Teen Activism in Plainfield

Delaney O'Sullivan, News Editor

Photo by Delaney O'SullivanIn 2020, America witnessed the death of George Floyd, a pandemic caused by a novel disease, and many other historical events. Plainfield was no exception in this. Students protested for the Black Lives Matter movement, teachers rallied in support of keeping schools closed, and students petitioned in order to make their voices heard.


A majority of these issues are intertwined with politics.


“If you look at all the stuff that has come down, good and bad, it’s all politically connected, everything. The mandates, the things you have to learn in school, the mandates are created by a politician” said Plainfield Teachers Union president, Dawn Bullock. 




Last May, police brutality and racial inequality was thrown into the spotlight following the killing of George Floyd. Students across the country sprung to action. Organizing protests, phone banking, and even writing letters, teenagers in the Plainfield area were no exception. 


On May 29, citizens in the area organized a local and peaceful protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at the intersection of Caton Farm and Route 59. Many of the peaceful protesters were students.


“I was just sick of hearing all the bad things people of color have to deal with and not having many opportunities to demonstrate our anger and need for change” said protest attendee and Plainfield South junior, Grace Harris, “I thought this nonviolent protest was a good way to demonstrate our feelings.”


Illinois High School Democrats (ILHSD), a student led organization aimed to promote Democratic and Progressive ideals, hosted a virtual protest in support of Black Lives Matter. The group put together pictures of members holding protest signs, listed resources and websites that support the cause, and showed their support for the movement. They also hosted phone banking events via Zoom and used social media to spread awareness of the issue. 




Performative activism is a term that has been recently popularized. It is the idea that some may use activism to increase their social capital as opposed to actually wanting change. 


“Something that is typically seen as something to elevate your status” said Meher Sethi, chairperson of (ILHSD), “And I think that’s kind of the difference between posting a black square and making calls to make sure that the people who murdered Breonna Taylor are held accountable.”



Bullock has been president of the union for nine years and has had her fair share of organizing rallies and influencing decisions.


At the end of summer, the district Board of Education voted no on Dr. Lane Abrell’s Return ‘20 Plan. An emergency meeting was set to vote on another, similar plan. Many were worried for their health or the health of a loved one. With the positivity rate of Will and Kendall county being well above the target of below five percent positivity, health officials were not recommending schools return. After hearing concerns of safety,  Bullock knew she had to do something.


“It got to a point where I was like I just can’t fight for this [in person learning] anymore. I can’t support us going back to school right now” she said. 


Bullock organized a gathering in front of the district office on July 23. With multiple speakers, it showcased the view of teachers, parents, and students regarding returning to school. News channels like ABC 7, FOX 32, and others covered the event that took place.


Students and parents in support also voiced their opinion by signing a petition that urged the Board of Education (BOE) to vote yes to the plan and some left comments on it as well. 


“If it is not safe enough to hold these meetings [BOE meetings] in person, it is not safe to send me to school” said Molly Diehl, junior at Plainfield North. 


The plan was eventually passed on July 28th. Yet, some parents did not support remote learning at all and believed that students need to be in school. Tackling the issue of mental health and social deprivation, parents and students organized a protest in favor of reopening schools. Also being held in front of the district office, the protest took place on Sept 16.


In an article from ABC 7, district parent Sherrie Graham explained her concerns surrounding remote learning. 


“Education is the most important thing here to me, but also their mental health, all of it wrapped together,” said Graham. She also added, “And then the things that seniors are missing out on, their once-in-a-lifetime experiences, their sports, their chance to go to state, their homecoming.”




There has been debate over whether native mascots perpetuate a racist stereotype and if they should be removed from sports teams and school logos. One example is Minooka Community High School, who’s mascot and logo is an Indian. 


On June 7, Minooka seniors Ava Bezaire and Jimmy Holmes started a petition in support of changing their school’s mascot. It has about 19,000 signatures now, many of which added comments showing their support. 


Former Minooka student and well known actor, Nick Offerman has shared the petition on his social media and urged his followers to sign the petition in support. Additionally, the National Congress of American Indians retweeted the petition Offerman was promoting and captioned it “Endorsed.”


“When I saw his post I was so overjoyed, it was absolutely incredible that my small petition was being shared with millions of people” said Bezaire. 


Holmes and Bezaire have also started an organization called Improve Minooka. The goal is to address issues in the Minooka and Channahon area such as the mascot. The group shares other petitions that are in support of changing mascots. 


The group also urged other high school students to get involved and fight for change in their own communities.


“If there is something in your community that you think needs to be changed don’t be afraid to speak out about it and start the necessary conversations” they said. “You also don’t have to tackle an issue alone, get your friends, family, and even teachers involved because if it’s an issue in your community, it affects everyone.”




The 2020 election is coming up on Nov 3. As it nears, both Democrats and Republicans alike are encouraging students to continue to get involved in the election season by becoming election judges or volunteering on campaigns. 


“We need young people. We need your technology skills, your communication skills. We need your passion, your energy” said Nora Gruenberg, Chair of the Will County Democrats Central Committee. 


Gruenberg also encouraged students to do research in order to understand the current issues at hand and where candidates stand on those issues. On the local level, healthcare, taxes (specifically the Fair Tax Amendment and property taxes), and education are some of the important topics. These subjects are important to both parties, they just have different approaches and priorities.


“Find whatever your mission is, whatever issue is closest to your heart. Find the organization or the community leader that works in that field and that issue” said Gruenberg. 


There are many different ways to get involved with local government and politics. Both Gruenberg and George Pearson, chair of the Will County Republican Central Committee, have noted that teens can get involved by phone banking or canvassing for local campaigns and initiatives.


“Volunteer for our central location or for the candidates,” said  Pearson. 


Pearson and Gruenberg say reach out to local party committees and ask about volunteer opportunities, join teen activism groups, or start petitions. Although most high school students are not eligible to vote, students can still make a difference by giving their time and commitment to a topic they are passionate about.


If interested in learning more or supporting the mentioned local organizations please refer to:


Improve Minooka

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @improveminooka 




Will County Democrats 

Email: [email protected] 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/willcountydemocrats 

Website: www.willcountydemocrats.com 


Will County Republicans

Email: [email protected] 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/willcountyrepublicans 

Website: www.willcountyrepublicans.org 


Illinois High School Democrats

Email: [email protected] 

Instagram: @ilhsdems 

Website: https://illinois-high-school-democrats.webnode.com/