Dajae Coleman Had a Reason to Live

The 14-year-old Evanston, Illinois, student was regarded as ‘a model citizen.’ His life proves the power of family and community. His senseless murder reminds us that not all youth have experienced those gifts.

MODEL STUDENT AND CITIZEN: Dajae Coleman, 14, was walking home from a party with friends when he was gunned down. Police say he was not the intended target. (Family photo)

Chicago-area residents were reminded once again of the senselessness of gang violence when 14-year-old high-school freshman Dajae Coleman was shot and killed as he walked home from a party with friends on Saturday night in Evanston, Illinois. It’s an all-too-familiar story: a “model citizen” and “well-mannered” young man’s life needlessly taken. (Police say he was not the shooter’s intended target.)

Making the story even more poignant was news today that Coleman’s school and family released an essay that he had written two days before his murder. Titled “My Belief Statement,” it’s a heartfelt expression of his love for his family and community. “My mom pushes me to do better, she always tells me to never settle,” Coleman wrote. “I think the kids that are on the street not doing anything with their lives don’t get the type of support they need from their family. They probably don’t have anyone to look up to.”

The tragic irony is that Coleman did have positive influences and a bright future. But in a culture of ever-increasing violence and disregard for life, that didn’t matter.

Still, people are finding hope in the life-affirming message that Dajae Coleman left behind. In a Chicago Tribune video, a visitor to the makeshift memorial site for Coleman described the young man’s essay as “prophetic, profound, and part of [Dajae’s] legacy.”

We can only hope that other young people — and adults — will read the essay and be inspired to pursue a more positive direction in life. Just like Dajae.

You can read Dajae’s essay here.

  1. I was one of Dajae’s Middle School teachers. I don’t feel that this article truly reflect what’s going on in Evanston. The demographics aren’t the same as Chicago and their crime shouldn’t be absorbed to the Chicago landscape. Yes some of the elements are the same yet they are different. This community nutures their young to look forward and encourages excellence however, just like so many American Cities large, medium and small have outside variables that moves within the framework. Dajae had dreams, Dajae worked hard all the time, and Dajae was first true to himself and his family.

    • Thanks so much, Ms. Williams, for your comment. We’re so sorry for your personal loss in this tragedy.

      It wasn’t our intention to make a judgment about the crime situation in Evanston. The main point was to suggest that it’s important to instill positive values in our youth, just like Dajae’s family and community did for him. Perhaps if this would’ve been done for whomever it was that opened fire on Dajae and his friends, Dajae would still be alive today. We need to take seriously our responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go,” so that “when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).

      Thanks again for your comment — and for sharing from your personal experience how special this young man was.

  2. In person (general public): Check, cash or money order donations may be dropped off in the Safety Office at Door #1 (Main entrance off Dodge Avenue, front of the building) during the hours of 8:00am-4:00pm, Monday-Friday when school is in session. Please note that ETHS is closed on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.
    · In person (ETHS students and staff): ETHS students and staff may drop off cash, check or money order donations to the Main Office during the hours of 8:00am-4:00pm, Monday-Friday when school is in session.

  3. By mail: Check or money order payments may be mailed to:
    Evanston Township High School
    ATTN: Dajae Coleman Memorial Fund
    1600 Dodge Avenue
    Evanston, IL 60201
    All checks or money orders should be made out to “ETHS District 202.” Please write “Dajae Coleman” in the notes section of your check or money order.
    · Online: Payments can be made through the ETHS website using a credit or debit card at http://www.eths.k12.il.us/store

  4. My husband and I saw Dajae with his grandfather regularly at our gym this past summer. We were both so impressed! He was there painfully early and was such a diligent worker while there. This entire thing is just unspeakable. Words really do fail me in my sadness in this tragedy.

  5. I wonder why the teacher thought it was important to point out that “Evanston is not like Chicago”. I live in Southern Illinois which is five hours south of the Chicago area. When I see a useless death of any young person anywhere in our country I am effected. I am sure that in every school system there are people who nurture the youth. The dividing line dissappeared a long time ago. This is no longer a “big city” crisis. This is an American crisis.

  6. Pingback: From Young Man To Young Man | Coalition to Stop Gun Violence