‘You have to do your best’: Rep. Underwood provides civics lesson for Yorkville Y115 students at Black History Month assembly


YORKVILLE – U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood provided students at Yorkville’s Circle Center Grade School with a civics lesson during an assembly celebrating Black History Month on Feb. 17.

Underwood, D-Naperville, is fresh off her victory in last November’s general election for the U.S. House seat from the newly redistricted 14th Congressional District, which now includes all of Kendall County.

The school assembly showcased three African-American role models for the students, including Underwood, Yorkville School District Y115 Security Officer Dennis Hinton and BP Chicago Human Resources Officer Angela Harrison.

Circle Center Principal Shannon Hamm asked each of the three to tell the students about their education and careers, drawing a clear connection between the two.

The students cheered as Underwood introduced herself as their representative in Congress to the large gymnasium crowd.

“I am the youngest Black woman to be elected to Congress,” Underwood told the students. “I was 32-years-old when I was first elected in 2018.”

Underwood told students that they can achieve their dreams if they work hard and believe in themselves.

“Sometimes people don’t think you can do it because they haven’t seen it before,” Underwood told the youngsters. “You have to do your best.”

Underwood said that expectations are high for a someone in her profession.

“I have to be excellent every day,” Underwood said.

The congresswoman told the students that she is a graduate of the University of Michigan and began her career as a registered nurse.

She noted that serving as a member of Congress does not require a college degree.

“You have to be at least 25-years-old, live in the district for 30 days and get a whole lot of people to vote for you,” Underwood told the students.

Underwood outlined the three branches of the federal government, sometimes seeking whispered confirmation from Hamm that her explanation was within the grasp of the K-3 students.

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, right, is seen here with Yorkville Circle Center Grade School Principal Shannon Hamm on Feb. 17, 2023.
U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, right, is seen here with Yorkville Circle Center Grade School Principal Shannon Hamm on Feb. 17, 2023. (Mark Foster/)

Later, students were given the opportunity to ask questions.

One student asked Underwood if she had ever been bullied because of her skin color.

“Yes, and it hurt,” Underwood replied, explaining that as a young girl a bully was ridiculing her hair.

Underwood said her mother comforted her and she emerged stronger from the experience.

Harrison, who works for BP in Chicago, related a similar experience and like Underwood said she had to work hard to be successful.

“You have to stay focused and set good goals,” Harrison advised the students. “Keep good friends.”

Harrison is a graduate of Oswego High School and DePaul University.

Her father, Fred Harrison, is an IT specialist at the school and is known affectionately by the students as “Mr. Fred,” while her mother, Emma Harrison, is a paraprofessional at Yorkville’s Early Childhood Learning Center.

Hinton, the school’s security officer, is a familiar face for Circle Center’s students and he received an enthusiastic reception.

With 27-years experience as a Chicago police officer, Hinton has seen it all.

“You have to be brave, diligent and respectful” to work in law enforcement, Hinton told the students.

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, right, is seen here with Yorkville Circle Center Grade School Principal Shannon Hamm on Feb. 17, 2023.
Angela Harrison, an Oswego High School graduate, describes her work as a human resources officer for BP in Chicago, during a student assembly on Feb. 17, 2023 at Yorkville’s Circle Center Grade School while Principal Shannon Hamm holds the microphone. Seated is Congresswoman Lauren Underwood. (Mark Foster/)

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February 20, 2023 at 08:40AM

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