As the new Interim Executive Director, a former board member, and a long-time fan of Chicago Cares, I’m proud that we were selected to participate in a national campaign, “One America,” with our friends Points of Light and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
This morning, we hosted more than 150 community partners, business leaders, service advocates, and Chase employees for a breakfast discussion about education and service at the beautiful and historic Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center.
While we all know the many challenges facing our school system today, the powerful voices of presenters Imran Khan (Chicago Public School teacher and EMBARC Chicago founder), Cassandra Murff (EMBARC alum and DePaul University freshman), Kerry Wood (former Cubs pitcher and Wood Family Foundation co-founder), Glenn Tilton (JPMorgan Chase Midwest Chairman), and Malcolm London (teaching artist with Young Chicago Authors) all gave us hope that each person can make a difference and there is power in coming together as one. Service unites and brings together communities, neighbors, and everyday people who want to make positive change.
What we heard from Malcolm and Cassandra about the harsh realities of growing up in the Chicago Public School system is nothing that we don’t assume or read in the papers too often. However, seeing the hope and possibility in their deeds remarkably demonstrated that despite often difficult circumstances, if given the right choices, our youth will choose opportunity. Imran discussed stark challenges of teaching in the Chicago Public School system, but spoke with promise about getting youth out to experience all the wonders in Chicago that are available to them outside of their own backyard.
We talked about building and sustaining relationships in communities and understanding that there are so many more positives than negatives; we just need to look beyond the headlines and get to know our neighbors. This work is not easy or quick. It’s about showing up – not just for a photo op, as Kerry referenced – but continually showing up to mentor, to volunteer, to be present and be a part of the community.
After insightful thought and discussion, the “One America” event closed with active service: Our guests stayed to help pack teacher-appreciation gift bags that will be distributed as a part of the Chase Teacher Resource program.
Our call to action from this morning’s inspiring program is to Learn, Serve, Share, or Give – so please think about doing at least one of those things today to help further the uniting impact of service. Chicago Cares is committed to being a part of the solution, and I invite you to join us in making a stronger One Chicago.
Chicago Cares Interim Executive Director