If you read the Chicago Tribune last week you may have come across the following headline followed by a few paragraphs: Chicago man shot to death while standing on his front porch. Jason Gill was murdered. He was 26 years old.
I am writing to you tonight to honor Jason Gill, who was my godson and, more importantly, helped to inspire the creation of Project Exploration.
In a room of 6th graders at Fiske Elementary school, where I first began teaching, Jason was the one student whose spark of curiosity was so strong it carried him out of his seat to get a closer look, to try something himself, to get hands on with the subject matter, to ask questions fearlessly and sincerely…As his interest in art grew he found satisfaction in a passionate pursuit and found confidence and a new voice in drawing and art; as he grew older the voice went verbal and he began to rap…
Jason was one of four students I brought to Big Bend , Texas , in 1997, along with a college class from the University of Chicago . The wonder he and the other students experienced during that trip in no uncertain terms inspired the creation of Project Exploration – a science organization that reaches out specifically to students who aren’t academically successful but who are curious and open-minded…We created an entire organization dedicated to making room for kids like Jason, who get left out, or looked over because they don’t really excel at school, they don’t find success easily but when they do they embrace it and shine…
I brought Jason to Perspectives Charter School for high school because I believed he would thrive in a small environment that focused on knowing its students well. He found success there, though not easily, and he changed all of us in the process. Jason challenged us as caring educators to be our best selves as people; he helped everyone to grow, a little bit, and encouraged us to be curious, and open minded even when the struggles seemed overwhelming.
Jason was complicated, promising, artistic, frustrating, funny, challenging, curious – and shot dead standing on his porch, waiting for a family friend to bring back pizza. There were so many things about Jason’s life beyond his control but in spite of it all Jason inspired people to laugh and love and be their best selves.
I wish he wasn’t dead… and many other things when I think about Jason and his life and his family.
The funeral will be held Saturday, May 17, 2008
Visitation: 10:00 Service: 11:00 St. John Baptist Temple 6145 South Woodlawn – Chicago , IL 60637
Thank you for letting me share a few things about Jason with all of you who care so much about Project Exploration and Fiske school.