Coming during election season in Illinois, State Rep. Camille Lilly’s visit to Elmwood Elementary School on Nov. 2 could hardly have been better timed.
She delivered a message to put civics back in the schools, directed at the students who will become tomorrow’s voters. The school hosted Lilly, a Democrat representing the 78th District, as part of the school’s “Principal for a Day,” program. Lilly was running unopposed in the Nov. 6 election.
During her stop, Lilly acknowledged the good timing, noting that the school, located at 2319 N. 76th Ave., was to serve as one of the local polling places on Election Day.
“That’s why I want to put civics back into the schools,” she said, “because when we (adults) come in to vote, a lot of young people don’t know why we’re taking away their gymnasium. And it’s important they know that it’s a civic responsibility to vote.”
Lilly, whose district includes Elmwood Park, is a sponsor of House Bill 1252. The bill would amend Illinois School Code to provide that every public elementary school should include, in its sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade curriculum, a unit of instruction studying civics.
The more young people learn about their civic responsibility, “the better off we are as a society,” she said.
Assistant Principal Stephanie Hagins, accompanying Lilly during her visit, said that her message is in line with the school’s own efforts to increase civic awareness, starting with making sure “kids know who represents them.”
“A lot of what she talked about today was the power of their own voice,” she added.
As guest principal, Lilly’s duties included taking part in a raffle designed to reward students for positive behavior.
“They have to earn it by being ready, respectful and responsible,” explained Hagins, “which is our three R’s.”
By chance, Lilly also had an opportunity to speak to students who are taking part in the high school’s Snowball program. The students serve as mentors to younger students, passing on advice to sixth-grade students who will move on to middle school in Elmwood Park next year.
Getting to talk to Lilly, someone so involved in the community, was a bonus, said Hagins.
“I really enjoyed seeing the looks on their faces, the pure excitement,” she said.
Lilly also visited a sixth-grade classroom, reminding students of the important role they fill.
“Most people think that elected officials have all the power,” she said.
“Now, we do make the laws that you have to follow. But the laws we make are for the people we serve. You guys give us the insight on what’s good for the students,” she told the group.
One of the students asked Lilly whether she was Democratic or Republican. Lilly said she was Democratic. She went on to name for the students some of the different parties functioning in Illinois.
Despite different philosophies, “we have to coexist, just like you do in the classroom,” she told the students.
“You’re all from different backgrounds, and have different views on certain things, and sometimes red looks better than blue, you know,” she said. “But you still come to the same classroom, you still develop a classroom of cohesiveness and joy and wonder. That’s what all the different viewpoints, the different parties — that’s what we do.”
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November 6, 2018 at 11:30AM