GREATER GRAND CROSSING — Vondale Singleton asked students in his first-period mentorship class to write down 10 life goals at the beginning of the school year.
Seandell Holliday, an intellectual, quiet student at Gary Comer College Prep, caught up with his teacher by the second-period bell with a list saying he wanted to open a music studio, take care of his family and be respected, Singleton said. He also hoped to make it to 21, Singleton said.
“I’ll never forget. He was like, ‘Because a lot of things happen in Chicago, Mr. Singleton. Kids are losing their lives, and they’re getting shot over crazy stuff,'” Singleton said Monday. “Not in a million years did I think he would have his life cut short by gun violence at 16.”
Holliday, 16, was shot in his chest about 7:30 p.m. Saturday at The Bean in the 200 block of Randolph Street, police said. He was taken to Lurie Children’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
A 17-year-old boy arrested shortly after the shooting has been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in connection with the shooting. He was ordered held on $250,000 bond Monday, according to the Tribune.
Prosecutors said Monday hundreds of people were at Millennium Park that night as part of a large gathering promoted on social media, according to the Tribune. The 17-year-old noticed a group nearby that included a boy he’d gotten into a fight with at a previous event, and the group started following the 17-year-old, prosecutors said.
One person in the group started arguing with the 17-year-old, whose friend tried to pull him away, prosecutors said. At that point, prosecutors said Holliday jumped on the 17-year-old from behind and punched him in his head, according to the Tribune. After another person punched the 17-year-old, the teen pulled out a gun and shot Holliday in his chest, prosecutors said.
Officers arrested the 17-year-old in Millennium Park and found a handgun, prosecutors said. Much of the shooting was captured on videos posted to social media, footage from nearby surveillance cameras as well as officer body cameras, prosecutors said.
Holliday’s family could not immediately be reached for comment.
Holliday was a freshman at Gary Comer College Prep, 7131 S. Chicago Ave., and a member of the CHAMPS mentorship program that educates and empowers young men of color. Singleton, former assistant principal at the South Side school, founded the program a decade ago.
Holliday is the oldest of four children and turned 16 in March, Singleton said.
“This was one of my babies, one of my young men. He’s not another statistic without a face,” Singleton said. “This was a young man that I spent countless days with. … He was a young man with dreams and aspirations and goals. He was a soul who wanted to understand and know what his purpose was in life and see that fulfilled.”
Singleton said he called Holliday’s mother when he saw his student’s name in the headlines.
“All I could hear was crying through the phone, ‘My baby, my baby, my baby,'” Singleton said. “No one ever wants to wish that upon anyone. To hear that … . It’s a nightmarish sound that never goes away.”
Singleton said he best remembers Holliday as a “deep thinker.”
“He didn’t say a lot, but when he did, it was powerful,” Singleton said. “He was very authentic to who he was, and he taught me how to be a better person through his authenticity, even though he was younger.”
Richard Martin, dean of students at Noble Schools, said in a Facebook post he was “angry, shocked, and deeply saddened” about Holliday’s death.
“The reality that I just saw him headed to class last week and will have to walk into the building tomorrow to help our school community process and heal from this loss when I myself am at such a loss seems too great a task to endure,” Martin said. “Seandell, you will be greatly missed, and our Catamount Family will be forever changed.”
After Holliday was killed, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced youths will be banned from Millennium Park after 6 p.m. Thursday-Sunday unless accompanied by a “responsible adult.”
On Monday, Lightfoot said she would sign an executive order to move the weekend curfew for minors up from 11 to 10 p.m.
“I’m urging parents, guardians and responsible adults in the lives of children to make sure you know what the rules are,” Lightfoot said at a news conference. “We will continue to encourage parents and guardians to further ensure their children are conducting themselves appropriately and safety at all times.”
Singleton said Lightfoot called him Sunday to discuss his “strategies, thoughts and opinions” about the 6 p.m. Millennium Park rule.
Lightfoot’s plan is “one way to look at it,” Singleton said, but he feels city leaders need to engage with parents, communities and young people to find a viable, lasting way to deter crime and keep youths engaged rather than keeping them out of certain parts of the city.
“I think we need to have a larger conversation around economic empowerment, engagement and ownership in terms of our Black and Brown youth feeling like they are a part of the city,” Singleton said. “They should have a right to be able to go Downtown. I don’t think it’s a long-term solution or ultimate strategy.”
It’s time to listen to what young people need, and to support the programs with their boots on the ground in the community before tragedy strikes, Singleton said.
“I think it’s really important for young people to be involved in whatever we do strategically for the city, because if we don’t listen, what’s the point?” Singleton said. “There are going to be policies and barriers, and we know that brings contentiousness.”
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