Seeing Beyond My Neighborhood
This post was written by Mily, a recent alumna of our Teen Squad program which is comprised of high school girls from across Chicago. They receive training from Girls in the Game on how to lead healthy-lifestyle workshops for younger girls and educate adult women on the needs of girls through Leader-to-Leader Interviews while earning scholarship funds for college.
Growing up in Cicero I was well aware that our community was about 95% Latino. Everything from the shops and restaurants on the street to the TV shows I watched at home were predominantly Latino oriented. To my naive expectations, I assumed everyone was familiar with my culture. I have to say, that was extremely narrow-minded of me because I myself was not aware of others’ cultures.
As I entered adolescence I began to notice how my cousins who lived in Chicago had complex personalities and were well-rounded when expressing themselves. I soon became interested in wanting to be someone who was comfortable in any environment as well as someone who made everyone around her comfortable. The only way this would become a possibility for me would be by joining organizations that were outside of my reach.
This finally happened at an ACT summer prep, when I was introduced by a peer to Girls in the Game. I have been enrolled in Girls in the Game for three years now as a Teen Coach and to this day I can genuinely say it has been my biggest life-changer. Along with other teen coaches, I have helped lead workshops all over Chicago and have participated in interviews with such unique companies and organizations I would have never imagined existed.
I love to think of this program as a two-way highway that both provides for teen girls in the area but also allows for us to give back. From spreading awareness on physical and mental health to being granted an internship, the doors Girls in the Game opens for us are countless. What is important is that between the fine lines, my brain was normalizing diversity. I was becoming more comfortable with myself and I was finding happiness in the act of giving.
During a Leader to Leader Interview with Girls in the Game and Fay Servicing back in 2016, I was struck by the evident talent that could be found within the office. When the CEO gave a powerful speech regarding the recession of 2009 and Fay Servicing’s primary goal to keep tenants in their homes, I couldn’t hope but notice the passion with which he expressed himself.
Later that year at our Girls in the Game Field of Dreams Gala, I noticed Fay Servicing was occupying the table right next to ours. Throughout the event I constantly fought my fears and by the end of the night I had decided to approach their table. I began by presenting myself and summarizing my future goals. With a knot in my throat and tears in my eyes I tried rushing to the part where I asked for the opportunity to be mentored by them. I was dumbfounded when Ed Fay, their CEO, offered an official internship over the summer.
That summer I was mentored by two of their incredible employees, Bianca Cruz and Ed Watson. I learned about finance, the mortgage industry, the housing market, and what it takes to develop a company like Fay Servicing. However, I was also subconsciously learning about people. We all possess different talents and aspire to different goals, and that is what makes diversity so complex. Inside the walls of Fay Servicing were people with unique hobbies outside of work, unique backgrounds, cultures, and mindsets. All it took was a common ground to unite every individual’s strength as one. Every employee at Fay understands that a homeowner is more than a loan number, therefore it becomes everyone’s interest to give their job their best every day for the sake of helping others.
When we focus on giving and celebrating everyone’s strengths, we realize our similarities outweigh our differences. It is such a beautiful feeling to collectively embrace learning about different cultures. After all, goals that appear hard to fulfill are only greater in worthiness. Therefore, it is only on us to decide today is the day we start embracing each other’s’ diverse personalities and customs regardless.
I have learned that diversity has ZERO boundaries!…and no limits. It’s okay that achieving diversity will always be progressive. Diversity means race, perspectives, interests, personality types, place of birth, childhood home, all which ties back to EXPERIENCE, and there is no way any person shares the exact same experiences as anyone else. Girls in the Game knows exactly how to tie the differences together.