AUBURN GRESHAM — Jakwon Agee attended a citywide rally Wednesday to protest the Chicago Public Schools plan to close dozens of elementary schools this fall even though his school isn't on the closings list.
"I wanted to go to show my support. I go to a good school and not every kid can say that," said the 8-year-old first-grader at Oglesby Elementary in Auburn Gresham. "I just hope the [Chicago Board of Education] pays attention and changes their minds once they see all the people at this rally."
Agee and three of his fellow Oglesby schoolmates were part of a group of residents who took advantage of a free bus ride to and from the downtown rally that included a march to CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St.
Jeremiah Friend, 13, said he was going because he had no other spring break plans.
"Might as well go. What else is there to do when school is out? I am glad my school is not closing. I am lucky because I go to a good school," said Friend, a sixth-grader at Oglesby.
Another Oglesby student Brandon Wells, 14, was happy to go downtown.
"It's not something I get a chance to do a lot. There are a lot of cool things to see downtown like the [Buckingham] fountain," Wells said. "I do find it strange that the same people who always tell us to stay in school and get a good education are the same ones closing the schools."
The bus ride to the Wednesday rally was sponsored by the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp., a nonprofit organization.
"We want parents to get more engaged in their children's education and if by taking them to a rally does that, so be it," said Jimmy Prude, a community organizer for the group. "Too many parents take a hands-off attitude when it comes to their children's education and we [Greater Auburn-Gresham] want to change that pattern of thinking."
Longtime Auburn Gresham resident Martha Lowery, 79, said her children never attended CPS, and while her grandkids do not attend any schools slated to close this fall she still chose to go.
"The way I see it, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution, and I want to be part of the solution to the problems in my community," said Lowery, who has lived in Auburn Gresham for 48 years.
One elected official whose district covers portions of Auburn Gresham also attended the rally.
"A total of nine schools are set to close in my district — that does not include the six after-school programs coming to end," U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) said in a statement prior to attending the rally.
"We must look at the closing of these schools for what they are, which is the destabilization of our communities ... By consolidating these schools we are uprooting our children from their classrooms, asking them to commute to new environments that could potentially be dangerous and sending hundreds of professionals to the unemployment line.
"I stand with the students, parents and teachers in asking CPS to come up with an alternative solution to fixing our education infrastructure (rather) than closing schools.”