Chicago's Next Voices gave guest columnists a platform at the Sun-Times

Chicago is a city rich in experience, with a population of 2.7 million — and 8.9 million in the metro area. So even with a newsroom of around 100 journalists working to tell the story every day, we must be missing a lot. And some of them are very convincingly told directly through the voices of community members who experience them.

If we want to do a better job of telling the truth about what life is like here, to give a fuller, clearer, and more inclusive picture, we need to share the microphone.

That's why we launched Chicago's Next Voices contest in February — to hear more about the diverse experiences and perspectives that make up our community. Our goal is to raise more voices from our community so that we all have the opportunity to understand each other better, to support and inspire each other, to become more aware of the mix of experiences that connect us.

So we're excited to receive hundreds of entries from members of a truly diverse community. They include teens, young adults, middle-aged, and seniors from across the city and suburbs — of varying race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability — writing from vastly different backgrounds and perspectives.

It was very challenging to narrow down entries to 12 winners because so many made our judges happy, scared, surprised, inspired, heartbroken, or angry. The writers who were finally shortlisted brought a fresh and compelling perspective on the “Moving Forward” theme that made our jury think — and left them wanting more.

We hope you will enjoy these sounds as much as we do. We'll be publishing entries from the winners every month, and we need your feedback to make an informed decision about what happens next. Whose voice would you like to hear more of? Which topic would you like to read more about? Please let us know by emailing me at

And if you didn't enter or didn't win but still have something to say to our readers, this contest is just one of the many ways we work to bring our newsroom closer to our community, and there are many other opportunities. to make your voice heard. You can send opinions and letters to or And we encourage you to come to one of our monthly community listening sessions to talk one-on-one with a journalist. We will announce the next one soon.