Thank you, overseasgranny, for sharing this beautiful, beautiful story about that well-known “evil”, Rahm Emanuel:
When Kathleen Owens began her job last December as a social worker at the Longwood campus of the Chicago International Charter School on West 95th Street, the first child she laid eyes upon was DeJuan Brown.
“I was being given a tour of the school, and there was a little boy sitting by the library, eyes like to cry, a disoriented look on his face,” remembers Owens. “I said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ He said, ‘I hate school.’ ”Owens asked who the boy was.“The lady giving me the tour said, ‘Oh believe me, you’ll get to know this kid,’” says Owens. “ ‘You’ll see him every day, because he’s a lot of trouble here. He’s not motivated, very defiant and always getting kicked out.’ ”Owens instructed the boy to find a smile and bring it to her office the next morning.
There, the University of Chicago graduate and the seventh-grader talked — he told her he is interested in government, and Owens told him she was a volunteer at Rahm Emanuel’s Hyde Park campaign office.“He said, ‘Honestly? Are you for real? Do you know Rahm Emanuel is going to make my neighborhood safer?’ ” says Owens. “He literally ran off Rahm’s platform for me. I was completely floored. He knew more about Rahm’s platform than I did.”DeJuan had heard Emanuel’s campaign promises on TV commercials.
“He would be on TV,” says the 13-year-old. “He would talk about how he was going to change the city of Chicago.”Owens asked if he wanted to visit the local campaign office that Saturday.“He was like, ‘Oh, my God, yes, yes!’” Owens says. “I told him to meet me there at 9:30. He was there at 9 o’clock.”
“He’s a skinny guy, quiet — really quiet at first, that’s what caught Rahm’s eye,” recalls Tarrah Cooper, Emanuel’s press secretary. “We were getting ready to canvass the troops, and here was this young African-American kid, but there were no other kids with him. We asked him what he was doing there, and he said, ‘Well, my teacher brought me. I like politics. I want to help.’ ”
“When Rahm walked in, DeJuan was very shy,” says Owens.“I was kinda nervous,” says the teen. “I didn’t know what to say at first. He asked me my name, and I said, ‘DeJuan Brown.’ He asked me if I wanted to go canvassing, trying to get some votes.”“Rahm said, ‘If it’s OK, do you want to knock on doors with us?’ ” says Cooper. “DeJuan really lit up.” It was a cold, snowy day, and they began ringing doorbells in the neighborhood.
“Mostly Rahm said nothing,” says Owens. “This kid rattled off his platform. Rahm stood back, amazed.”Ever since, Emanuel occasionally phones DeJuan, or his mother, or the school.
“Rahm checks on him, sees how his homework is going,” says Cooper.“I was working on a group project with my students a couple of weeks ago. The class phone rang and on the other end was the mayor-elect,” says Cedderick Hunter, a history teacher at Longwood. “Needless to say, it was quite a surprise for me.”
When DeJuan asked Emanuel to visit his school, he did so. On Election Night, DeJuan attended the victory celebration.“As soon as Mayor-elect Emanuel hit the stage, he spotted DeJuan,” remembers Hunter. “[He was] hugging him as if he were his own child.”
“Rahm has remained in contact — I really admire him for that,” says Owens. “Rahm has not let go of this kid, this really has given this kid motivation to go on.”
He helped him tremendously,’’ agrees DeJuan’s mother, Michelle Covington. “Fast-forward to April,” says Owens. “DeJuan has not had one suspension, his grades have gone up, he’s a student leader, he loves school, he’s excited. Everyone walks around the building amazed at how he has turned this kid around, a complete 100 percent transformation.”
“My son is dyslexic,” says Covington. “Rahm motivated him to overcome his obstacles. The stars are the limit.”On Friday, DeJuan got another call from the mayor-elect. “He says, ‘DeJuan, how you doing?’ ” says the teen. “I said, ‘I’m doing fine.’
“They want me to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.”At the May 16 mayoral inauguration? “Yes.”
“He said I could come by the office.”
What advice will he give the mayor?
“Just to stay motivated — like the advice he gave me,’’ says DeJuan Brown. “Do good in school, get good grades, do a good job — that’s the same he could do. Do good at what he’s good at, so people will like him. That’s what he’s doing.”