Nicole Drosos, I find out very quickly, is blunt. For example, when she talks about racial tension in Hegewisch, she says she may be biased because she's "slightly racist" herself.
“I feel like they felt like they came into a white neighborhood and they had to prove something to everyone in some way, so they started acting out and such," she says.
Drosos is 18, an incoming freshman at Eastern Illinois University. She’s lived in Hegewisch her whole life.
“It used to be, like, a cute little Polish neighborhood. And it was just a bunch of old people that lived here and…everyone knew each other. And then everyone just started, like – those people started dying off and then the Section 8 people started coming in.”
Section 8 refers to the federal housing vouchers, but Drosos uses the term to describe black and Latino residents living in part of Hegewisch.
“It’s been a problem as far as I’m concerned, just because I’ve literally gotten into 3 or 4 physical fights with them. And, like, my boyfriends and such have gotten into really, really hardcore stuff for just...no reason.”
“I’ve seen the good and bad in everyone, of course, but just especially in like certain races," she says. "But people don’t like people of other races. And it’s just like the clotting effect. Everyone goes with their own race eventually.”
Drosos says gangs associated with "Section 8" residents are a big problem in the neighborhood that she wants her local officials to address.
“Really, it’s getting irritating,” she says. “My younger sister’s 15 and my younger brother’s 12 and they go and walk around all the time. But, like, when little stuff starts happening where they’re worried about getting shot or getting jumped, it really [is] not okay.”
There must be something Drosos likes about her neighborhood. On this tour of Chicago’s wards, I’ve found just about everyone has something nice to say, even if they hate where they live.
Drosos lists three positives. The first is the park across the street from her house.
“I run all the time and I’m just always over there with my dog and my sister’s a gymnast so she’s working out there all the time. And it’s really convenient.”
Her second nice thing to say about Hegewisch is that it’s close to the lake. Her third:
“That Hegewisch is also a part of Chicago – quote, unquote,” she says. “I like to claim that I’m from Chicago, rather than from, say, like, ‘Oh, I’m from Indiana’ or, ‘Oh, I’m from somewhere else.’”
That pride aside, Drosos has no plans to live here after college.
“I’m hoping somewhere in California, to be honest,” says Drosos, because of its medical marijuana laws and also “because I really like the weather.”
She wants to become an OB-GYN or pediatrician, but if that doesn’t work out, she says she’ll just work at a medical marijuana dispensary.
Chicago’s not that progressive on weed, though it’s moving in a less punitive direction. The mayor recently pushed through a plan to ticket – rather than arrest – some people found in possession of smaller amounts of the drug.
All in all, though not on any specific issue, Drosos isn’t too impressed with Emanuel.
“Honestly, I was really, really more of a Daley person,” she says, referring to the man who ruled Chicago for much of Drosos’ life. “I thought he did a lot for everything, just like the festivals he held, like at McCormick place he had Sports Fest.”
Sports Fest, an annual indoor playground, is no more, according to a city spokeswoman. But that's not on Emanuel, she says. It was eliminated in a cost-cutting move, part of Daley's final budget.