As part of our “Three Questions With …” blog series, we’re sharing stories from the who’s who of our volunteers, philanthropists, and prominent Chicagoans.
Today, we’re featuring one of our stellar One Summer Chicago team leaders, Rickey Layfield. Rickey grew up in Chicago’s South Shore and Woodlawn neighborhoods before attending Northern Illinois University. He’s returned to Chicago to give back to kids experiencing the same challenges he once faced and has since overcome.
1) What was it like growing up in Chicago? How does it help you relate to students?
My experience in Chicago made me who I am today. I grew up mainly on the southeast side of Chicago in neighborhoods that were not safe. I believe survival of the fittest is the way of life in certain communities and that street smarts are a must among residents. I can always relate to my students, because we share some of the same experiences. The hardest thing is showing them the light at the end of the tunnel that I’ve seen. When you never leave the negative parts of the city, you believe that there is only darkness.
2) You left Chicago to pursue your degree and then came back to give back to your community. Why?
I think about how every experience has shaped who I am. How every guest speaker or summer-camp leader dropped one piece of knowledge that helped create me, Rickey Layfield. I know I do not remember every piece of advice, but the things I do remember have helped me in hard times. I give back because I have a huge issue with those who complain and watch the news but don’t take action. I believe in action instead of conversation. Less talk, more work! That’s what Chicago Cares’ One Summer Chicago program is all about.
3) What does Chicago look like to you? Feel free to share thoughts on Chicago’s personality, opportunities, and/or challenges.
Chicago is like a painting: We all look at the same city, but our points of view cause us to see something different. It is a very segregated city, and most of us choose to stick to our comfort zone. Some say that this is “Chicago” and hate the term “Chiraq.” Others actually feel like they live in a war zone. On the other hand, Chicago is a beautiful city with rich history, opportunities, and architecture. It is all about your personal experience. Before attending college, I only saw the violent side and didn’t understand the beauty. We have to step outside of ourselves to experience the entire city.
We’re celebrating the diverse and dynamic voices that make a difference in our city and are inviting all to be part of the conversation! Please continue to share what Chicago means to you through Tweets, pictures, videos, and more using hashtag #MyChi.