Coming Around Full Circle
I grew up on the south side of Chicago. My mother always emphasized the importance of staying engaged in youth organizations. She felt as though it was her children’s “stay out of jail free card”. As our involvement increased, our awareness of the risks within our community decreased. In some sense, I think she was right. Raising 6 children of color in Chicago is no easy task. It literally takes a village. My mother displayed tremendous strength in reaching out to organizations for help for the betterment of our futures. I constantly thank my mother for keeping my 5 siblings and I active in our communities. As a result, it led me down a profound path of purpose and passion for change.
The Boys and Girls Club of Chicago
For example, I can recall joining one specific organization at the mere age of fourteen, Boys and Girls Club of Chicago. This organization housed one of Chicago’s finest drill teams better known as the New Generation Fancy Drill Team. My sister and I could not wait to be a part of something so great. “Thrills, Drills, and Life Skills” was the motto.
The Boys and Girls Club of Chicago offered after-school programming three times a week, and it made a huge impact as I continued to navigate my school age education. In addition to the space provided to assist in perfecting our craft, they offered resources for youth in need, including lunches and snacks. Furthermore, the programming also opened the opportunity to learn about our culture while gaining life skills. For about two and half years, I continued my involvement in this amazing after school program at no cost to me and my family. After completing my time at Boys and Girls Club, I am proud to have maintained some of the relationships that I established throughout my time as a college student. At the time, I did not realize that life had its way of coming around full circle.
Returning to Chicago
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University, I was hired at the Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY). Currently, I am the Prevention and Intervention Manager of the Illinois Youth Investment Program. Little did I know, this role would take me down memory lane. It brought about an abundance of emotions that confirmed my path of purpose. At the beginning, I was surprised to partner with many organizations that would allow me to reestablish my relationship with the Boys and Girls Club Chicago. However, this time my role is to provide training and technical assistance to the organization. And I have discovered that the organization has grown tremendously in helping the youth (Young Professionals) of Chicago.
The Boys and Girls Club of Chicago offers opportunities for employment, Pharmacy Tech classes, a Coding Program, a Videography program, and a host of other programs and services to young professionals. The work this organization has achieved over the years and is still achieving certainly deserves the ultimate recognition. More specifically, I would like to acknowledge a Project Director whose work speaks for itself, Fannie Brown. She is an ALL-STAR, if I must say at the least. Although she wears many hats, her Young Professionals and colleagues speak highly of her efforts as Project Director for Youth Employment Services. Although the staff has changed since my time as a young participant, I feel grateful to be able to work with the organization again in this capacity. I cannot wait until the next “Wow Factor” from the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago.
ICOY Staff Contributions
Written by ICOY Illinois Youth Investment and Community Youth Services Program Manager Chanel Dotson. Editing contributions by ICOY CEO Andrea Durbin, Assistant Executive Director Sarah Daniels, and Communications & Marketing Manager Melissa Franada. Find more information on the ICOY Staff.