Rickover Naval Academy
Electoral Politics Change-Maker
Sponsored by Jack and Charlotte Marco
Emmanuel Batayola is a senior at Rickover Naval Academy in the Edgewater neighborhood and actively involved in Mikva’s Elections in Action, Election Judges, Summer Fellows, Media Fellows, and Mikva Scholars programs. Emmanuel first became involved in Mikva Challenge last summer as a Fellow working in Alderman John Arena’s office (45th ward) where he found his passion for politics and civic leadership, and since that time his passion has become a driving force in his life. Emmanuel enjoyed his Mikva internship so much that he continued to serve on Alderman Arena’s reelection campaign. His interest in public service led him to participate in Elections programs, volunteer every week in the fall of 2014 as a phone banker for the Quinn campaign and then serve as an election judge in his ward, even though he was not yet old enough to vote. In the Media Fellows program, Emmanuel critically analyzed elections news coverage and wrote youth-friendly articles to help other young people better understand the campaign. Emmanuel’s passion for civic leadership is matched by his creativity, ambition, curiosity, and heart. Emmanuel even has a fitting nickname around the Mikva Challenge office: The Mayor.
Xiao Lin Mei
Jones College Prep
Sponsored by GCM Grosvenor
Xiao Lin “Lin” Mei is a junior at Jones College Prep in the South Loop and a resident of Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood. Lin became involved with Mikva Challenge through the Education Council because she noticed educational inequalities and resource disparities between schools, a realization that led her to transfer from her neighborhood school to Jones College Prep. Lin is a multi-dimensional and skilled team player, taking on new challenges and opportunities at Mikva Challenge and in her community whenever she can. Because she sees herself as an ambassador for both youth and the Chinese community in Chicago, she has sought to impact public safety, educational equality, and quality of life for immigrants. Her leadership philosophy is summed up in the phrase “help others,” which is exemplified in her work. For example, Lin spearheaded a project by the Education Council to create an online resource for students and teachers to access and search the CPS Student Code of Conduct and support equitable application and enforcement of policies. Lin’s tenacity, passion, and confidence with adults are qualities that make her a powerful young leader.
Infinity Math, Science & Technology HS
Justice and Equity Change-Maker
Sponsored by Kirkland & Ellis
Emmanuel is a senior at Infinity Math, Science, and Technology High School and a resident of the Little Village community. As a member of Mikva Challenge’s Juvenile Justice Council, Emmanuel has proven himself to be a coalition builder, a reliable team member, and a skilled facilitator. The Council has worked this year to reduce youth contact with the justice system, a diffuse and multidimensional issue. Emmanuel is a pragmatic problem solver and perceptive about nuanced issues, which have made him an invaluable leader and resource on the Council. Driven by a sense of justice and responsibility, Emmanuel takes his activist spirit, passion for justice, and skills for leadership beyond Mikva Challenge to his school and community. He recently played a lead role in organizing a protest against global torture and runs a legal clinic in his free time for students at his school. Emmanuel is truly an intellectual, understands the importance of collective action around an issue, and isn’t afraid to lead change.
Lindblom Math & Science Academy
Sponsored by Abbott Labs
Faviola “Favi” Ramirez is a junior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in the Englewood community and an active member of Mikva Challenge’s Teen Health Council, which works on policies to improve the mental, nutritional, and sexual health of Chicago teens. Favi is recognized for her extraordinary work leading a youth wellness team at her school for the past three years, during which time she has shown herself an expert on issues of obesity, sexual health, and mental health. She recently joined the advisory board of a prestigious public health organization and will soon embark on a cross-cultural exchange with high school youth in Brazil, where she will share her knowledge of youth health activism and bring back Brazilian lessons to Chicago. Favi is changing the way her school community approaches health and wellness and has become a high profile youth advocate for how lessons learned at the school level can be brought to scale in a diverse urban environment.
Fenger Academy HS
Peace and Public Safety Change-Maker
Sponsored by Allstate
Maurice Sanders is a junior at Christian Fenger High School in the Roseland community. He is an active member of the Mikva Challenge Peace and Leadership Council at Fenger. Maurice’s pride in and hope for his school and his neighborhood stand out and make him a natural leader who inspires others. He has the poise of someone much older and is not afraid to be vocal and stand up when he sees his peers making poor choices, a quality that at times has put him in danger. Maurice also thinks critically about issues affecting his school and has a deep compassion for others. As a member of the Peace and Leadership Council, Maurice has helped address issues of attendance, the school lunch program, and lack of access to a school nurse. Maurice is described by his Council mentor and fellow students as a natural “peace-maker” and has great leadership potential due to his commitment to others and the confidence he inspires in his fellow students.
Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville
Sponsored by Boeing
Kadeejisha Walton is a junior at Chicago Military Academy in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Nominated by her teacher, Diane Shalda, Kadeejisha is an exemplary student, leader, and role model among her peers. Through Mikva programming at her school, Kadeejisha has been involved in campaigning both in and out of civics class, served as an election judge, and competed in Project Soapbox, and has been an integral member and independent de facto leader of her school’s Wellness Council. This year the Council worked on increasing physical activity and safe alternative activity opportunities before and after school. She led the group in lobbying to offer Hip Hop Yoga sessions with a trainer, temporarily, and now Kadeejisha is being trained to lead the class after these sessions end. Additionally, she ensures school policies are enforced and is a model of health, well-being, and school activism. Kadeejisha is a big-picture thinker and works not only to improve her school right now, but hopes to leave a legacy of activism for Chicago Military Academy and the students it serves.
2015 Adult Ally Honoree
Chief Safety and Security Officer, Chicago Public Schools
Jadine Chou has served as the Chief Safety and Security Officer for Chicago Public Schools since 2011. In that time, she has set a high standard for public service and has been a true champion for youth voice. Since her appointment, Jadine has displayed a keen awareness for the importance of listening to the concerns of students and engaging youth as allies to solve schools’ most critical peace and safety issues. As an ally of Mikva Challenge’s Education Council, Jadine worked hand-in-hand with Council members to improve relations between students and security officers in schools. Jadine served as a trusted mentor to the Council, and she and the security team saw the Council as an invaluable resource for collecting data and creating student-friendly solutions. Jadine serves as an advocate at the city level for involving youth voice in decision making, including through the Mayor’s Commission for a Safer Chicago. Additionally, Jadine is an advocate of restorative practices in schools to increase both safety and student retention, and build a more peaceful and relationally healthy learning environment. Mikva Challenge is honored to partner with Jadine and grateful for the tremendous and invaluable work she has done to make Chicago Public Schools a safe place for our young people.