Chicago Public Schools students find community heroes

This year, freshmen in English I at Hancock  interviewed several members of our community we consider to be she / heroes. From community activists to teachers of graffiti art, the freshmen were inspired to be more active in their community by these wonderful people.  

Here are some of the essays that were read at a culminating event to honor those who work to make our community a place where we feel proud to be.  Thanks much to those who gave their time;  we feel honored to have the opportunity to write about you.    


Community Hero: Gloria Talamantes

Erika Gonzalez, Hancock Freshman

Gloria Talamantes, or as she prefers "Gloe", is an art teacher and does graffiti. She also teaches After School Matters. She gets paid to pin things. She works full-time as a teacher in the arts. She went to Farragut High School and two years of college. In high school, Gloria wanted to look for justice so she created a group to protest injustice. She got kicked out of the soccer team because she created the group.

She thought that her school was unfair and that it was the right thing to do.  She has a husband and one child.  Her husband is a social media person and he supports everything she does. Her child, Ethan, is three years old. She said that it was a good thing that her jobs are flexible because then she has time to spent with her son.

Talamantes loves graffiti.  In a way, she can express herself.  She loves to show her talent to the world.  She likes to use complementary colors on her work like blue, teal, green-blue, and others because it shows her personality.

Gloria also faced challenging moments in life. One of them was applying for a job. "Applying for jobs was a challenge because I didn't have my master's degree or my bachelor's degree," Gloria explained.

Another challenge was the gangsters around her neighborhood. she said that one day she and her friends were doing graffiti when all of a sudden some guys came up to them and started screaming at them to go away because they were writing on their property. They were confused and then the guys started throwing bottles. One of the bottles hit Gloria on her forehead.  Graffiti for a girl is really hard.  She also got arrested when she was 19 years old because she got got caught doing graffiti. She learned from her mistakes and looked at things differently.

Gloe values the ability to express her beliefs through graffiti.  Not being in the soccer team gave her free time.  That’s when she found what she loves to do.  It helped her find her part in life. She loves and values how the community loves her work. “I have been to Mexico, Canada, and Paris,” she said. Because of her work, she has been sent to many places so that people can see her work. Even her son loves what she does. She said that her son always wants to help her with the graffiti work. He wants to spray paint. Gloria wants him to do something that he loves to do, but it has to be something positive.

Her definition of heroism is someone who transforms into something and helps many people, not just one person. It's an ordinary person who does something to help the other person. Her advice to young people is, “Do what you like to do. If you give it your all, your work would be successful and you will be happy.” She loves what she does because she gets to be in interviews. She likes it because it makes her feel proud of herself.  It changes lives.  Kids think differently but in a positive way, and she loves what she teaches to students.


Community Hero: Fausto Lopez

Lizette Vega, Hancock Freshman

Fausto Lopez is a consultant and a researcher in education systems. Outside of his work, he coordinates music and art. He has a master's degree in educational psychology. It took him 2 years to get his degree. He was born and raised in Chicago. He wrote graffiti his whole life. He is also the only Latino in his company. “I work mostly researching education systems and their effect on the young people in the community." Mr. Lopez stated that he works mostly on researching schools.  Also he looks at how these schools impact the young people that live in the community. He helps make positive changes in education systems.

Fausto Lopez is a researcher in education systems at the American Institute for Research. He has been working at the institute for 2 years. He has to see how those systems affect the young people in the community. He has been working as a researcher for 8 years. Even though Mr.Lopez has a successful career, he went through many challenges during his teenage years.  He had to deal with violence and risky behavior. He also deals with challenges as an adult like adultism.

Adultism is prejudice and discrimination against young people. “The adultism in my job, even for someone who looks relatively young, is something you're going to have to face it a lot as you get old. Adults think they have it all figured out and it comes with the grey hair and being able to grow a beard.” Mr. Lopez states that some adults think they are better than the young adults just because they are older.

Traveling to many different states and seeing the difference that he can make in school districts is what Fausto Lopez values the most about his work.  He also values his community because he wants to change the communication in his community.  He also thinks that in order for it to be a better community, the community members should get invested in the neighborhood and do something to help the community positively.

Also Mr. Lopez thinks the world is not really safe.  It all depends how smart you are so you don't get in trouble. “Being from Chicago, I get to go all over Illinois to see what's happening within school districts  and I also have the opportunity to go to different states and see what's affecting the community and the young people there.”   This is what he also values about his job: being able to change the school districts in a positive way so that the young people won't be negatively affected by it.

Heroism to Fausto Lopez is someone who stands next to their ideals and pushes for them. His advice to young people is to stay diverse and stay balanced.  Also, they should not think that every day is going to be a smooth ride.  Use Google and go to the library.  Lastly, diversify what you know and what you like.  “Be someone who stands for their ideals, and pushes for them even if the person that they are pushing against does not want to be pushed.”  Young people need to choose the people they are with carefully because if they notice it or not, they will affect how the young person acts or speaks.


Community Hero: Harish Patel

Anna Bautista, Hancock Freshman

Harish Patel is a political leader who helps candidates run for office; Harish Patel also works at a social justice center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Harish Patel lived in India , but his mother sent him to Chicago when he was young. While in Chicago, Mr. Patel lived with his aunt and attended three different suburban schools. Mr. Patel later said he began working at age fourteen at Ihop. Harish Patel also stated, “If you have a job, you have to have a purpose for choosing that job.” He used his job to help him with one of the things he would later need in life.

The reason Harish Patel wanted to work as a political leader was he wanted to help his community. People want to be heard if it's a pothole they want fixed or if they want to argue about a family member losing their job. That's where he comes in and shows them ways they can be heard.   One big challenge Harish Patel  faced was learning English.  "I practiced my English whenever I could, even while waiting on customers,” said Harish Patel. This is where choosing his job came in handy.

"Everyone I meet is considered my community,” said Mr. Patel.  One thing Harish Patel values the most about his job is being able to talk to people.  If Harish Patel ever lost his job he said, “I wouldn’t worry.  I would just find another one.” Harish Patel also stated that he supports candidates not by physical characteristics / traits, but by their beliefs in office and how they would help the community.

Harish Patels’ definition of a hero is “People who work their asses off.” Mr. Patel did not have any advice for young people today, but asked our group if we had any advice for him; of course we said no. While growing up Harish Patel had many role models/ mentors. Mr. Patel believes that having a role model/ mentor is important because if you would ever need help they would most likely be there to support you.

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