayor solve. “People can’t go outside like they want to because of the violence. My mom and grandmother don’t want me outside because of gang violence and gun violence. I stay away from it by staying in school and then going straight home. I love to work, and I always stay busy.”
After graduation in June, Nala plans to attend Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago.
They’ll be getting a great student, mentor, and advocate. Congratulations, Nala!