It’s hard to read the latest average scores of students in the Chicago public schools and not feel discouraged.
According to the Associated Press, “Chicago public school kids generally are doing worse in reading and math than their big-city brethren, and that includes middle-class students who have been courted by the system for the last 10 years.”
Enter U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis, who has worked to address the difficulty in educating young people in his 7th legislative district, which includes the affluent West Loop and hard-hit Austin.
In seeking to recognize the students and educators often forgotten in these statistics, Davis hosted his 9th annual, 7th Congressional District Education Recognition Ceremony on Saturday.
The event took place at Rush University Medical Center, located at 1752 West Harrison.
“Those who are entrusted with our children’s education would, or should, occupy a special place of honor in our society,” said Davis Saturday. “That is why every year we single out a few outstanding educators for special acknowledgement.”
As in year’s past, Davis awarded numerous scholarships to students, many of whom are products of the CPS system. This year’s scholarship awards totaled $18,000.
More than 30 students received scholarships of $500 and above through the “Herzekiah & Mazzie Davis Scholarship” – named in honor of Con. Davis’ parents – and “Spouses Education Scholarship Program.”
In opening the ceremony City Colleges Chancellor Wayne Watson spoke about the importance of education throughout history.
“When Hitler wanted to conquer a country in the early 20th century he burned their books to control their learning; when European conquistadors wanted to colonize Africans they killed the elders, those who could educate them about their culture,” said Watson. “As Carter G. Woodson once said, ‘when you control a man’s thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions.'”
The education awards were distributed by individual categories: administrators, teachers, and activists, para-professionals, who are basically teacher’s assistants.
Among the Outstanding Administrators honored: James Cosme, principal of James Otis Elementary School; Dr. Debra Crump, principal of Fredrick Douglas Academy; Josephine Gomez; dean of Academics at North Lawndale College Prep; and Derotha Rogers-Clay, assistant principal at George W. Collins High School.
The Outstanding Teachers included: Helen Moy of John V. LeMoyne Elementary School; Mable T. Curtis of St. Dorothy Elementary School; and the man whose name created the most discussion at the ceremony, George Ziemialkowski of Martin Ryerson Elementary.
Presenter Louverta Hurt joked, “I consider myself to be pretty good at pronouncing even the most difficult of words, but George you’re going to have to help me out with this one.”
Mr. Ziemialkowski replied, “It’s pronounced zee-mall-cow-ski. I think I go through pretty much every letter in the English language in my last name.”
Other recipients included: Ruther M. Hill of Leslie Lewis Elementary and Joyce Washington of John Marshall High School for their excellence as para-professionals.
Also, Dr. John Morrison, professor at Aurora University and Felicia Townsend, doctorate student studying Policy Studies in Urban Education at University of Illinois at Chicago, received honors for Outstanding Community Activist and Outstanding Doctorial Student respectively.
Ms. Townsend once worked with Congressman Davis in 1999 when she served as chair of the 7th Illinois Congressional District’s Business and Economic Development Committee from 1999-2001.
Cong. Davis wrapped up the ceremony with a few words.
“I think the most important thing to take from the ceremony is that everyone has something to give or contribute to their communities,” said Davis.