Youth Organizing Institute Helps Young Woman Find Her Voice
This summer, one of our young women was moved to explore ways to create change in her community.
Alejandra participated in the Youth Organizing Institute hosted by Chicago’s 33rd, 40th, and 47th ward offices. The free summer long program allowed young people to learn about campaign planning, core organizing skills, and how to put their ideas into action to address an issue of their choice.
A coworker in our Education and Career Resources department told Alejandra about the program and encouraged her to apply. But it was events occurring in the community outside the Home that moved Alejandra to follow through.
“I got the email [about the program] the night after the … looting and protesting, and that night, the night before, there were so many police around Mercy,” she remembered. “So I went to bed very overwhelmed, and I even had a dream about it. And then I woke up [and] started crying. I was like, I want change. I want to help the community. … [When I heard about the workshop, I asked], is this a sign? It was so amazing, like I just got this opportunity to actually bring my ideas to something.”
Alejandra attended virtual workshops to learn how to build an issues campaign, advocate for policy, and ultimately, affect change. At the end of the program, the young people presented their ideas to the aldermen.
Alejandra said that she learned a lot about all kinds of ways to get a campaign off the ground but was particularly interested in learning about grassroots fundraising. She learned from a former elected official who spoke the group about the importance of reaching out to community members and talking about the issues with them.
“[He explained that] you need to show people you’re interested,” she said. “You need to go to their houses, not just call them and [say], oh can I get some money? You need to actually explain what you want to do [and] how it’s going to help the community.”
She also enjoyed learning about digital organizing, how to make calls to community members, and how to draft and send an email to large groups of people.
Elizabeth Sorice, the director of education and career resources (ECR) at the Walsh Campus, agreed that participating in the program was helpful in setting Alejandra up for a successful career.
“She says right now that she’d like to be a social worker,” Elizabeth said. The project helped deepen Alejandra’s understanding of the social justice issues involved in the field and gave her some tools to discuss social issues.
Alejandra viewed this opportunity as a way to get some hands-on experience in the field and to become comfortable with using her voice and speaking up.
“This helped me get in touch with different people, different nationalities and personalities,” she said. “And I learned how to talk to them, and I feel like that’s very important, especially in social work. … So it really prepared me. If I wasn’t comfortable in anything, [now] I will talk about speak up about it, in a good way. It just helped me a lot, because it was with people I had never seen before. You had to find ways to talk to each one of them.”
This helped me get in touch with different people, different nationalities and personalities.
In addition to helping Alejandra meet her career goals, giving our kids opportunities to participate in programs like these also helps prepare them to give back to their community.
I just think about them even 10 years from now,” Elizabeth said. “How do we instill those types of skills that they’ll need when they’re 20, 30 years old and living in the community they care so much about?,” Elizabeth said.
Making a difference in the community, whether as professionals or as volunteers, is a value that Mercy Home nurtures in our young people through a variety of programs and opportunities.