Stevenson senior aims to ensure 'all groups have their stories told'

Rishabh Wuppalapati, a senior at Stevenson High School, is the founder and director of the You Project, an organization dedicated to promoting geographic literacy and ethnic and cultural awareness.

Wuppalapati's group has written several bills with the help of state legislators, introduced in the General Assembly, to expand the teaching of history to include Indigenous and West African communities and “make sure that all groups have their stories told,” he said.

Wuppalapati, 18, of Vernon Hills has been working with Stevenson sophomore Eshaam Bhattad, 16, of Buffalo Grove, and students across the country — Washington, New York and New Jersey — trying to get similar bills passed in those states and on the federal level.

“In the wake of pushes against equitable access to historic education, Illinois has been a real pioneer in this (with) the passage of the TEAACH Act,” Wuppalapati said.

Illinois adopted the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act in July 2021. The law took effect in elementary and high schools this academic year, making Illinois the first state in the nation to require public schools to teach Asian American history.

Wuppalapati also is trying to persuade Stevenson High School District 125's administration to adopt a land acknowledgment — a statement acknowledging “we are on Indigenous land,” he said.

The statement was approved by the school's equity and diversity club.

Wuppalapati will meet with the administration in early March to push for its adoption and is trying to get other high schools to follow suit.

“History in Illinois didn't start ... with the arrival of Europeans,” he said. “Just like the Aztecs and the Mayans, there were many great cultures and civilizations that lived right here in Illinois, and we have to learn from them and honor their legacies.”

State Sen. Adriane Johnson, a Buffalo Grove Democrat, has invited Wuppalapati to testify before the state legislature in early March about “why we need to prioritize these bills to promote Indigenous and West African history.”

Museum exhibit

Last chance to see an exhibit about “Black Trailblazers” at the DuPage County Historical Museum, 102 E. Wesley St., Wheaton.

The exhibit, which highlights those who created change by breaking down barriers, ends Tuesday. You can learn about several African Americans who fought to shape the world in the areas of art, education, sports and civil rights.

It was curated by Michael Childress, a DuPage County Board member and president of the DuPage County NAACP, and Emily O'Brien, a museum assistant.

Earthquake relief

Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora is collecting donations for earthquake relief in Turkey and Syria.

The Rev. John Bell said United Methodist Committee on Relief is supporting a wide range of responses.

To donate to earthquake relief, drop off or mail a check with “UMCOR Turkey/Syria” written in the memo line to Wesley UMC, 14 N. May St., Aurora. For more on UMCOR's disaster relief mission, visit

Economic development

The Arab American Business & Professional Association of Illinois and the Community Retail Association last week opened the first Southwest Suburban Economic Development Center in Palos Heights.

The center, located at 7800 W. College Drive, Unit 3E, received an economic development grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity — one of 50 such grant recipients statewide.

It will serve the Middle Eastern and North African community by providing business consulting, livestreaming webinars, hosting professional development workshops, and featuring guest speakers for local entrepreneurs and business owners to promote economic development in the region.

“Our Arab American community is growing expediently, but there is no outlet available where they can have access to resources, information, and speak to seasoned professionals about their business and professional goals,” association President Rush Darwish said in a news release. “Finally, there is a place where we can help folks achieve their dreams.”

Black authors to speak

The Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., author of “A Few Days Full of Trouble: Revelations on the Journey to Justice for my Cousin and Best Friend, Emmett Till,” will give a talk at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at The Winnetka Congregational Church, 725 Pine St.

The event is being hosted by The Book Stall.

Parker is the last surviving eyewitness to the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old who was taken from his family's rural Mississippi Delta home in the dead of night. In his book, Parker shares recollections of Till as a boy, insights into the recent investigation into the cold case, and lessons for racial reckoning.

Parker will be joined in conversation by co-author Christopher Benson. A book signing will follow. The event is free and open to the public.

Parker is the pastor and district superintendent of the Argo Temple Church of God in Christ, built by Alma Carthan, Till's grandmother, in South suburban Summit. Benson is a lawyer, journalist and associate professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Achieving the Dream

Harper College in Palatine, College of Lake County in Grayslake and Oakton College in Des Plaines have been designated Leader Colleges by Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit whose goal is advancing community colleges as hubs of equity and mobility.

All three colleges are part of the ATD Network, made up of more than 300 colleges committed to advancing equity and supporting student success. Leader Colleges must show improvement in three or more student outcome metrics. They also are required to show they have reduced equity gaps in at least two metrics for at least two student groups.

Harper is among only three community colleges in the nation to be named a Leader College of Distinction. Its college completion rate increased by 5 percentage points overall from fall 2015 to fall 2018, equity gaps narrowed for Black students by 6 percentage points, and students receiving Pell grants now outperform non-Pell students, according to a news release.

CLC is among nine schools selected for the second cohort of the Racial Equity Leadership Academy, a one-year program that began Feb. 13. It is an intensive institute designed to support teams of leaders to develop bold, strategic racial equity plans and implement change at the colleges.

And Oakton has seen increases in completion rates for all students and reduced equity gaps for Latino students on certain measures such as completion of college-level math classes, according to a news release.

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