In January of 2011, I did what most do—I sat down and wrote some resolutions. They varied in tone from traveling to a new city to attending a music festival and cooking more in the kitchen. Also on my list, becoming a Leader with Chicago Cares.

When I moved to Chicago in 2009, I wanted new experiences while meeting new faces, which is why I was thrilled when my roommate told me about the Chicago Cares website. I jumped right in and began volunteering for a wide range of events and projects while I tried to find my fit. After becoming more comfortable with the organization, I knew I wanted to take on a bigger challenge.

It’s why when I sat down to write my New Year’s resolutions last year, “Take on a leadership role with Chicago Cares” made the list. Yet I found myself on an April night realizing I hadn’t made any progress towards this resolution. Thankfully, Serve-a-thon was at the end of the month and Chicago Cares still sought volunteers to serve as Volunteer Leaders at the event.

I figured a one-day commitment as a Volunteer Leader would suffice my resolution. I mean, it’s not like I put a duration of time for my leadership, I simply said I needed to take on the role.

After that day of service, I wasn’t satisfied. I greatly enjoyed my time with volunteers, but knew my resolution was not complete, and would not be complete, until I jumped in and became a leader for an ongoing project.

My moment came when a Chicago Cares rep approached me to not only lead, but also lead a team for a topic important to me, the English language. It was 8 months in the making, but it was finally time to cross this one off the list.

I’ve been in a leadership position for a few months and greatly enjoy the challenges and triumphs. Becoming a leader allows you to tap into skills you have, but may not necessarily use while assuming a traditional volunteer position with Chicago Cares. I find myself going into “Mama Bear” mode often with my volunteers— making sure everyone is aware of the day’s events, getting the most out of their experience and of course, eating breakfast.

It scares me to think I almost missed out on this opportunity simply because I wanted to shortcut my way to scratch something off of a list. As some of us look towards our resolutions for the upcoming year, consider a Chicago Cares one. Whether it’s volunteering once a month, doing a project in an unfamiliar focus area or finally becoming that team leader, no resolution is too small, or too grand, for the list.

Hanna Soltys leads a team at the Uptown English Language Learners. When she’s not volunteering, she works as a Copywriter for a marketing agency downtown and serves on the Junior Board of Cinema/Chicago and the Chicago International Film Festival.

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