Chicago Dinner 2017: An Epic Evening of Service and Education

Hundreds of members of the buildOn Movement celebrated the impact of buildOn’s work at the Hilton Chicago last night. The event raised $530,000 to support buildOn’s programs on Chicago’s south and west sides.

buildOn Chicago Program Director Francisco Ramirez was the emcee for the evening, and he recognized the organizations who have partnered with buildOn Chicago to serve with our students — ABM, Antares Capital, Bear Construction, GCM Grosvenor, GE Capital, GE Transportation, Jenner & Block, Jones Day, Loop Capital, MB Real Estate, Mesirow Financial, and Rodan & Fields Prescription for Change Foundation.

francisco_chidinnerbuildOn Chicago Program Director Francisco Ramirez welcomes guests to the buildOn Dinner with a shoutout to our students and dedicated corporate partners.

Francisco introduced to the stage Zenon Montoya, a buildOn student from Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen who has more than 550 service hours, to share his buildOn story. “Chicago has a reputation of violence. But even though there is violence here, that’s not the only story. People are doing good things,” Zenon said. “There are people like me who are doing their best to help others and help their community. buildOn helps a lot with that. Now, because of buildOn, I know that service is going to be part of my life forever and that by working together, we can make life better for people in our community.”

18836626_10155270483309788_8548412763771797699_obuildOn student Zenon Montoya shares his personal service story with the attendees of the 2017 buildOn Chicago Dinner.

buildOn Founder and CEO Jim Ziolkowski followed with a look back at two-and-a-half decades of breaking the cycle. “Our students have now done over 1.9 million hours of service and have touched the lives of more than 1 million people!” Jim shared as he dove into some of the inspiring stories behind these numbers.

jim_chidinnerbuildOn Founder & CEO Jim Ziolkowski shares a story about the AIDS crisis in Africa at the time of the construction buildOn’s first school — and why education was vital to bringing it under control.

After Jim’s speech and a successful appeal, dinner was served. buildOn student Malcolm Elliott from TEAM Englewood Community Academy then took the stage to share his personal story of service. “Service is a big part of my life now,” Malcolm said. “Service means a lot to me because I love giving back to my community and I know that my community loves to see young people helping to create change. I’ve done more than 650 hours of service with buildOn and I keep doing more because that’s me.”

malcom_chidinnerbuildOn Founder & CEO Jim Ziolkowski thanks student Malcolm Elliott for sharing his personal story of changing his south side community through service.

Malcolm also talked about what it meant to have members from Loop Capital, AAR Corp, ComEd, and Ariel Investments recently visit his school and serve alongside him and his classmates as part of buildOn’s 36 Hours immersion program. “I want to thank the 36 Hours group for coming out to support TEAM Englewood and the work that we are doing as part of buildOn,” Malcolm said. “If it wasn’t for your support, we wouldn’t be able to do the service that we are currently doing. To serve alongside you in my community has inspired me to serve more and become the leader that I know I can be.”

Following Malcolm’s inspirational speech, Jim Ziolkowski came back to the stage to give special recognition to Loop Capital Chairman and CEO and buildOn National Board member Jim Reynolds for his dedication to buildOn and his recent experience serving with Malcolm on the south side of Chicago. Jim Reynolds brought the evening to a close by sharing his reflection on the power of service — especially as an antidote to Chicago’s gun violence — that he experienced during 36 Hours. “The power of service, which many of us might not think about, is incredible for these students,” Jim Reynolds said. “It gives them a sense of leadership and drive. It can make them think twice about picking up a gun.”

reynolds_chidinnerLoop Capital Chairman and CEO and buildOn National Board member Jim Reynolds reflects on the power service at the buildOn Chicago Dinner.

The epic evening concluded with all buildOn students in attendance taking the stage to lead everyone in a proud “WE ARE BUILDON” cheer.

Photos by Getty Images and Brett Slezak.