Celebrating Service and Education at the buildOn Chicago Dinner!

On Wednesday, May 25th, buildOn Chicago supporters, students and community partners came together to celebrate service and education at the buildOn Chicago Dinner. This exciting evening raised more than $513,000 to support service learning programs that are empowering thousands of Chicago youth to transform, themselves, their city and our world.

Guests were greeted at the iconic Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue by buildOn student service leaders and the sounds of African drumming from Muntu. The evening’s emcee, Christian Farr of NBC5 Chicago, kicked of the event that highlighted the stories of buildOn students who are making a difference in Chicago.



Lakwana Cohens, a sophomore at Michelle Clark High School, shared how service helped her find stability in her own life while helping others: “Service became about the individual people I was meeting. I was helping to improve the city of Chicago by making people’s lives better.”



buildOn Founder & CEO Jim Ziolkowski followed with inspiring stories of how members of the buildOn Movement have impacted millions of lives over the past 25 years, emphasizing the importance of serving together to create meaningful change.



Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined event chair and buildOn Board Member Jim Reynolds (Chairman and CEO of Loop Capital) and buildOn student leaders in honoring buildOn Chicago business partners, including: AAR Corporation, Allstate, Antares Capital, Bear Construction, GE Capital, Latham & Watkins, Listen Trust, Loop Capital and MB Real Estate. The change buildOn is creating in Chicago would not be possible without the generosity and compassion of these partner companies.



Michael Johnson, buildOn student from Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood, told his personal story of how service became his solution to the widespread gang violence that’s touched his own life. “I have learned the solution through my experiences in buildOn,” Michael said. “Not only am I an advocate for anti-violence in my school and to my peers, but I am an agent of change in my community. Communities can not change without the people inside of them lifting from within. Choosing to treat each other with respect, instead of violence, choosing to lend a hand instead of pulling out a weapon.”



Following a standing ovation from the audience of buildOn supporters, Michael introduced his classmate Javaris Flowers who shared an inspirational hip-hop song that he wrote as part of a youth anti-violence project that buildOn students at Orr Academy created. Javaris was joined by an impassioned group of buildOn student backup singers who closed out the evening by leading the audience in a lively chorus of “We are Chicago! We are buildOn!”



Thank you to everyone who came out to support buildOn’s work to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education in Chicago and around the world. We can’t wait to see you again next year! In the mean time, check out more of our favorite photos from the 2016 buildOn Chicago Dinner.