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Opinion

Heimerman: Count on kids to pull together during tragedy

Seventh-graders (from left) Erika Gregorarz, Safiya Barahaona, Riley Payton, Chloe McKendry and Danielle Frey talk about designing a barometer-style chart  Tuesday. The chart was to be used to show how close the Clinton Rosette Middle School students are reaching Wednesday's fundraising goal of $800.
Seventh-graders (from left) Erika Gregorarz, Safiya Barahaona, Riley Payton, Chloe McKendry and Danielle Frey talk about designing a barometer-style chart Tuesday. The chart was to be used to show how close the Clinton Rosette Middle School students are reaching Wednesday's fundraising goal of $800.

There’s a crowd I can always count on to bring light to the darkness: the kids.

With the black cloud of the Las Vegas mass shooting following me around, I visited seventh-graders Tuesday at Clinton Rosette Middle School to interview them about a movie night fundraiser they had planned for Wednesday evening.

Although my social media feeds are predominantly made up by divisive posts and tweets about gun control, these 12-year-olds have banded together with a goal of raising $800 for victims of recent natural disasters.

Their English teacher, Chrissy Somers, said they repeatedly told her, “We have to do something.”

They pitched ideas to their principal, Tim Vincent, and came up with the movie night. Students told me the decorating, ticket designs and planning helped them forget about all the distastrous images they’ve seen.

They also told me that when fellow students, some of whom have family in the disaster-torn areas, are struggling, they do their best to pick them up, to tell them everything will work out.

Action being taken. Compassion being shown. Love it. Needed it.

We should all take a break from arguing about football players protesting and agree on one thing: We’ve read a lot of terrible news lately. Natural disasters. Shootings. All the violence. All the senseless deaths. The news resonates here, and reports of shots fired twice in three days in DeKalb doesn’t help ease one’s nerves.

It’s awful, and it’s hard to wrap one’s brain around it.

I’d be remiss not to applaud the people who equipped these kids to take action – to go past the fear and sadness and do something. Every Friday, Somers and her students take a break from curriculum to talk about what’s going on in the world, in kids’ lives, and how they feel about it. I’ve seen a lot of schools pushing harder to address kids’ socio-emotional needs, and Somers said DeKalb School District 428 as a whole is making it a priority.

This gives me hope. It’s not healthy for kids to walk around bottling up negative feelings, trying to figure out high concepts that by nature are still over their heads. When we don’t work those sort of things out, I think that’s when bad things happen, from bullying to, well, the tragedies we keep reading about.

In the same vein, we’ve heard from a couple of local institutions and agencies this week that are proactive about having those tough conversations with clients and the community. Kishwaukee Hospital has a peer-run support program, the Living Room, that simply gives people someone to talk to when they’re struggling with trauma.

I’m not saying that some of the people who’ve perpetrated these crimes against humanity wouldn’t have done what they’ve done if they simply talked about their feelings.

But it only could have helped.

• Christopher Heimerman is news editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, email cheimerman@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @CHeimermanDDC.

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