This summer, Mercy Home’s young people had the opportunity to put their job skills into practice through professional internships. At companies across the city of Chicago, they gained new passions, real-world work experience, confidence and connections. We welcomed their employers to our West Loop Campus for the annual Employer Appreciation Dinner—a chance to share our gratitude with everyone who helped provide our young people such transformative internship experiences.

Katelyn Dollard, Director of Post-Secondary Options, welcomed the employers and thanked them not only for teaching our kids new skills, but for giving them “opportunities to think more for themselves; to want more for themselves,” she said; “to feel worthy about a professional opportunity.” She congratulated our young people on a terrific summer. “Each of you is an incredible success,” she said, “ambitious and worthy in your own way.”

“Their self-esteem is enhanced. They’re proud of themselves and of that which they have accomplished.”

Fr. Scott Donahue then addressed the group: “Family; friends; faith; meaningful work,” he said. “The components of a good life.” To him, the employers gave our young people experiences we can’t provide within Mercy Home’s walls—going downtown, practicing skills and seeing themselves in a new light. “When they come back here to Mercy Home, they walk a little taller, stand a little straighter,” Fr. Scott explained. “Their self-esteem is enhanced. They’re proud of themselves and of that which they have accomplished.”

Justin Earls, Coordinator of Post-Secondary Options and Career Resources, introduced two youth speakers, who shared reflections about their internship experiences. The first, Yazmin, completed her internship at the Beverly Area Planning Association. She told the story of arriving on her first day of work feeling nervous—and leaving feeling so welcomed by the team. Yazmin was grateful for the skills she learned that she knows will help her in her future career: “On behalf of all the interns,” she said, “we thank you for the amazing experience.”

The next speaker, Ruben, talked about the excitement he felt when he learned he would be interning at AT&T. Ruben is a college student studying computer science, with a focus in cybersecurity. But when he learned he would be interning in a department outside of his field of study, he was unsure what to think. He decided to trust that he’d been given the placement for a reason, and on his first day, when his supervisor Elaine gave him a warm welcome and introduced him to the President of AT&T, Ruben’s expectations were already exceeded.

“I learned to never judge an opportunity,” Ruben said. “All the employees at AT&T have amazing points of view. I made a lot of connections and asked a lot of questions.” He told the crowd that he will be forever grateful for his experience. “Thank you, AT&T,” he said, “for taking a chance on Mercy Home interns and on me.”

After the speeches came special recognitions and awards—first to Rick Stern of Nitel, who gave all our young people the opportunity to get professional clothing. One of our young men, Devionne, presented a gift to the Nitel representatives in attendance as a thank you. Our Career Resources team then recognized our outstanding interns of the summer: Juan, Yazmin, Tiberias, and Nikki. They also recognized Mercy Home’s Kitchen team, not only for providing our young people three meals a day, but for giving many of them their first job experience. Finally, Katelyn thanked the Career Resources team, who helped make the summer internships such a success for our young people and their employers.

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