In 2006, seventh-grader Eleni Vrettos surprised herself by composing the essay that won the CTA's "Name the Line" contest.
On Saturday, the Chicago Transit Authority marks the 10th anniversary of the Pink Line. On Thursday, Vrettos recalled the award as a turning point that she uses to inspire her seventh-grade language arts students in Hanover Park.
"Who does not like pink?" wrote Vrettos in February 2006 while attending junior high school in Cicero. "Just looking at the color can make a frown turn upside down. More passengers will ride the CTA if the color makes them want to shout!"
Recalling the Pink Panther, she asked, "Aren't trains supposed to be fast? And aren't panthers fast? Now you got a nice, pretty, fast train that everyone wants to ride."
Vrettos, 23, laughs now at her teenage enthusiasm, but judges picked it out of about 500 other entries from children across the region.
The Pink Line, which handled more than 5.6 million rides in 2015, was created out of existing track and stretches from the 54th/Cermak stop in Cicero to the Loop.
Coming of age in a bustling family of six kids where Vrettos was the second youngest, school "was an escape for me. It was an outlet to try hard."
A language arts teacher encouraged her to enter the contest, but Vrettos didn't have high hopes.
When administrators called her into the office unexpectedly, "I thought I was in trouble," Vrettos recalled, and when she saw her parents' car in the parking lot, "I thought it was something really bad."
Instead, she received a $1,000 savings bond and bragging rights on the CTA's newest line.
"This confirmed if I put my mind to it, I could write well," she said of the honor.
Vrettos went on to study language arts and education at Elmhurst College and faced her first class at Spring Wood Middle School last year.
And, when reluctant students balked at writing she'd tell them the story of the Pink Line contest.
"Some students will say, 'I don't think I can do this!' I'll say, you can do this, it's your narrative."