Republished with permission from The Renewal Project

The mission of I Grow Chicago is to take Englewood from a community that is not just surviving, but thriving. The organization does this through mentorship and skill building, restorative justice, community building, yoga and mindfulness, creative expression, and urban farming. As one of the most active members of our Joslin Campus Peace Ambassador’s team, I was thrilled to introduce our middle school scholars to the meaning and importance of volunteering during a National Volunteer Week event last month. As an annual celebration to promote and show appreciation for volunteerism, National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 and has grown each year, with thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week.

The young scholars from our school participated in volunteer day at I Grow. They ranged from 11 to 18 years old and were tasked with assembling care packages for community members who are in need.

All of this was made possible by The Allstate Foundation and a local Allstate agency owner Barbara Brown, who was on site to assist us. She showed her support for the students and their willingness to turn their “me” into “we.” I for one am very appreciative of this opportunity to have been able to work alongside Ms. Brown. It deepened my understanding of National Volunteer Week as an opportunity to recognize and thank volunteers who lend their time, talent, voice, and support to causes they care about.

The event inspired me to start a support and mentor group for the middle school scholars at our Joslin campus. I call it The 3B’s: brains, beauty, brawn. These three elements represent the beauty, intellect, and strength inside everyone.

  • Beauty—Loving who you are
  • Brains—The importance of being a lifelong learner
  • Brawn—Respecting each other’s differences

As self-esteem is such a challenge during our preteen years, I am excited to help these young ladies as they work on their own self-esteem and begin to realize that their inner as well as outer voice has value. As the newly elected Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has recently said, we as children are the product of the adult ecosystem that surrounds us; it matters how we support young minds as they will become our community’s next leaders.

My mission will be to help these pre-teens to develop their inner voice as their own strength while using that voice to empower others.

Naomi Lucas is a senior at Perspectives Charter School in Chicago.

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