CHICAGO – After a presidential election that has been called vulgar, lewd and toxic, one area of hope for Chicago youth to begin the healing process is through addressing President-elect directly about their concerns through the Mikva Challenge Project Soapbox competition. Project Soapbox is a citywide public speaking competition where thousands of Chicago teens address classmates and civic leaders on issues that personally affect them.

“I have a voice and an even bigger political voice, and I am human. And I have one question, will this next president respect me?”- asked Rebecca Escamilia as she delivered her two minute speech on racism.

“Young people often find that their ideas and concerns are left out of the conversation,” Mikva Challenge Chicago Executive Director Michelle Morales said. “Given the impact that youth had on Obama’s election, it’s surprising how little the politicians connect to the issues being raised by youth.”

Throughout the competition Mikva Challenge was live tweeting student speeches directly @realdonaldtrump.

On the topic of access to college Alirah Watts from Mather said “I should be able to go to my dream college without being in debt for the rest of my life.” img_3762

Racial discrimination was another topic brought up by many participants. “We must uplift those that are racially stigmatized. Racial stigmatization means neglecting growth of new life,” said first place winner Angelica Heaney from Lincoln Park High School.

Another youth finalist, Jackie Sandoval added, “for America to be great again, we need to stop racist language against immigrants.”

Gender was also a hot button issue. One participant said: “for misogynistic men, I say, we are not toys or objects. We are human beings.”

The contest began at the school level as students chose from one of two topics:

  • What issue impacting young people should the presidential candidates be addressing and why?
  • What is the most important issue facing your community and why should others care?

Two students from each classroom were chosen to compete in the semifinal round at Jones High School located at 700 S. State, Chicago, IL. In the morning they were placed in groups of 15-20 and performed their speeches before judges and the other students. Theimg_3679 judges picked two from each group to move on to that afternoon’s final round, where judges picked a first- and second-place winner. A student’s choice winner was also chosen.

The student choice award went to Danny Moore from Julian High School, Alirah Watts from Mather High School was the runner up and Angelica Heaney from Lincoln Park High School won first prize and an all expense paid trip to New York.