At the corner of S Artesian and W 51st in the Gage Park neighborhood sits Walter S Christopher Elementary School. Like most elementary schools it is rather unassuming, but this one has a very special student that’s worthy of the attention.
Fifth-grader Maritza Gonzalez is dedicated to community service. She’s worked with YMCA of Metro Chicago community school programming since she was only a first-grader.
“She is always happy to participate in the enrichment activities and shows enthusiasm about all the programs the Y offers at Christopher,” Christopher YMCA-Community Schools Initiative Program Manager Emily Goddard told the Patch.
Maritza is a big help to staff, especially her Y-CSI Youth Enrichment Instructor Jasmine. “Maritza stays true to herself and she shows a lot of leadership skills, she is not a follower,” said Jasmine. “Every day she asks how she can help and gives me great ideas. She is always helping me execute an activity with the younger students.”
Added Emily, “I look forward to seeing Maritza’s smiling face in the program each day!”
One of Maritza’s favorite activities is chess but she also loves to play basketball at the YMCA. And it may be a shock to some, but she also enjoys working on homework.
According to the school’s CPS website, “Christopher provides a general academic program for Grades one through eight and a special education program for students with physical disabilities and other health impairments. Special education students are educated along with their non-disabled peers in a caring and inclusive community.”
While the city has its fair share of issues, its stories like Maritza’s that offer bright hope for the future.