Last week, I enjoyed joining a lunch discussion with a few dozen community leaders who were interested in education, volunteerism, and the community. The goal of the lunch was to brainstorm ways together to inspire students, parents and policy-makers to make our education system work better.
A good conversation is as simple as sitting around a dinner table talking, and the series we participated in is called America's Sunday Supper. (Here's more about it, and how to get involved, if it interests you.) Last week's lunch was sponsored by Target, the Chicago Public Library, Points of Light and The Israel Idonije Foundation.
Last week’s lunch was held in the Harold Washington Library Center, and it reminded me of the Trib Nation community conversations our newsroom hosts here in the Tribune Tower. (We’re always planning ahead for new ones – if you’d like to suggest a topic, be involved, or both, email me at TribNation@tribune.com.)
Last Thursday's lunch raised some fascinating insights about how we change, and how we can change others. There were some inspiring insights at the table where I was sitting.
After relating to her own experiences the remarks of two of the lunch's featured speakers -- Derrius Quarles of Million Dollar Scholar, and Grammy-winning poet J. Ivy -- Karen Casanova, Community Relations Manager for Target, noted that "the moment that changes a trajectory for a young person always involves a person."
I liked that. The implication for volunteerism is that one needn't try to save the world. To follow Karen's model, you just need to get involved, and you need to find one kid to help.
Na-Tae Thompson, the executive director of the youth programming organization True Star Foundation, followed up with still more advice that was simple, without being simplistic: Be present while talking with youth. Listen. Pay attention. That enables you to respond in a way that can improve both of your lives.
Kelley Speck, president of Blessed Communion, noted that when she thought about the people who made a diffence in her own life and in in other young persons' lives, it was people who believe in a youth and invest in them that made a difference. That investment made the encounter purposeful.
Patty Siebert, deputy director of the Chicago Public Library Foundation, said that a lot of people looking for widespread impact find satisfaction in investing time, energy or money in established programs. An example: A summer reading program the library hosts that relies on student volunteers to read book reports from younger kids being encouraged to read more books. Both the kids and the volunteers benefit, she noted.
Involvement can be complex, or simple, said Chicago Public Schools Deputy CEO Barbara Lumpkin, who noted that for a lot of CPS students, many had never even visited downtown Chicago. Her office’s community engagement motto is to “create connections that create change.”
Erika Winkels, communications manager at Target, encouraged prospective volunteers to start by simply doing something. For those who already have done something, she urged, try doing more.
Education is something we cover extensively at the Chicago Tribune, and to stay up to date on developments, you can check in here. We hosted a community conversation on volunteerism last year, but maybe we should revisit the topic.
There were (at least) eight tables in the room and each was given an inspiring name -- since Points of Light timed this event to coincide with Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday month and sponsored it to tie in with their Sunday Supper discussions.
Our table's label was "Dream."
We all agreed that dreams can stay locked inside of us, or we can help one another to unlock the dreams we all have.
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