Cris, a buildOn student from Gage Park, shares their story from the stage at the buildOn Chicago Breakfast.

Celebrating Chicago Leaders at the 2019 buildOn Chicago Breakfast

Members of the buildOn movement came together in Chicago at the Ritz-Carlton on the morning of Wednesday, May 29, to celebrate the impact buildOn students and supporters are having on the city of Chicago.

Miguel, a buildOn student at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago, and Sidney Dillard, a buildOn Chicago board member and partner at Loop Capital, started the morning off by recognizing the members of buildOn’s National Board, the Chicago Board, and the corporate sponsors who make buildOn’s work in Chicago possible. Miguel also shared the impact buildOn has had on his life. “I think it’s really easy for young people today to lose focus on what’s important,” Miguel said. “Service has reminded me of the values that I hold close to my heart—responsibility, compassion, empowerment, and investing your time in a bigger cause.”

Sidney Dillard of Loop Capital and Miguel, a buildOn student from Chicago, stand on stage at the buildOn Chicago Breakfast. Miguel talks excitedly into the microphone on the podium, raising his right arm into the air and gesturing toward the crowd.

Above: Miguel, a buildOn student from Juarez Community Academy, welcomes the audience to the 2019 buildOn Chicago Breakfast alongside buildOn board member Sidney Dillard. 

Sidney and Miguel then welcomed to the stage Cris, a buildOn student at Gage Park High School in Chicago with more than 500 hours of service. “At buildOn I learned I didn’t have to be anyone but myself. I learned that the most important thing in life is to just be a good person—to have compassion and empathy and to be there for people,” Cris said. “I’ve learned that true leadership means giving people the opportunity in life that you’ve never had yourself. That’s what my mom has done for me. And that’s what I’m able to do through service. ”

Cris, a buildOn student from Gage Park, speaks on stage in front of a large glittering buildOn logo.

Above: Cris, a senior at Gage Park High School, shares the impacts of service on a personal and community level. Cris has served more than 500 hours with buildOn. 

Next, Cris called buildOn’s Founder, President, & CEO Jim Ziolkowski to the stage. Jim shared how buildOn students like Cris are changing their own neighborhoods in Chicago and building schools in some of the economically poorest countries in the world on Trek.

buildOn's founder speaks from the stage in front of a glittering buildOn logo.

Above: buildOn’s CEO Jim Ziolkowski talks about the impact buildOn students are having on Chicago and developing nations such as Malawi.

Following breakfast and a generous appeal, Kimberly Townsend, buildOn’s Program Director in Chicago, and Mirella Valdivia, a Service Learning Program Coordinator at Juarez Community Academy, presented buildOn’s first Constructive Leadership Award in Chicago. The Constructive Leadership Award is reserved for a student who leads by example and builds others up through service. “This student has served over 740 service learning hours and invested time, dedication, and heart to the Pilsen community,” Mirella said. “We are pleased to announce this year’s Constructive Leadership Award Winner is Victoria!”

Victoria, a buildOn student from Chicago, stands on stage holding the Constructive Leadership Award. She is beaming and standing next to two buildOn staff from Chicago who are proud to see her win the award.

Above: Victoria (center), a buildOn student from Juarez Community Academy, poses for a photo on stage with buildOn staff Mirella Valdivia (left) and Kimberly Townsend (right) after winning the 2019 Constructive Leadership Award.

Next, Anahi, a buildOn student from Richards Career Academy, shared her story of serving her southside community in Chicago and helping build a school in Senegal on Trek. “It’s through serving in Chicago and in Senegal that I’ve become a leader. I am part of the good things happening in Back of the Yards, and I have more than than 200 hours of service,” Anahi said. “I want to show the next generation that they can change the world.”

Anahi also spoke about what it meant to her to have a group of professionals from Capital One visit her school and serve alongside her as part of buildOn’s 36 Hours immersion program. During 36 Hours, Anahi was paired with Jim Seymour, the Senior Managing Director of Capital One and a buildOn Chicago board member, as she showed Jim and the Capital One team her school and community. “Jim, to you and to everyone from Capital One, I want to say thank you. It meant a lot for you to come to Richards,” Anahi said. “To have you there at my school and to see you serve in my community, it made us feel important, and it showed us that you cared.”

Anahi, a buildOn student from Richards Career Academy, shares what service means to her on the stage at the buildOn Breakfast.

Above: Anahi, a buildOn student from Richards Career Academy, shares what it meant to service alongside team members from Capital One in Chicago.

After speeches from Anahi and Jim Seymour, Sidney Dillard and Jim Ziolkowski honored Jim Reynolds, the Chairman and CEO of Loop Capital, for his service on the buildOn National Board of Directors. “Jim Reynolds put buildOn on the map in Chicago. He stepped up for buildOn because he loves this city and cares so very much about the youth from the south and west sides,” Jim Ziolkowski said. “I thank you and salute you for your service and leadership on our national board. And I also congratulate you and welcome you to our global board.”

Jim Reynolds and Jim Ziolkowski stand on stage with an award for Jim Reynold's dedication and service to buildOn's National Board of Directors.

Above: Jim Reynolds (left), the Chairman and CEO of Loop Capital, poses for a photo with Jim Ziolkowski. Jim Reynolds will soon be joining buildOn’s Global Board of Directors.

After a speech from Jim Reynolds, all of the buildOn students in attendance joined Jim Ziolkowski on the stage to end the celebration with a hearty “WE ARE BUILDON” cheer.

Thank you to all of our students, staff, and supporters in Chicago who made the 2019 buildOn Breakfast possible. Special thanks to the Chicago Board and buildOn’s sponsors in Chicago—AAR, Allstate, BMO Harris Bank, Capital One, Current Communications & Electric Corporation, Exelon, GE, Girls Supporting Girls, Hunter Family Foundation, Jenner & Block, MB Real Estate, McKinsey & Company, People’s Energy Community Fund, Project Interiors, PwC, Rodan + Fields, Salesforce, Strive Consulting, Synchrony, Titan Security Group, TransUnion, and Vistria—for making the celebration such a success.