Park Teens Start Spring Break Right!

 
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Teen Leadership Connection Career Exploration Day
March 26th, 2018 • 600 W Chicago Ave

Most teens can't wait to revel in that glorious first morning of spring break - no early alarm, no school, no commitments... 

But on Monday of this year's break, 40 park teens took a different approach to their time off and joined the Chicago Parks Foundation for a special Career Exploration Day at the historic 600 W Chicago Building. 

The teens, who are all part of the South Region's Teen Leadership Connection (TLC) program, spent the day touring four companies based at 600 W -- InnerWorkings, a marketing and creative services agency; Big Ten Network, the official television network of all Big Ten collegiate sports; Echo Global Logistics, a third party transportation management provider; and Uptake, a predictive analytics software company. 

 
 Looking camera ready on the Big Ten Network studio set

Looking camera ready on the Big Ten Network studio set

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THE DAY

During a 45 minute session at each stop, teens heard from professionals about the company's mission, various departments and job types, and pathways into the field. Company reps were open to questions, sharing about their own personal journeys and how they'd arrived at their current roles.

Teens also got a full tour of every space. And while each of these companies does very different work, their mutual location in the 600 W building means that they've all curated unique company cultures and office environments. The teens marveled at the amenities -- zen rooms, indoor sport courts, kitchens stocked with every snack imaginable... The company reps took care to explain the connection between providing these luxuries and fostering strong employee wellness and morale

The day was great practice in professionalism for the teens, some of whom will be finishing up high school this spring. During a shared lunch break, teens had additional time to network with InnerWorkings employees and ask more career questions. And throughout the day, teens distributed personalized business cards to professionals they connected with along the way.

 Testing out Uptake's college portal for students (at their awesome swing-set desk!)

Testing out Uptake's college portal for students (at their awesome swing-set desk!)

 Getting quizzed on U.S. geography at Echo Global Logistics

Getting quizzed on U.S. geography at Echo Global Logistics

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As a kid in the parks, I learned how to swim, how to play baseball, how to play basketball... But one thing I never learned was how to get a job. When you’re coming to the parks everyday, you should take something away from that.
— Emile Johnson, President of GoodeFoods & CPF Board Member

THE IMPACT

This inaugural Career Exploration Day was a natural fit for TLC's vision to educate South Side teens about their post high school opportunities as they prepare to transition into adulthood.

"The one common thread today among all of these workplaces is that it's all about building relationships," our own Executive Director, Willa Lang, told the teens as the day came to a close. "That's what will really make the difference. When you're open to something, all kinds of opportunities come your way."

Indeed, nearly every professional we interacted with emphasized the importance of relationship building in their own personal journey (combined with creativity, an open mind, and good old fashioned hard work, of course).

CPF Board Member Emile Johnson, who joined us for the day, shared his enthusiasm for making park programming relevant to our teens. "As a kid in the parks," he said, "I learned how to swim, how to play baseball, how to play basketball... But one thing I never learned was how to get a job. When you're coming to the parks everyday, you should take something away from that." 

For teens who wouldn't normally have access to this unique Chicago hub of companies, Career Exploration Day was a great success in providing an inside look at some of today's growing industries and the pathways needed to get there. And maybe even to get a foot in the door -- plenty of teen business cards are now circulating throughout 600 W!

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ABOUT TLC

Led by Chicago Park District Area Manager Sabrina Steward, the South Region's TLC program brings together nearly 250 teens ages 13 to 18 from a variety of South Side schools and neighborhoods ranging from Pullman to Hyde Park.

The goal? To give teens a voice in their Park District programming. TLC has three main focuses: Community Volunteering, Health & Wellness, and Career & College Development. 

The Chicago Parks Foundation believes that our parks can and should serve as accessible resources for teens throughout the city, providing relevant programming and unique opportunities for this important developmental phase in their life. We look forward to watching these teens grow in the parks! 

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Interested in supporting Teen Leadership Connection or learning more about getting involved? Get in touch with us!

Michaele Strauch