2015-08-19

The career fair at McCormick Place marked the first of many stops for the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative (spear-headed by Starbucks), and Chicago's young people came out in droves to make it a resounding success. According to the Chicago Tribune, there were over 30 organizations present to accomodate the nearly 4,000 attendees - with approximately 600 of them leaving the fair with job offers. 
City Year Chicago had a booth, so members of our Recruitment staff were there answering questions and meeting prospective members. Our Civic Engagement team (second-year corps members) were also able to attend, and volunteered for the event by helping attendees navigate the enormous venue.
 
It started like any other career fair would - some people recognized the Red Jackets, and others were sort-of familiar with the work we do - until a young woman introduced herself by saying "City Year helped me when I was in 5th grade." We spoke with her and she told us the types of jobs she was interested in pursuing, and she even remembered some of the corps members that she worked with!
After speaking with her, it was almost as if the floodgates of the City Year community opened! An alum of City Year Chicago ran into the Civic Engagement team as she was making her way upstairs, and then she also stopped by the booth to say hello. A little later on, our Regional Admissions Manager, Connie, reunited (by chance) with her old corps member and Impact Manager from back when she served as a Team Leader! It was a day full of ‘it’s a small world!’ moments, which made our time at the career fair even more special.

When they weren’t helping attendees navigate the career fair, our Civic Engagement team enjoyed themselves by looking at all of the different booths and by talking to a number of representatives from the various companies that were present.
 
Nick made it a point to seek out the booth from Hyatt, specifically because they were his team’s sponsor last year, and wanted to keep up the relationship he had built with them. Tyiesha was a social butterfly, talking to staff members from Microsoft Chicago about her experience last year, and then speaking with the representatives from Starbucks about the logistics behind the event.
As she was leaving the Starbucks booth, a gentleman tapped her shoulder and explained that he loved City Year, and had worked with City Year members in both New Orleans and Seattle in the past – this gentleman turned out to be Cliff Burrows, Starbucks Group President in the U.S., Americas, and Teavana.
 
These awesome Microsoft representatives took some time to speak with us before getting back to the line of people at their booth!
 
 
Andrea and Nick had a great conversation with Barbie (middle) about how skills you gain in City Year translate to your career!
 
Tyiesha had a great discussion with Cliff Burrows about City Year's nationwide impact
 
After lunch, which included a surprise performance from Chicago’s own Vic Mensa, [*I told you this career fair was different], Mayor Rahm Emanuel arrived to take a look around for himself and to engage with a few attendees. Through the mass of cameras, reporters, and people trying to get pictures, the glint off a member’s Red Jacket caught the Mayor’s eye, and he motioned for the Civic Engagement team to come speak to him about their service!

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, towards the end of the day, there was yet another surprise appearance – this time by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (who previously served as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools). Much like Mayor Emanuel before him, as soon as Secretary Duncan’s fell upon the AmeriCorps patch on our sleeve, he lit up, and immediately began speaking with our members to learn more about them.

Finally, as the career fair was winding down, and the program began to shift towards performances by Common, T.I., and Usher, we ran into our very own City Year celebrity. Our programs co-founder, Alan Khazei, approached our booth and spoke to all of us about the importance of the work we're doing, and to offer encouragment, especially for the Civic Engagement team, to continue transforming Chicago for the better. It seems only fitting that we formed a circle with him!

 

The fair was an incredible success, made more so by the unexpected arrivals of the Mayor, Secretary of Education, and of course, the former-students and City Year alumni who dropped by our booth to say hello! If there was one thing that really resonated with each of us at the end of the day, it’s that idealism makes the world a smaller, more beautiful place.

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