RELEASE: Celebrating the Winning Students and Ideas from Envision Chicago Round One

July 20, 2016

Nicko Margolies (The OpenGov Foundation) – – (202) 642-4467
Patrick Corcoran (Office of the Chicago City Clerk) – – (312) 744-7404

Press Release

Celebrating the Winning Students and Ideas from Envision Chicago Round One

Envision Chicago logo

CHICAGO, IL (July 20, 2016)Today, The OpenGov Foundation and the Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza join Aldermen, local companies and community organizations to celebrate the winners of the Envision Chicago pilot program. Chicago public high school students in four wards shared their ideas to improve city laws and today the four winning students will receive $1,000 scholarships and join the July Council Meeting to be honored with a commemorative resolution.

The winning students are:

  • Gabriela Casarrubias from Marine Leadership Academy at Ames in Ward 26, represented by Ald. Roberto Maldonado. Her winning idea was to expand the required adoption notices for unredeemed animals (§ 7­12­110).
  • Lavon Halloway from Chicago Excel Academy of Roseland in Ward 34, represented by ­Ald. Carrie Austin. His idea was to increase the minimum wage to reduce poverty (§ 1­24­020).
  • Victor Story from Taft High School in Ward 41, represented by Ald. Anthony Napolitano. His idea was to expand the hours of school playgrounds so kids can be in a safe space (§ 10­36­120).
  • Diana Bustamante from Lake View High School in Ward 47, represented by Ald. Ameya Pawar. Her idea was to improve owner identification of stray animals (§ 7­12­040).

It’s clear that when government meets students on their terms, and respects their voices, great things can happen. These students learned positive engagement practices on a user ­friendly website of the Chicago Municipal Code and 86 students dove in, discovered laws covering issues they cared about and shared their ideas. The sponsors for the scholarships of this inaugural Envision Chicago round were Microsoft Chicago, The Smart Chicago Collaborative, Haymarket, ComEd and Comcast.

“Chicago will soon be in the hands of its future leaders. Envision Chicago is showing that they are already dreaming big for that day, embracing this hands-on civic education opportunity and adding their voice to improve their city,” said Seamus Kraft, Executive Director of The OpenGov Foundation. “Thanks to the incredible students and teachers who participated in the Envision Chicago pilot, the leadership of Clerk Mendoza, and the generosity of our sponsors, a new day is dawning for democracy. I look forward to building on this civic engagement success and expanding Envision Chicago to all 50 wards to include all of our young people.”

“Envision Chicago connected young Chicagoans to their laws, elected officials and community. These future leaders came back with great ideas proving they are eager and capable to take charge of the laws that govern them,” said Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza. “This great city cannot address its challenges without an informed, engaged community that includes the city’s youth.”

“The OpenGov Foundation and Clerk Mendoza’s Office have created a fresh, new approach to the way our society can participate in the democratic process,” said the 26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado. “I am proud that they selected Marine Leadership Academy in the 26th Ward to launch their pilot project and scholarship contest. This opportunity for our young students to explore the new people-friendly has ignited excitement, curiosity, and participation in government like I have never, ever, seen before. Although only one winner was selected for the scholarship out of many entries, we are all winners because this new approach to participating in municipal government will encourage and ensure a healthy democracy for all.”

“I want to commend Envision Chicago, through its partnership with The OpenGov Foundation, along with the Clerk’s Office, Chicago Public Schools, the City of Chicago and other allies who worked in conjunction with promoting transparency in government to area students,” said 34th Ward Alderman Carrie M. Austin. “It is likewise a most appropriate gesture to have coupled this exercise in civics with a scholarship toward higher education. It is my hope that students who were selected to engage themselves in broadening their understanding of laws and how they define the ways in which we live, will continue to use the Envision Chicago free access to their local laws to become more invested stakeholders and better advocates for their communities.”

“Microsoft is pleased to support Envision Chicago and congratulates all the winners,” said Shelley Stern Grach, the Director of Civic Engagement at Microsoft Chicago. “We applaud this new program focused on the intersection of civics, open government and technology.”

“Haymarket Public Strategies is proud to be a part of this competition,” said Julie Derrig, Vice President of Public Affairs at Haymarket. “It is critically important that we actively engage the City’s youth in the legislative process. Congratulations to all the winners here today and congratulations to Clerk Mendoza and the Envision team for putting this important competition together.”

Envision Chicago introduced students to the laws of Chicago through, the city’s first open data edition of its municipal code. The site showcases the city law with inline definitions for legalese, the ability for anyone to comment and a user friendly, online format. With this improved access, students explored the rules that govern them and offered ideas to laws they thought were outdated or ineffective.

This fall, Chicago public school students will be required to complete two semesters of civic education. We hope schools and wards will adopt the model of Envision Chicago and bring direct civic engagement into their curriculum. It is up to all Chicagoans to foster civic engagement in our young people. It is our job to teach them how to positively engage, while encouraging them to speak out on issues that matter to them. The only way we can find solutions that work for all Chicagoans is to address our shared challenges, together.

The OpenGov Foundation is committed to bringing together civic engagement and modern, open source technology in Chicago. This student scholarship initiative is a part of the organization’s larger commitment to build 21st century lawmaking through the partnership with the Chicago City Clerk’s office.

About The OpenGov Foundation
The OpenGov Foundation is a fiercely nonpartisan nonprofit helping people participate in the government decisions that affect their lives. We believe innovative technology and open data can help deliver democratic governments that listen to citizens, operate efficiently and solve our shared challenges the smart way. We believe democracy means everyone should have the chance to be a hands-on contributor.