- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (AP) - Elizabeth Gonzalez, of Winfield, only wants to do one thing in her lifetime — “change the world.”

The 13-year-old seventh-grader’s latest idea is a step in that direction.

Gonzalez wants anti-bullying messages installed underneath stop signs throughout East Chicago. She will present her plan Wednesday to the East Chicago Board of Public Works.

She lived in East Chicago with her parents until second grade. Her parents still work there, and she feels passionate about starting her initiative in a place that is still “very close to my heart.”

“I figured under stop signs is the best place to install them, because it can serve as a reminder for people to think before they act,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone has seen and knows about bullying, but not many realize how it affects someone else long term. My idea is to get everyone to think about it, and stop it before it escalates.”

Her concept began in third grade when she wrote a poem about fictitious character, Sally Baker, and her experience with bullying.

Two years later, Gonzalez met local author Latonya Hicks, of East Chicago, who encouraged her to pursue her dreams.

“I have worked on an unpublished book called ‘One Flower Can Change a Life’ about a girl that meant to get daisies but bought a rose instead, to her mother’s dismay,” Gonzalez said. “I feel it foreshadows making a mistake, and how it can turn into a great experience.”

Elizabeth said her parents, along with World War II POW survivor Louie Zamperini, the inspiration for the movie “Unbroken,” are her heroes.

Her mother, Claudia, is a first-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School in East Chicago, and knows just how important encouraging young people can be.

“We are very proud of her,” said Claudia Gonzalez. “She is thoughtful, brave and very compassionate. We know she will do well because she has a wonderful confidence and is surrounded by encouragement.”

Her father, Richie, also is a big fan.

“I came from a humble family,” Richie Gonzalez said. “I wasn’t in a position to go to school but my parents taught us hard work, determination and respect will go a long way. Elizabeth knows that and fortunately, we are in a better position to invest in her education and her dreams.”

She has received a number of awards, including the Marian Medal, Girl Scout’s highest recognition for 12- to 15-year-olds who exemplify character and spirituality. She also is a Kiwanis scholar.

Her motto is “you only have one life, you have to make it count.”

Gonzalez and her mother also joined their church on a recent educational trip to Washington, D.C., where they had the opportunity to see Pope Francis.

“Elizabeth is a wonderful student,” said Tom Ruiz, St. Mary’s Crown Point principal. “Her stop signs are very creative and we are very proud of her.”

Gonzalez plans to start in East Chicago with her signs, but would love to see them all over the region and ultimately, the country.


Source: The (Munster) Times, https://bit.ly/1k5ArvA


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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