airreginaTell us about your Mikva Experience
Mikva Challenge opened me up to a new world within my own backyard. Before Mikva I was curious and interested in politics and community but Mikva really hooked me in! I began to see myself as an active citizen of my community and I became more empowered and more determined to follow my dreams and my passions.

What Programs Were You Involved in at Mikva?
I was a junior at Hyde Park Career Academy when I was introduced to Mikva Challenge. The idea of youth voice and youth inspiring change in their community was very new and exciting to me. My first summer, I did an internship with Toni Preckwinkle, the then 4th Ward Alderman, and the experience was completely amazing and transformative. Not only did it give me on-the-ground, first-hand experience of the role and responsibility of the alderman and the needs of the ward, but it also exposed me to the strategic level thinking and planning that was going on in the city at that time. Toni was a great mentor and took me to her planning committee meetings. It was great!

The team building and reflection sessions we had every Friday at Mikva were also really powerful. For the first time in my life I was immersed in a diverse group of young people and I really began to appreciate the value and power of different perspectives and opinions.

What are you doing now?
I’m a youth worker at the Gary Comer Youth Center and I’m also working towards an undergraduate degree in Public Policy from DePaul University. For a little while after graduating high school and Mikva, I struggled to find my path and my true calling. I wanted to be a force of change in my community so my mom and I started an after-school program for kids in my neighborhood. From that experience, I realized my strength was working with youth, and started to look for jobs in the youth development sector. I volunteered with the Gary Comer Youth Center and that turned into a job so now I’m working there mentoring over a 100 youth every day. I’ve even started a civics club with them there and I’m using the Mikva curriculum and the Mikva experience to guide me in the process. It’s been a very fulfilling and rewarding experience so far.

How has your experience as a Mikva Challenge youth informed where you are today?
Mikva believed in me as a young person so I know what it is to have someone believe in you and empower you and that feeling informs all my work now. There was a time in my life when I faced many challenges: I was unemployed for a while, and it was my Mikva mentors that I went to for help and guidance.

As a youth worker now, I share Mikva’s dream of a city where every ward has a youth council and legislation is drafted with input from young people.