By: Jake Schwartz, Business Development Director

As the child of two school teachers, I grew up knowing the importance of education – but also of the benefit of having a safe, warm, comfortable environment in which to grow up and thrive.

Not everyone has that.

I moved to Chicago and looked at hundreds of non-profits before choosing Chicago Youth Centers. I am now co-president of the auxiliary board of Chicago Youth Centers (CYC), a non-profit devoted to empowering children to recognize and experience their possibility and promise.chicago-youth-centers_jake-schwartz

CYC is the city’s largest private urban youth organization. It helps prepare kids from 3-18 for lifelong success by offering them a safe place to go while they’re not at school or at home. They offer academic and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, social and emotional support, family engagement, community resources and finally, safe and innovative spaces for kids to go.

A group of colleagues and I recently went to one of the centers for a day of volunteering. I’m a proponent of giving back and this would be a way for us to meet some kids, help however we could and maybe even make a difference in a kid’s life.

We spent a few hours painting stairs, washing and cleaning walls, gardening and moving furniture. Then came the good stuff. We read to kids and worked on some art projects. They listened. They were engaged. They smiled and seemed to be having fun. It occurred to me that they might not get that every day. We were happy to provide it, if just for that afternoon.

The kids served by CYC don’t have it like I did. Maybe they don’t have a safe, encouraging environment to go to every day. CYC provides it and my passion is helping them help these kids.

Life should be about more than work. We should all find ways to feed our passions and give back to the community. This is my way of doing my part.

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Jake Schwartz is a Business Development Director in our Chicago office.

Click here to connect with Jake.