Young Adult Arts, Policy, and Technology Competitions
Transform911 seeks to transform our 911 system by better prioritizing health and safety and ensuring the right responder is dispatched at the right time. To do so, we will centralize and evaluate the evidence-base surrounding the crisis response system, identify areas for improvement and opportunities for growth, spark creativity in innovation, and develop policy recommendations for the local, state, and federal levels.
Transform911 recognizes that our work must be informed by a wide variety of voices and perspectives, including those of young adults. We released a call for submissions to three Young Adult Competitions – in the areas of Technology, Policy, and Arts – in September 2021.
We are pleased to recognize and honor the winners of our 2021 Young Adult Competitions. Their submissions – a policy memo and a poem – are visionary and honest. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $1000, as well as options to present to policymakers and to intern with the Transform911 initiative. We did not receive any entries to the technology competition, but we welcome insights and ideas in this space at any time.
Policy Competition Winners
Shreya Vallampati and Angelica Zocchi (team entry)
Arts Competition Winner
Policy Competition Winners: Shreya Vallampati and Angelica Zocchi
Personal Statement: Shreya Vallampati
Shreya Vallampati is a first year MPP student at the Harris School of Public Policy. As an international student, she witnessed first-hand the gap in the emergency service system in catering towards the needs of the diverse student community at the University of Chicago. Shreya believes language training and accent sensitization as proposed in the policy memo, can help in building a more inclusive experience for the residents of Chicago. Transform 911 provides the platform to start meaningful discussion and Shreya is excited to see the project come to fruition. She is determined to drive positive change in her immediate community.
Personal Statement: Angelica Zocchi
Angelica Zocchi is a second-year MPP student and a fellow at the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflict. Although her background has primarily been in international development, she is keen to leave whatever impact she can in the city she currently calls home. This is why she was drawn to the Transform-911 Policy Competition, where she and her team-member Shreya proposed measures to make the emergency first-responder system more accessible to Chicago’s multi-lingual residents. As such, she is convinced that tweaking an everyday service can leave a significant impact on people’s lives.
Arts Competition Winner: Elizabeth Frances
I am a recent graduate of the University of Chicago who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder three years ago. I hope to pursue a career in mental health policy and am very excited to work for the Transform911 project.
This is a collection of poetry written in the months following my first episode of psychosis, presented in chronological order. They begin from a place of gratitude for my life and the kindness I was shown, which gradually dissolved into more complicated emotions. I am grateful because my life with bipolar disorder is precarious at times and I have managed, though privilege and kindness and luck, to thrive in a situation that many people do not survive. Over time I began to feel a significant amount of anger that survival should be based upon luck in the first place, and that the official systems in place for mental health crisis had been laughably unhelpful. While that did not prove consequential to my own life, it often does for people experiencing psychosis in contexts different than mine. I was in the process of getting confirmed in the Episcopalian church during this time, and so my private wrestling with the meaning of my mental health crisis became a theological confusion as well.
The final poem refers to evil as “boring,” which is an allusion to Hannah Arendt’s concept of the banality of evil. I think this is a useful (if melodramatic) framework for viewing the mental health crisis system today. It is not an issue of “a few bad apples” so much as an ineffective combination of systems with significant structural flaws. Police have become the default responders to mental health crises for which they are not adequately trained, crisis hotlines do not have the resources to be helpful, and emergency rooms are overcrowded and expensive. Many people with severe mental illnesses fall through the cracks of these crisis systems and are criminalized and neglected instead. Many are left without access to housing or healthcare and experience traumatic and harmful encounters with law enforcement. This reality is not primarily due to any evil intention but a collective lack of will to create a better alternative. It is my great hope that the crisis system will be reformed in a way that empowers the people who work within it to effectively do what they intend to do- help people in crisis.