As Katie Clendenning, Senior Manager of Youth in Service, shared in our last blog post, the Chicago Cares One Summer Chicago Program is in full swing. The 200 students taking part in this initiative are being led by Chicago Cares staff and 12 trained team leaders who are serving as their teachers, mentors and guides. One of these leaders is Michael Ivy, Jr. What follows is a Q&A with him about the program, and the change agents we’re developing as a result of it.

Why did you decide to take up this role as team leader for Chicago Cares’ One Summer Chicago Program? Tell me a little background about yourself.

I am a recent graduate of Denison University with a degree in Sociology. As a result of my studies, I have become even more aware of the social and cultural issues that our society faces. Through research projects and service opportunities I have been able to both directly and indirectly address these challenges. I decided to take up this role because I wanted to provide others with the same opportunity to engage in service to positively affect their communities. The Chicago Cares One Summer Chicago Program is unique in that it offers youth the ability to engage in topics such as poverty, education, and health while allowing them to further develop their leadership and team building skills. I enjoy the program and the work that I do because it not only offers youth a space to discuss these issues, but also provides them with the opportunity to take action through service. With these skills, they will be able to continue to make changes in the world and lead others to do so as well.

Describe how the program has been going. What sorts of topics have you focused on with students?

The program has been going really well. Thus far, we have engaged youth in topics such as health, homelessness and hunger, the environment, and community violence. My co-facilitator and I lead various activities which teach youth about these topics, and then guide students in dialogue so they have an opportunity to express their personal knowledge and opinions. We’ve also led a range of service opportunities, from completing art projects with adults with disabilities, to preparing a meal for the elderly, to collecting water samples for the city. Service projects such as these put into context the information discussed in the classroom.

How have students grown or changed in the first few weeks of the program?

In the first few weeks of the program, students have shown a greater appreciation for the issues we’ve explored. They’ve demonstrated a passion for these issues and a commitment to addressing them long-term within their communities. Students now see that even the smallest act of service makes a difference—that even helping one person or completing one simple task contributes to the overall effort.Michael Ivy

What do you want to instill in these students moving forward?

I want to make sure students know that they have the agency, leadership ability and knowledge to make changes in their communities. I want them to know that they have a support system that will assist them in any way possible to make these changes. I also want to encourage students to spread their knowledge and get other people thinking and acting to address the challenges we face as a city, nation and world.

Michael Ivy, Jr. is a Team Leader for the Chicago Cares One Summer Chicago Program.