By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
It’s no longer the best kept secret in town. The PUSH Excel is fast becoming the hub of a high-tech, oratorical skills center for youth who many times are granted college scholarships.
And it’s happening at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters at 930 E. 50th St. PUSH is headed by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. who travels throughout the nation urging people to register and vote, and fighting social justice issues.
He recently appointed Rev. Dr. Janette Wilson, who is also a lawyer, as the PUSH for Excellence national education director, and Cook County Judge Stanley L. Hill, Sr. to educate and whet the intellectual appetites of students, especially those whose schools are not challenging them academically.
In offering a holistic approach to piquing the academic interest of the youth, Judge Hill is now in charge of the PUSH Excel oratorical training and competitions which were begun by the late Ora Lee Saunders.
As national education director Rev. Wilson has added the Science Technology/Engineering and Math (STEM) component which is taught by Martin Pieters. He teaches Robotics and also enters students into national competitions.
“PUSH is pushing our students for excellence academically and athletically,” said Wilson. “Even athletes must learn STEM and oratory skills because they too speak publicly…,” she said. “PUSH Excel is fast becoming the hub for social justice and academic excellence. We are training leaders.”
In late December PUSH Excel, in partnership with the Illinois Judicial Council, the LAB Accelerated Learning Centers (Detroit, Michigan) and Allstate Insurance, held an oratorical contest involving 40 students ranging from kindergarten to high school.
A string of Cook County judges evaluated the students’ presentations. “We were very pleased with our competition, with the performance of the children,” said Judge Hill.
Referring to the oratorical competition, dubbed the “Spirit Within us—The Measure of an Individual,” held at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters recently, Hill said “it was a stellar success.”
The competition included 25 Chicago students and 15 from Detroit. The next competition will be April 22, 2017 at PUSH. “Because we collaborated with Lab Accelerated Learning Centers in Detroit, we are preparing to participate in their competition which will be held in Detroit on March 17, 18 and 25, 2017.
“We will have elimination rounds on March 17th and 18th via teleconferencing with the help of CISCO Telecommunications, and the finalists will then participate in person on March 25th in Detroit,” Hill explained.
In Detroit the students will be asked to read “Up From Slavery” by Booker T. Washington and write a two-page essay, discuss the book then memorize it and present it in the March competition.
Ultimately, Judge Hill said they would roll out their oratorical program nationally beginning in six cities —- Chicago, Detroit, Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Jacksonville, and Atlanta.
When asked why he works so hard in this program, Judge Hill laughed and quoted Rev. Jackson’s comment about him. “He said I am obsessed.” Hill added, “I do this because somebody did it for me when I was a youngster.” Hill began his oratorical skills at the age of four participating in church programs.
The winners of the recent PUSH Excel’s oratorical competition were: (Kindergarten-3rd grade) Carleigh Lewis, first place, Leilani Jenkins, 2nd place, and Faith Jenkins, third place’s.
In the 4th, 5th and 6th grade levels, the winners were: Nelson Simmons, first place, Zyire Nichols, second place, and Rutherford Simmons third place.
Winners in the 7th and 8th grade levels were: Rian Baker, first place, Zyon Nichols, second place, and Thandi Samuels, third place.
For the 9th through 12th grade on the fourth level, the winners were: Alexis Ford, first place, and Tajohanae Ashcraft, second place.
And the last of the winners were: Rebecca Reid, first place, Tajohnae Ashcraft was second place winner and Zachary Love won third place.