Alumna Leslie Hairston, ’79, Recalls U-High as Foundational for Public Service
Hairston image

All photos courtesy of Fifth Ward Alderwoman Leslie Hairston's office

Alumna Leslie Hairston, ’79, Recalls U-High as Foundational for Public Service

Image of Hairston

Leslie Hairston

Lab’s Fifth Ward alderwoman and alumna Leslie Hairston, ’79, will serve her last day as a City Council member on Monday, May 15. 

As alderwoman, Hairston has served part of the Hyde Park neighborhood, in which Lab’s Historic Campus and Earl Shapiro Hall are situated, for the last twenty-four years. In August, Hairston announced her retirement as City Council’s Fifth Ward alderwoman. She attended her last City Council meeting on Wednesday, April 19, and in late March, she held her last monthly ward meeting—number 200, according to Block Club Chicago

As an Alumna of Note, Hairston recalls spending most of her time at U-High’s library listening to record players. She also enjoyed cheerleading, being a member of the French Club, and joining the Black Students’ Association. 

“Lab was a very good experience for me. I met some of my closest friends still today at Lab. I’ve worked with many of them in different capacities,” Hairston says. “We know that Lab has a number of alumni that are now in elected office, and I'd like to think that we got our foundation there.”

She believes Lab played a role in her serving as an alderwoman of the ward where her high school was located, specifically her senior May project. “I worked at a children’s social service agency. The community projects that we did; learning about other cultures. I think all of that played a role in it, instilling that there is diversity in the world, and to be receptive to people and places that are different than you,” Hairston says. 

Hairston image at obama library groundbreaking

Hairston at Obama Presidential Center groundbreaking

During her years as alderwoman, Hairston says she has a lot of memorable moments, including making the South Shore Cultural Center an attraction for the city, the groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Center, and the recent landmarking of Promontory Point, which she saw landmarked in her final City Council meeting before retirement.

In terms of Desmon Yancy, the Fifth Ward alderman-elect, who is to take his oath along with the other fifteen elected alders and mayor-elect Brandon Johnson on May 15, Hairston says, “I hope that he would think of Lab as any other school in the neighborhood and include them in any projects or programming that he does. Let's utilize our high schools and our students for the strengths and the talents that they have.”

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