SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School Students Encouraged to Stay “In the Struggle”
Students at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Charter High School (CHS) have been getting daily doses of inspiration from Metro East community leaders and neighbors during Black History Month.
“We wanted to let our students know that there are other African American young people fighting battles of their own and winning,” said Edith Laktzian, CHS learning strategist and coordinator of the school’s “I Am in the Struggle with You” Black History Program.
“We wanted to bring in young leaders in our community to show students that they can make it,” Laktzian added, “and to let them know they have support.”
On Friday, Feb. 10, East St. Louis City Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks and East St. Louis City Manager Courtney Logan were the motivation for the day. The pair spoke to students in the classes of science teacher Pamela Saffore and history teacher Carolyn Kribs.
Today, Friday, Feb. 17, Aja Williams, media producer for Nine Network of Public Media, spoke to several CHS classes.
“I grew up in a two-parent home right here. I’m a product of East St. Louis and East St. Louis School District 189,” said Jackson-Hicks. “I graduated from East St. Louis Senior High School as salutatorian, graduated from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), and I was able to compete in the marketplace with no problem.” Jackson-Hicks has a bachelor’s in accounting from the University of Illinois and a master’s in professional counseling from Lindenwood University.
“We made a lot of sacrifices to be where we are,” said Logan, who is reportedly the youngest city manager in the history of East St. Louis.
There have also been many challenges along the way, relayed both the mayor and city manager. Logan spoke of an alcoholic father, a drug addicted mother, a drug-dealing brother and one brother who was shot and killed.
“While there were negative things around me, I looked to those who were successful, like my teachers and my stepbrother who went to Tennessee State,” Logan continued. “I wanted to be like them. We get to control our choices and consistent, positive choices will result in positive results.” Logan has a bachelor’s in communications and philosophy from McKendree University and a juris doctorate from Saint Louis University School of Law.
Mayor Jackson-Hicks spoke about the tragic loss of her 23-month-old daughter during the midst of her mayoral race.
“I had to decide whether to continue with my campaign,” she said. “I pressed on because of my passion for this city. Service is sacrificial. This is the most challenging job I’ve ever had, but I believe it will be the most rewarding.”
The mayor went on to tell the students that she believed in them and wanted to see them achieve their best.
“You are not cursed,” Logan added. “Your struggle is a gift. Diamonds are made from tremendous pressure, and this environment shapes diamonds. But you’ve got to have tunnel vision. Block everything else out that doesn’t lead you down the path to success.”
CHS’ Black History program opened with guest speaker Anthony Kiekow, former KMOV television reporter and now St. Louis Symphony Orchestra public relations manager. A sample of remaining speakers and their dates:
- Feb. 20 - Kelvin Harding, East St. Louis community leader
- Feb. 23 – SIUE alum Muhammad Raqib, SIUE Upward Bound counselor, and SIUE alum Carlos Lewis, founder of Journey Live Productions in Collinsville
- Feb. 27 - Lakesha Butler, PharmD, clinical associate professor in SIUE’s Department of Pharmacy Practice
- Feb. 28 - Dr. Andrea Rockett, owner and CEO of Jacobs Herb Shop in East St. Louis
East St. Louis City Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks
East St. Louis City Manager Courtney Logan