One journey is through high school and college — and puts “the world in your hands,” said Bridgeport Academy North first-grader Mariano Sandoval.
But the second one ends in jail.
Describing a picture he drew, the youngster said the difference is playing around — or killing someone — with a gun.
“You decide your future,” Sandoval said, drawing applause Tuesday morning from the audience at Rachel Carson Elementary School in Gage Park.
Sandoval was among 17 winners of the 19th Annual Student Voices Contest held by the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. They shared their essays, poems and artwork decrying gun violence.
They did so less than 10 miles from a South Shore laundromat where six people were shot Monday night, including two boys, ages 14 and 16.
The children who participated in this year’s contest ranged from first graders to high school seniors. And while the deadline for entries passed in February, it seemed as though some students could have been talking about the news overnight.
“I want you to — just for a second — to think about those people,” wrote Liliana Tirado, a Rachel Carson eighth-grader. “Those people who today had to go up to their child or their sister, or mother or father. Look them in the eyes and tell them the cold truth of a victim, today gone, because of gun violence.”
Nia Thompson, a 10th-grader at De La Salle Institute, wrote a poem titled, “As We Begin.”
“Gun violence is a disease that cannot be treated,” Thompson wrote. “You can be here today and gone tomorrow, leaving many parents in sorrow. A mother is supposed to die before her daughter. Nowadays, our young men and women are dying before their fathers.”
Daley Elementary Academy seventh-grader Marlene Bahena’s artwork featured people playing in Cornell Square Park, where 13 people were wounded, including a 3-year-old boy in a shooting last year. But it also depicted a person weeping, and the words, “People live with more fear.”
The artwork from Braulio Nila, also a seventh-grader at Daley Academy, showed children in their homes afraid to go outside. “Because of gun violence, kids live like prisoners,” it said.
“Are we safe to go out? Will I be next?” a child in the picture says.
Finally, third-grader David Luna of Bridgeport Academy — whose mother is a retired Chicago police lieutenant — wrote in his essay that gun violence “makes people afraid to do fun things in their community.”
“But gun violence is not OK,” Luna wrote. “I want to have a future that is safe. I want to watch good things on the news. I want to feel safe in my school.
“I want my mom to be safe at work.
“Gun violence is not good for our future.”