Student successfully pitches idea to Rahm Emanuel

March 1, 2011 9:18:21 PM PST
One week after Rahm Emanuel won the mayor's race, his transition is in full gear. But Emanuel's win also means big changes for one South Side high school student.

Last year, Simeon Career Academy junior Jeremy Winters started his own after school arts group.

"You shouldn't have to be an athlete or a teacher's assistant in order to stay after school or to participate in the program," said Winters. "Why not a singer, why not an artist or an actor?"

What's different about Winters's program is that each student and their parent or guardian have to sign a contract promising parents will get involved, students will be on time and work hard.

"We're seeing a big increase with the interest of the parents and the community," said Sterling Bolden, principal, Simeon Career Academy.

During the campaign for mayor, Emanuel says he shook hands with voters at more than 100 El stops. One day, at the stop by Simeon, Winters saw Emanuel and his chance.

"I was like, whoa! This could be my shot, could be my program's shot," said Winters. "I gave him the contract that I have the students and parents sign, and he really liked that idea."

Aaron Harding helped start the after school program.

"He said, yeah, Rahm said he's going to contact us, and for a minute I'm like, he's not going to do that," said Harding.

But he did more than just contact them. Emanuel invited the teens to his election night victory party. And on Tuesday, Emanuel dropped by to check out a practice.

"I actually think that he's figured out something that I think is really important," said Emanuel.

Now, Winters's contract will be the new standard for Chicago Public School after school activities.

"If we can lure parents into a greater involvement, because of the after school opportunity, we're all going to be a better school system, a better community, and thriving in a much better way," said Emanuel.

The group's next performance is at a Bank of America's grand opening just down the street from Simeon. They're planning many more performances throughout the school year.