When Carlos Pittman was 15 years old, he was kicked out of school after officials learned that his girlfriend was pregnant. 

“Has anybody ever been kicked out of school for something you felt wasn’t right?” Pittman, an organizer with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), polled the crowd.

Pittman addressed an audience of elementary and high school students gathered inside of Julian Middle School, 416 S Ridgeland Ave., on Feb. 9. They were there to have grownup conversations among themselves about ideas like the school-to-prison pipeline and restorative justice practices. They were also discussed solutions to the kind of school policies and practices that entrap young people like Pittman.

The event was hosted by District 97’s Committee for Legislative Action, Intervention, and Monitoring (CLAIM) and numerous community partners and featured breakout sessions facilitated by VOYCE organizers. 

On its website, the organization describes itself as a “youth organizing collaborative for education and racial justice.” VOYCE has previously helped organize students at Oak Park and River Forest High School into groups capable of analyzing and evaluating some the high school’s challenges and advocating for solutions. 

Last Thursday’s event also featured spoken word artists and performances by Julian’s jazz band. Visit oakpark.com to see video footage of the event.

Michael Romain 

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