Project: VISION

Chicago, Thoughts

Last week, I went to an open house hosted by Project: VISION, a local Chicago nonprofit that I began supporting this fall. PV provides after school programming to youth aged 12-18 in the Chinatown and Bridgeport neighborhoods; most of the students attend Chicago Public Schools and many are from first-generation immigrant families.

At the open house, I got to ask some of the students what they’d been up to over at the center. Some were receiving mentoring from Chicago professionals; others were being helped through college applications and FAFSA. A group of students told me about a recent exercise they’d completed that pushed them to think about their 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year plans.

“So what did you say was your 10-year plan?” I asked, curious to understand the mind of today’s 17-year-old.

“A stable job,” said one. “A doctor, lawyer, or a teacher,” replied another. “I want to be a father,” answered a third, as his friends laughed and elbowed him in the ribs. I noticed an easy camaraderie among them, three seniors in high school who were semi-anxiously awaiting the start of college admissions decisions. These didn’t seem like kids who just came to a center once a week to receive homework help; they seemed like friends, true friends.

“You guys said you go to different high schools, right? Would you say you’re better friends with your school friends or each other?” I wondered.

They smiled – somewhat bashfully – and all pointed at each other.

In that moment, I understood the power of a place like Project: VISION. It is a place full of resources to help middle and high school students navigate the next stage of life; it provides opportunities to learn, lead and serve – and yet it is so much more. Between the logistics of life that have to be completed, there is a space at PV – literally, and figuratively – that allows for relationships, for community, for belonging.

Some teenagers are able to find these friendships at school; others at places like Project: VISION. And still others are unable to find it at all. It could be due to a shyness that creates anxiety in social settings. It could be due to the lack of alternative opportunities like PV. It could be due to priorities like babysitting the family, priorities that take precedence because of the necessity to survive. It could be due to any number of different factors – but every young adult who wants the safety of community, who needs the comfort of belonging – they deserve a chance to have it.

I’m incredibly proud to support Project: VISION and all the work its staff does to provide students with the help and the skills they need to succeed. That the students I met at open house could point to each other as close friends is a beautiful testament to PV’s power in creating an alternative space for community. As these students begin their journeys to a stable job, a doctor / lawyer / teacher, and to becoming a father, I can’t help but smile knowing that they’ll have each other’s friendship through it all.

If you’d like to support the work at Project: VISION, click here to donate or message me to learn more! 

On Doing Good

Thoughts

In order to somewhat guide my job search process, I’ve been talking to people who work in the roles and/or industries that I’m interested in. There are two general goals I have in mind as I search for my next role: 1) To have greater ownership of my work, and 2) To be “doing good.”

The nonprofit world is one I’ve been on-and-off interested in since high school. I want to use my skills to make a difference, and to do good; I want to help people. One of my strengths is being able to do that on a personal level: I’m good at being a loyal, caring friend, and I’ve heard that I’m pretty good at giving sage life advice. In that sense, I think I have indeed fulfilled my hopes of helping people and of making an impact.

But I don’t feel like that’s good enough; I don’t feel like I’ve reached my potential: I want to do more.

So I’ve continued to explore different career paths that would allow me to do good in my job. One of those paths is through education: my own K-12 years were incredibly important in shaping me into who I am today, and I firmly believe that one’s experience as a child – particularly in terms of SEL – is a strong influencing factor in one’s success later on. Even as I talk to people in the education sector, though, I’m overwhelmed by just how many different types of roles there are – some directly related to the students, and others not much at all.

This has been a recurring theme in my ongoing job search: that there are so, so, so many ways out there to “do good,” to “make a difference.” It’s partially encouraging that there are so many potential paths to take; but on the other hand, it makes it a lot harder to narrow down how exactly to go about doing good. And it doesn’t have to be nonprofit, either: many corporations have foundations or CSR departments, while mission-oriented startups also focus on doing good while churning a profit.

All this to say: although it’s not that easy to narrow it down, the important thing is to choose a path and just try it out. Some people even see jobs as a way to fund their lives, and engage in side projects to make that difference.

I hope that whichever path I choose to go in this next phase of my life, I remember to keep that ultimate goal in mind: to be doing good, in the best way(s) that I can.