Not even a global pandemic could stop recent Batavia High School graduate Isabella Irish from fighting for racial justice.
Her high school experience was spent attending football games, hanging out with friends and being involved with orchestra, art and lacrosse (she played two years for the boys team because Batavia didn't have a girls program). When her senior year was cut short by the coronavirus, Irish missed being able to say goodbye to her teachers and peers.
But the 18-year-old activist is ready to take the next step and get to work on her ultimate goal: "I want to reform the justice system."
She recently organized one of the suburbs' largest Black Lives Matter rallies in Batavia and has participated in several others throughout the Chicago area. She plans to attend Illinois State University in the fall to study criminal law and psychology, with hopes of becoming a forensic psychologist.
Q: How do you think this unusual end to your senior year will help shape your future?
A: I think it's going to make all of us stronger because we're able to withstand something that could be drastically life-changing. During this time, most of us have done things -- for the Black Lives Matter movement, especially -- that I feel like we wouldn't have had the time to do if we were still in high school.
Q: What has kept you focused and motivated during these unprecedented times?
A: I feel like I've been inspired because I see how the community is still able to come together even though everybody's really scared. It's really nice to see that people pushed the pandemic aside to fight for something that's really important. That's pretty rare to see. ... Because of the injustice that happened and that keeps happening, people are willing to come outside quarantine and just fight for it.
Q: From where did your career aspirations stem, and how have the past few months influenced that?
A: I've been wanting to do (forensic psychology) for a while. My mom's a psychologist and graduated from Illinois State University, and I've kind of looked up to her with that stuff for a long time.
I've been really interested in crime since I was younger. I've learned there are a lot of racial injustices and equality injustices in prison, especially with people who are trans and African American, and there's a higher incarceration rate of people who are African American per capita. I'm really interested to see why that is, and I want to try to change it from the inside.