WEST LOOP — One young lady has Chicago Public Schools’ undivided attention.
On Wednesday morning, 10-year-old Ella Dokic of the West Loop told the Board of Education about an essay she wrote on the need for more neighborhood public schools.
As part of a school assignment at STEM Magnet Academy, 1522 W. Fillmore St., Ella interviewed residents of her neighborhood and asked what they thought the top five problems were within their community.
While parking was high on the list, the lack of quality public schools came in at No. 1.
In “Educational Rights for All: The Need for More Schools in My Neighborhood,” Ella breaks down the reasons her neighbors were so concerned about the lack of area schools.
“There is a need for more public neighborhood schools in my area of the West Loop because the right for equal education is a right for all children,” she wrote.
Dokic’s mother, Cristen Dokic, said her daughter sat in on several community meetings as part of her research for the project.
“One day she said to me, ‘I didn’t realize how hard you fought to get me into this school,’” Cristen Dokic said of her daughter attending STEM Magnet.
After struggling for several years to find a grammar school for Ella, Cristen Dokic said her family finally got lucky when her daughter was selected in STEM Magnet's lottery drawing.
But other families in the area should not have to go through the same process when finding quality public education, Ella's mother said.
Ella said she hopes her reading Wednesday will alert CPS to the importance of having a public option for both elementary and high schools in her neighborhood.
"I think it’s important because anybody deserves a quality education, no matter how big or small,” the 10-year-old said. “You deserve an education because if you’re unaware, you can enhance your awareness, and if you’re already smart, you can be even smarter.”
"I want to hire her," Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said after Ella finished her speech to the board.
One day, Ella said, she sees herself working as a fashion designer, singer, doctor or a writer.
“If I fail in one thing, I still have all these other things I’m going to do,” she said. “I also really enjoy writing. But when I say I enjoy writing, I mean imaginative writing. I sometimes think I might want to write books when I get older.”