Alexis’ Story: A Legacy of Hope

By LIFT on December 15, 2014

Categories: First Person Perspective, Real Stories

Hearing from LIFT advocates is one of the best ways to learn about the impact a LIFT volunteer experience has on individuals. Earlier this month, Northwestern University Sophomore and dedicated LIFT advocate, Carlin McCarthy, had the chance to sit down with a fellow Northwestern peer and long time LIFT Advocate Alexis Gable who shared what she has gained from her past four years of LIFTing.

LIFT-Chicago advocate, and Northwestern University senior, Alexis Gable has a long history in the Midwest. Since 1850, her family has lived in the Akron, Ohio area, which she describes as “a city that struggles.” Akron was once known for its rubber industry, but now that manufacturers vacated the area Alexis calls it a shell of a city. Yet, residents remain optimistic about everything from their futures to their sports teams. “People in Akron have this perpetual hope that things will get better, even if it isn’t historically represented,” Alexis said. “They’re always trying to work hard and it’s a very communal place. People are always helping out other people.”

The inhabitants of Akron and LIFT share many of the same values including the belief in human potential and a sense of possibility. Thus, it is no surprise that during her first year at Northwestern, becoming a volunteer advocate at LIFT-Chicago seemed to be a natural fit for Alexis.  Since starting in 2010, in the former Evanston office, Alexis has dedicated numerous hours as an advocate and even held leadership roles on the Leader Team.

As a self-described introvert, Alexis was not immediately comfortable working one-on-one with members. She often worried whether or not she actually had the ability to help people. It was not until she realized she had skills, knowledge and compassion to offer that she became more secure. Now, after working at LIFT, she has gained confidence not just in her communication skills, but in her ability to have an impact on other people’s lives as well.

One of Alexis’ most memorable experiences, during which she witnessed her impact on a LIFT member, was when she worked with Fred. Fred came in to work on finding a job. Alexis recalls he was downtrodden because he needed to work on his resume, but did not know where to begin.  She pulled out LIFT’s resume packets as well as her own resume materials and walked him through how to structure a resume and emphasize his prior job experiences. Throughout this process, she was able to affirm how much valuable work experience he had to offer. Alexis remembers how “his face just sort of lit up,” as he realized all the strengths he had. “It wasn’t like I had done anything remarkable, but he was just so excited to see he had been making progress.”  When Fred came in the next week, all the work on the resume was done. “He had worked so hard on it and looked at all of my suggestions and the suggestions of the worksheets we have in the office,” Gable said. “He was like a totally different person.”

Members such as Fred have helped Alexis become more confident in her abilities. Alexis believes this increase of confidence is “inherent in working with LIFT… Because you learn how to utilize your own skills to help others.” Beyond this, though, Alexis’ experience with LIFT has redefined her perspective on low-income individuals. Now, she no longer uses the term ‘poverty’, because she feels it limits people to the stigma that they are not working hard to improve their well-being. Working with LIFT members has shown her the opposite, each LIFT member is a hardworking individual determined to achieve their goals.

Now, as she heads into the homestretch of her senior year, Alexis plans on using what she has learned at LIFT to advance her career. As an economics and social policy major, after graduation she hopes to work in housing policy-an area she did not know anything about before coming to LIFT.  “I’m particularly interested in how policies affect low-income members of society. The people who make policies don’t necessarily think about them [low-income members], which is weird, because the policies are meant for them a lot of the time.”

No matter what career she pursues post-graduation, she will take with her new views. She says she is no longer ignorant about the low-income population that is sometimes ignored by the larger society. “No city wants you to know how many people are low-income or how many people don’t live in a home,” Gable said. “Knowing about that population is filling a gap you almost didn’t know existed. Once you know all these people are struggling, how can you not spend at least part of your time dedicated to doing something about it?”