DOWNERS GROVE – Prevail Bonga takes a seat at a Downers Grove coffee shop, flips open a notebook and begins to talk about the back-to-school drive she and a group of friends are planning to help two Chicago public schools.
“I have been wanting to do something like this forever,” said Bonga, a recent Downers Grove North High School graduate. “I feel really good helping other students.”
Bonga's attention is divided between her notebook and cellphone as she talks about the importance of the school supply drive.
"It's going to be great," Bonga said. "I'm excited."
The drive was conceived by Bonga and a small group of friends – Emily Gornik, Brigid Miller and Riley Hornilla – all Downers Grove North graduates who understand how fortunate they were to attend DuPage County schools, Bonga said.
“Having parents from the Congo, I’m always thinking about how lucky I am,” said Bonga, who is preparing to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The school supply drive will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Aug. 11 in the parking lot of Downers Grove North, 4436 Main St., Downers Grove.
People are encouraged to bring school supplies, new and gently used books, backpacks and toiletries.
The supplies will be delivered to Foundation College Prep in Chicago’s Roseland community and Henderson Elementary School, which is in the West Englewood neighborhood.
Bonga has visited the schools and understands how badly they need the most basic supplies.
“I want to do something big,” said Bonga, who’s relying on social media to promote the event. "I'm ready for this. I'm doing everything to push this out."
In addition to the supply drive, Bonga and her friends have set up a GoFundMe page, which so far has raised $290. They also have reached out to local businesses and corporations for support.
"Target is going to give us gift cards," Bonga said.
Organizing the back-to-school drive is the latest step in Bonga's work as an activist.
She served as student member of the Community High School District 99 Board of Education, helped lead community protests against gun violence, spoke at a Downers Grove rally opposing immigration separation policies and participated in a town hall meeting with the students from Parkland, Fla. She also participated in the July 7 anti-violence protest that blocked the Dan Ryan Expressway.
"I want politicians to know what's going on and act on it," Bonga said. "I just want people to listen."
Bonga's efforts have been met with some negative feedback from people who believe the school supply drive should benefit local students.
"It's disappointing to know that people aren't willing to help other people," she said. "It's implicit bias."