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EDUCATION


Winner of the Chicago 2014 Regional Bridge Building Contest, Ramal Bell: “I’m proud of my color”


By Bianca Herron Defender Staff Reporter There wasn’t a smile wider in the


room than the parents of Ramal Bell as they watched their son speak about his recent accomplishment. Saturday, Jan. 25, at PUSH Head- quarters, Lincoln Way North High student Ramal and his parents La- mar and Angel Bell, were featured on PUSH’s television program Rain- bow Push Coalition.


On Tuesday, Jan. 21, 18-year-old


Ramal competed and placed first in the 2014 Chicago Regional Bridge Building Contest held at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. According to the Chicago Regional Bridge Building Contest’s website, the competition


gives students a


taste of what it is to be an engineer as they have to design a bridge that has to span across a 30cm gap and be at least 10cm high. Participants also have to stack weights in incre- ments of five’s, two’s, and one’s un- til the bridge collapses. The compe- tition ranking is then determined by the bridge’s efficiency.


“We’re very proud of him,” Ra-


mal’s father Lamar said. “He’s re- ally taken the idea of bridge build- ing to the next level. Not only are


we impressed with the results of the bridge but his commitment to building the best bridge. He did the research, found out what was the efficiency of past bridges, then sat down and actually came up with a way to increase the efficiency of his own bridge. Often times it’s about sports but this is not about that, it’s about brains, so we’re impressed.”


In Ramal’s region, Chicago


South Suburban, there were 120 competitors, including Ramal, only four of those competitors were Af- rican-American. What makes Ra- mal’s accomplishment even better is that out of all three Chicago re- gions (City, North Suburban, South Suburban for the contest, his bridge had the best efficiency at 4,692. This is why he not only received a trophy for winning his regional but he received another one for having the best efficiency out of all three regions and now ranks first in the state.


“I’m extremely proud,” Ramal


said. “I feel that this is a new level and I want to push it to the next. Es- pecially when I think of the ratio of how many Blacks were in the com- petition against the majority, 116:4. I feel like I can give other kids an im- age where they can see themselves competing not just athletically but


like to achieve.


“There’s an international bridge building competition in late April- early May,” he said. “The date hasn’t been confirmed yet but my goal is to build several bridges to ensure that my final resulting bridge takes first and breaks the world record for bridge efficiency.”


With the international competi-


tion on Ramal’s mind and then col- lege, Earwin Lee Acox Jr., chief of di- versity recruitment and outreach for the Illinois Department of Transpor- tation (IDOT), has some information that could help him and other aspir- ing engineers out.


“We created a scholarship pro-


academically. I’m very proud to car- ry my family’s name, my color, my ethnicity, and I want to take it fur- ther.”


If you were to ask his mother, An-


gel Bell, if she knew her son would be special, she’d tell you she knew it right after she gave birth to him.


“We have always been proud


of our son. He’s always been very smart so throughout his adolescent life we have pushed him demanding the best. We are just very proud of the fact that he can stand before young Black males to show that


Literacy Chicago Olympic performance Beating illiteracy, 60 formerly


illiterate adults “went for the gold” on Thurs., Feb. 20, at an “Olym- pics of Literacy” hosted by Literacy Chicago. Participants performed “Words on the Page” at the annual literacy awards program held in the Narcissim room at Macy’s on State. A printed book of their words was given to all guests and presenters.


The participants were medaled


at the event. Author, attorney and Literacy Chicago volunteer Rob Shindler and his 16-year-old daugh- ter Isabella, described it as “even better than Sochi.” Tissues and ap- plause filled the room.


“They have helped me at Literacy


Chicago to change my life,” student Harrold Barnes said. “I can read my mail for myself, take my medicine on time and put dates on what I put in the refrigerator. There’s a mountain in my way, but I am on my way to the top of this mountain.”


Individuals work at their own pace in classrooms at Literacy Chi- cago, training as a team and provid- ing each other inspiration and sup- port. At this event, those that were


www.chicagodefender.com


Rob Shindler’s volunteer tutoring career began when he met June Porter, director of Adult Literacy at Literacy Chicago. “Teaching a weekly one-hour class can change lives and create champions,” Shin- dler said.


ready took the ultimate challenge -- making a public presentation of their writing, with a reading of their personal journey.


“I came to Literacy Chicago to


learn to read, so I could read the Bi- ble,” student Charlie Cox said. “I like to read in class.”


Most of the students have


smacked their face on the ice and hit moguls plenty of times, but never


gave up. Their journey led them to


the top of a medals platform and ac- cording to the group, “changed our lives.”


Literacy Chicago at 17 N. State is Chicago’s oldest adult literacy or- ganization and offers


tuition-free


programs. June Porter, director of Adult Literacy at Literacy Chicago, has worked with volunteer teachers for more than 20 years.


Shindler is a longtime Literacy Chicago volunteer teacher and au- thor of “Hot Dogs & Hamburgers,” a personal story about unconven- tional teaching techniques he used to help his son with learning dif- ferences and his Literacy Chicago classrooms of adults suffering from low literacy levels. Shindler works across the country to bring aware- ness to adult low literacy. More than 32 million adults in the U.S. cannot read, according to Literacy Chicago officials.


“The gold medal really comes


when you take the step into the classroom and begin the life expe- rience you were meant to have,” Shindler said.


Adult literacy students and trainers celebrate 60 gold medal wins in the “Olympics” of literacy event, Words on the Page, held by Literacy Chi- cago. Training involved learning to read and write. The test was a public presentation of a personal essay. Many mountains were overcome.


Volunteer literacy trainer and book author Rob Shindler (left) and daughter Isabella Shin- dler (right) celebrate with Literacy “Olympian” Harrold Barnes (cen- ter). Formerly illiterate adults fulfilled lifelong dreams with the read- ings.


THE CHICAGO DEFENDER • Feb. 26 - March 4, 2014 9


they too can, with hard work, reach their goals. When you obtain an ed- ucation, it’s something that no one can take from you. Also, with a good support system behind you, the sky is the limit academically.”


Ramal graduates this year from Lincoln Way North and has his eyes on three top engineering programs at the University of Wisconsin, Co- lumbia University in New York, and the University of Illinois in Urba- na-Champaign. Before graduation and choosing which university he’ll attend, he has another goal that he’d


gram that was signed into law last year by the governor,” Acox said. “It allows IDOT to offer and award 20 scholarships for $7,500 per year as long as the student maintains a 2.5 GPA. You have to be a high school grad with at least that GPA when you apply. If chosen you can receive it all four years or five if necessary while in college. In addition we offer summer employment with us each year they receive they scholarship. Also, once they graduate we offer them employment as a civil engineer trainee in one of our nine districts throughout the state.”


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