LIFT-Chicago hosts Fourth Annual Regional Summit
The Fourth Annual LIFT-Chicago Regional Summit, held on Sunday, February 23, 2014, brought 120 LIFT advocates and community partners together for a day filled with speakers, workshops, and small group discussions surrounding important issues related to poverty in Chicago. Chicago landmarks were featured throughout the day, including 15 tables that represented different neighborhoods and train stops in the city. At these tables, advocates not only learned facts and statistics about each area but were also able to visualize the differences and discrepancies between Chicago neighborhoods.
To kick off the day, Imran Khan, Founder and Executive Director of EMBARC, gave the morning’s keynote address. EMBARC, a growing nonprofit organization in Chicago, works with low-income high school students to provide them cultural and social experiences that improve their learning outcomes. While working as a high school teacher, Khan realized that many of his students were isolated from experiences most Chicago residents take for granted. They had never been to Lake Michigan, Millennium Park, or even a grocery store. He founded EMBARC to empower students to explore the world beyond their neighborhood.
“I really enjoyed Imran’s speech,” said Laura Rothenberg, LIFT advocate and Masters of Social Work student at University of Chicago. “Not only was it engaging, but it was motivating to hear how he had started his initiative. I found it particularly relevant to our work at LIFT.”
Advocates then selected two out of five workshops to attend, which addressed topics including HIV/AIDS, public housing, violence, and urban farming. Representatives from University of Chicago Medical Center, Ronitfilms, ONE Northside, and Growing Home shared their expertise.
An advocate that attended the workshop titled “Deconstructing the Problem of Violence” with Chris Patterson, Community Organizer at ONE Northside, described it as enlightening. “Chris was very engaging, breaking down the reasons violence occurs. It was eye-opening to gain a visual of why areas are more violent than others, and it seems to have a common theme—lack of resources and support.”
Advocates also had the opportunity to attend a workshop featuring a panel of philanthropists from the Chicago area. Representatives from Capital One, The McCormick Foundation, and a current LIFT board member discussed charitable giving, how they choose which organizations to support and what it means to sit on a nonprofit board. Summit attendees were also able to ask questions of the panelists and get insight into their biggest questions about philanthropy.
After the workshops concluded, advocates decorated “milestones.” These milestones are small stones that are given to LIFT members as physical representations of their success and tokens of encouragement. Advocates also took the iconic photos seen throughout LIFT-Chicago offices holding up one word describing their LIFT experience.
To wrap up the day, keynote speaker Ted Gonder discussed his founding of Moneythink, a nonprofit that is working to improve financial literacy among low-income high school students. He encouraged advocates to reflect on their experiences, seize opportunities presented to them and forge their own paths. Gonder also noted that LIFT was a source of inspiration for the Moneythink model.
Finally, LIFT-Chicago Executive Director Ben Reuler closed the day by thanking advocates for their dedication to LIFT and LIFT’s members.
“Summit was time for all of us to rejuvenate our “why I LIFT” statements,” said LIFT-Chicago Site Coordinator Danielle Lubin-Levy. “Undoubtedly, it left me feeling inspired by the work we are doing and the people we are connecting with daily.”
View more photos from the Summit here.
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