Hello. My name is Erik Rosen and I’m an AmeriCorps National Direct member working within Chicago Cares’ Youth in Service program.

As a Youth in Service member, I design and manage meaningful service projects for youth volunteers ages 8-18. The projects, meant to adhere to the model of service learning, challenge the students to step outside of their comfort zones in order to address a pressing need within their community or in those foreign to them.

Through my service with Chicago Cares, I’ve developed tremendous relationships with various community partners throughout the city. From passionate resident service coordinators at low-income senior housing buildings to a wonderfully dedicated volunteer director at a west side youth center, I’ve worked alongside individuals who have the utmost care and respect for those they serve and for the communities in which they live.
Either through purchasing project supplies, conducting a site visit or leading a project, my service has introduced me to areas of the city that I might otherwise never understand or venture to. In communities plagued by gang violence,  drug activity and insurmountable poverty, there are courageous citizens who everyday work to improve the lives of their neighbors. These individuals provide hope to crime ridden neighborhoods that so many others have given up on. These individuals inspire me to make a positive difference. 
Sometimes I’m asked if I’m ever apprehensive about visiting these under resourced communities. My response is always the same: “This is where people live.” 

Although this past year has been filled with an array of life-long learning experiences, my most rewarding and fulfilling moments came this summer when I worked with three schools participating in the Summer of Service and Learning program. For four weeks, students studied social issues concerning the environment, aging, poverty and homelessness. As part of their service learning experience, the students would participate in a volunteer project that focused specifically on that week’s issue area. My role consisted of designing and managing these service projects and activities. While removing invasive species overcrowding a local park to preparing and serving a hot breakfast to senior citizens, I was blown away by the overall dedication and teamwork of the students who for the most part just recently made introductions. Witnessing young people grow not only as individuals but as a group is a truly remarkable sight.