CPS denies travel aid to fair winner

By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

Eva Lewis, 8th grader at Kenwood Academy High School Academic Center, is one of the winners of Illinois History Fair. In addition to winning in the fair she was named a National History Day Qualifier, which allows her to travel to Maryland to compete for a national prize. She may have to forfeit her place in the competition, though, because she cannot afford to attend, so her family is seeking donations from friends, family and community members.

Eva Lewis, whose project, “The South Shore Cultural Center,” addresses the building’s segregated history as a country club and its eventual preservation as a cultural center, has been competing in the history fair for two years. Last year, she was invited to the Hyde Park Historical Society’s Hyde Park Township Historical Society Award as an honorary presenter to share her documentary, on “The Economical, Historical and Industrial Effects of the Columbian Exposition.”

Valerie Andrews-Lewis, Eva Lewis’ mother, said she was excited and very proud of her daughter’s achievement but was shocked to hear that Kenwood, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., could not pay for Eva Lewis to participate in the competition.

“She has been working very hard all year for this moment,” Valerie Andrews-Lewis said. “If she doesn’t attend, they will select an alternative to take her place.”

Kenwood Principal Gregory Jones said he learned that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was no longer funding out of state trips earlier in the year when he tried to send several teachers to San Diego to an advance placement training.

“We can only pay for in-state expenses so we had buses that took the students to the state competition,” Jones said. “I don’t know why the rules changed. Maybe because of the deficit.”

He said the school could pay the registration fee for chaperones but has decided not to send teachers. Calls made to CPS were not returned by press time.

Valerie Andrews-Lewis said the family is now trying to raise money for her and Eva Lewis to attend the competition. Expenses include transportation, lodging, meals and a $100 registration fee.

The school has agreed to help the family collect donations.

Valerie Andrews-Lewis said so far Eva Lewis has raised enough to cover the registration fee, which is coming from a faith-based community member who is nationally known for his philanthropic endeavors.

While visiting local businesses seeking donations, the Lewises saw Corey Brooks, pastor of Chicago-based New Beginning Church and founder of Project Helping Others Obtain Destiny (H.O.O.D.).

Brooks is nationally known for camping out on the rooftop of an abandoned hotel that was plagued with prostitution, drug and gang activity to raise $450,000 to purchase the land located at 6625 S. King Drive to build a community center on Chicago’s South Side. The campaign for the initial seed amount was raised and Phase I was completed on February 24, 2012. The closing for the property purchase was completed on March 6, 2012.

“Eva went up to him and told him the situation and he said he would pay her registration fee,” said Valerie Andrews-Lewis. “We don’t know him, we’re not even members of his church and he was nice enough to do this.”

To make a donation, send checks to Kenwood Academy High School —Attention Eva Lewis, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave. Write the name Eva Lewis on the memo line of the check.

d.phillips@hpherald.com