Two hundred Chicago Public Schools students gathered at Jones College Prep this past Saturday to speak about important issues facing the city and country during the semifinals and finals of the 10th annual Project Soapbox Competition.
The Project Soapbox Competition brings together students for “powerful speeches on issues that are most important to them.” Semifinalists at Saturday’s event talked about the Black Lives Matter movement, sexual harassment, racial epithets, mental health and people with disabilities.
Semi-finalists were selected by their peers and teachers from the over 3,000 students at 50 Chicago schools who participated in classroom-level soapbox competitions earlier this year. Judges then selected the Finalists from that group for an additional round of competition on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday’s events were hosted by the Mikva Challenge, “a non-partisan, nonprofit that develops youth to be informed, and active citizens and community leaders.” It is named for former federal judge and Illinois state legislator Abner Mikva and political activist and teacher Zoe Mikva. Project Soapbox competitions have grown from programs in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles to now include a national American Soapbox Initiative. The group said its alumni are more likely to vote and be political engaged than the population at large.
“The first step to becoming an engaged citizen is gaining the ability to stand up and speak out on issues you care about passionately. While many of these young people are not old enough to vote, they want to put the spotlight on issues they feel Chicago and the country should be trying to tackle,” a press release from the Mikva Challenge about Chicago’s 2017 Project Soapbox Competition explained.