May 24, 2022

CCC Announces Winners of Making History Come Alive Through Words Poetry Contest 

           (PRNewsfoto/Poetry Foundation)    

2022 EXPLORE Poetry Contest for High School Students

In celebration of its 10th Anniversary, the Chicago Collections Consortium, in partnership with the Poetry Foundation and the Chicago Public Library Harold Washington Library Center, launched an annual poetry contest for high school students in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

The poetry contest invited students to browse EXPLORE CHICAGO COLLECTIONS, a vast portal of archives and images from member collections, and write a poem inspired by what they find. 

With submissions from over 23 Chicagoland high schools, CCC is proud to recognize the following students for their outstanding poems:

Abigail Chaidez, Lemont High School

Roger Dababneh, Niles North High School

Vixen Raviolo, Cary-Grove High School

Brian Rivera, George Westinghouse College Prep

William Zhang, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Honorable Mention - Lukasz Cader, William H. Taft High School

Chicago Collections is grateful for the anniversary funding from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and an anonymous donor.


Abigail Chaidez, Lemont High School


Me Encanta El Mariachi
As I gaze upon the image before my eyes
I cannot help but feel so much pride 
Looking at the costumed musician who peers inside 

Mariachi is all I've ever known 
A strong connection from young to old 
To México our home away from home

And as the mariachi looks for his food source Riding atop his magnificent horse
And wearing his wide-brimmed sombrero of course
There's no better way he could endorse 

Promote a culture so divine
That every person is pleased when they dine
For we use almost every part of the swine 

And his suit is embroidered with jewels and beads galore
But this musician has far more in store
Just ask him to play his favorite score

He will start with his signature grito scream
That will immediately make everyone's smiles beam 
And deliver a performance so supreme
They will probably give him free ice cream

So I stare at this image and I know
This is a culture I was bestowed
And something I will never let go

Roger Dababneh, Niles North High School

Quilt of Dreams
They flocked to her
Each with their own tune to sing
Little in common but their naivety
But she was the great equalizer
Sewing her quilt of dreams

Each neighborhood a plunge into foreign lands
Generations of lovers intertwined on every avenue
The distant mingling of languages forming a delightful melody
The euphonious chimes of a storefront owned for generations

She was serenaded by the memories
that had been bestowed upon her
And so her generosity was rewarded
Youthful and modest,
she had finally found her identity.

Vixen Raviolo, Cary-Grove High School

The tracks
biting cold september evening
metra train barrels down the tracks
seven minutes past schedule

earth and man rumbles
spotlights dance in fog
a horn warns of incoming
press your backs against the rubble
the platform your ancestors once walked upon
to meet their wives safe at home

the rush of frigid air
your breath leaves you momentarily
laughter of relief and adrenaline

stumble downwards from the scattered steps
now reclaimed by nature’s children
and her ever-more human ones, too.

Brian Rivera, George Westinghouse College Prep

This city is a class, 
every street paved with the wisdom of its past, 
every building built with the knowledge that it wouldn’t be the last 

I learned how
The trees planted in the park will change, 
and that the bliss of our memories won’t stay 
I learned how 
Uncertainty follows everyone 
Can’t be too old or too young 
 If you were to ask me 
“Is it worth it,
living here in a place where your feelings shift 
like the waves of the lake it sits beside?”  
If you were to ask me
“Is it worth it, 
staying here where nothing is ever like you found it, fine with the risk 
that it won’t be like you planned even if you tried?” 

It’s because of this city I’ll answer,
“I’m confident now that I will survive 
The fire, the flood, the fight 
The unpredictable, inevitable nature of the lightning strike 
I’m better and ready, forever bright”

William Zhang, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Snowy Lake
On a snowy winter day, along Chicago’s lake shores,
I embark on my walk around the ice frosted lake. 

First I walk past a once grassy hill,
But now covered in a thick layer of snow,
A group of three children speed downwards,
Huddled together in their crimson red sled,
Screaming in their ethereal glee as they screech to a halt,
On a small patch of pavement, carved from the snow
Through what could only be thousands of runs prior. 

Then a small field of grass, spreading around a small tree. 
A young couple, perhaps in college, lay laughing in the snow. 
Weaving giant snow angels in the ground, with the occasional
Shrill shriek when snow gets under their heavy winter jackets. 
Then they roll together, wrapping each other in the warmth of
Each other’s arms.  Whispering some trivial secret in each other’s ears. 

Then on a snow covered bench, sitting alone on a long path. 
An old man shoved the snow out of the way,
Leaving a spot for two.  Finally sitting down, looking across the horizon
At the lake and what lay beyond.  Although, something seemed
Off about that image.  Something missing perhaps, washed away by time.  

 Lukasz Cader, William H. Taft High School

The Chicago Fire of 1871
Like all things, once from nothing,
Came with it a blinding light.
One that set ablaze the starry night sky;
And burned through a polluted city.
Fueled by the apathetic minds and
Decisions of the oblivious man.
A poisoned river, a catalyst for the light,
The origin unknown; brought
Upon it a devastation unmatched.
That cured the consequences of man’s
Actions, and brought with it a new world. 
From the ashes, the upbringing of growth,
A new world; awaiting to change. The failings of those responsible,
For the light; a direct consequence. 
One full of death and sorrow, only to
Be acknowledged by the light.
Failure, the most basic and
Influential teacher; one that teaches 
Only those who accept its truth.
And allows for a magnification of 

Man’s intellect, to usher in a stronger
And more concrete world, one that
Cannot as easily burn and disappear.
The value of all things, unknown;
Only until they are lost.
That stand as the foundation for
The understanding of one’s own
Failings, and the lessons that lie within.
In retrospect, a city not ready and 
Unknowing; one that because of
The light, guides man to a new reality,
Upon which will accelerate the
Growth and strength of man.
Time being the only healer, a force
Not yet fully understood, but one that
Allows for the failings of man to be
Disregarded, and learned from.
An opportunity for the beauty of humanity
To be expressed, a quite possible truth,
Set in motion on the foundation of countless lies.
One that can usher the creation and innovation
Of infinite processes and beliefs, that in which
Will lead to inspire a city, and quite possibly
A different light, that has the power to
Change and shape the future of man’s intellect.