Nearly one hundred years ago, Mercy Home opened a trade school where the boys learned to work at bricklaying, carpentry, painting, candle making, shoe repair, type-setting, and more. Such skills taught the young men to become self-reliant and marketable as they entered the workforce.
Today, our career preparation programs focus more on internships and college education. However, our tradition of teaching independence via on-the-job training continues with our young people who work on campus.
Luis has been working in our kitchen as a dishwasher for 10 months, almost as long as he’s lived at Mercy Home. From the moment he arrived, Luis prioritized earning money to help out his family, and quickly found himself working breakfast and lunch shifts. Mastering the technical side of his job came easy. But it was the social side where he found the most value.
“This job really helped with my communication skills,” he said. “Before I moved into Mercy Home, I was a really shy person and didn’t like to speak to anyone. Now that I’m working in the kitchen, I get to greet everyone while I’m washing dishes.”
When he’s not picking up extra hours in the kitchen, Luis also volunteers with the facilities department on maintenance projects, like installing statues and planting trees. He enjoys these opportunities to learn handyman skills. “They taught me how to use a saw and take measurements,” he said.
Thanks to his career resource coordinator, Luis experienced a professional hiring process similar to those he’ll face with future employers. “They gave me a chance to do an interview for the kitchen job, so that helped a lot,” he said. “My coordinator was always teaching me how to speak properly, how to be more punctual for interviews, and how to dress up.”
Despite a rigorous work schedule, Luis is also a business major at Harold Washington College, with his sights set on transferring to a four-year college like Northeastern Illinois University. Now that he’s found the confidence to speak up and advocate for himself, Luis is considering a new path that one day may help others like him.
“I want to switch my major to social work or psychology,” he said.