Students of the Village Leadership Academy of Chicago have been honored with the Youth Hero award. In 2017, middle school students from Village Leadership Academy embarked on a mission. They led a ‘Change the Name’ campaign to rename Douglas Park in North Lawndale. The 151-year-old park was previously named after Stephen A. Douglas, a pre-American Civil War U.S senator whose wife owned a Mississippi slave plantation.
Douglas had advocated for slavery to be decided on a state-by-state level. The students campaigned to name the park in honor of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray Douglass. Both are renowned abolitionists and activists, with Frederick also known as a respected author and publisher. Their efforts included passing out flyers, speaking to journalists, recruiting advocates and attending Chicago Park District meetings to seek racial justice reform. Last September, their determination was rewarded when the Chicago Park District Board voted to rename it Douglass Park.