Claretian Associates will be highlighting a UNITY Squad member each month to share their transformation into young leaders.
Zakiyah Holders is a UNITY Squad member since the Spring of 2022. Zakiyah is 14 years old, a freshman at Gary Comer College Prep and is on the honor roll. “Zakiyah has grown into a leader since she joined the program in March of 2022. I like the confidence, self-assurance and awareness that she has developed since joining UNITY Squad,” said Youth and Family Coordinator Pamesha Robinson.
At first Zakiyah was shy joining UNITY Squad, but afterwards she felt welcomed. “I was very shy when I first came here. Ms. Robinson and everybody [UNITY Squad members] were nice to me and I felt comfortable,” said Zakiyah.
Zakiyah was invited to join UNITY Squad by a friend at school. UNITY Squad was a chance for Zakiyah to be with people her age and to branch out too. “I wanted to hang out with people my age. When I came to UNITY Squad I could hang out and talk about my problems,” said Zakiyah.
Zakiyah continued to come to UNITY Squad during the summer for the One Summer Chicago program. Her favorite part of UNITY Squad is helping overall. “I like helping the seniors and with the events,” said Zakiyah. During the summer, the youth and South Chicago SALUD Center Seniors gardened together. They planted fruits and vegetables seeds in garden beds.
UNITY Squad has been beneficial to Zakiyah because of the stipend and the guidance from Pamesha. “UNITY Squad has helped me out a lot because Ms. Robinson has given me advise on how to solve my problems,” said Zakiyah.
Zakiyah is a valuable member to UNITY Squad because of her leadership and friendliness with new members. “She embraces new members. Everybody will come to her with questions. If we had a UNITY Squad Ambassador, it would be her,” said Pamesha.
Youth are welcomed to join UNITY Squad every Tuesday and Thursday at the SALUD Center in the Teen Drop-In Space. UNITY Squad concluded their nutrition class from the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign. Each week the youth learned how to cook healthy meals. The youth earned a cook book and certificate for completing the class. For more information on UNITY Squad contact Pamesha at email@example.com
South Chicago Neighborhood Network
The South Chicago Neighborhood Network held their annual Winter Wonderland Networking event at the SALUD Center for current and future partners. SCNN partners came together for brunch and team building exercises and activities to set goals with each other.
Seniors Loneliness Project
The South Chicago Neighborhood Network (SCNN) partnered with Advocate Aurora Health to have a Senior Loneliness project class. For six weeks, seniors attended classes to learn how to overcome loneliness. Classes were held at the SALUD Center at Villa Guadalupe Senior Services. Learn more about the classes here.
The classes were divided into two groups and met on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the SALUD Center and Villa Guadalupe. The seniors earned different techniques to overcome loneliness. “We wanted to teach the seniors how to be their own company,” said Program Manager Tiarra Owens. The seniors also learned how to connect with others again by play games and getting to know each other. “We taught the seniors how to open up to other people. Many built new friendships in class,” said Tiarra.
When group discussions happened, the seniors bounded over trauma issues. “A lot of the seniors had trauma situations in their lives and it made them receptive to be around people or even building relationships,” said Tiarra. The classes provided the participants to be open to socializing with more people.
At the conclusion of the six weeks, participants earned a certificate of completion and a stipend. Each group had an end of class celebration. The UNITY Squad members had the chance to help and serve the seniors at Villa Guadalupe for their celebration. “It gave the youth and seniors the opportunity to get to know each other,” said Tiarra.
Mayor Press Conference For Ground Breaking
Claretian Associates was a part of the ground breaking for the Commercial Avenue Corridor Improvement project in South Chicago with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), and local leaders. The streetscape improvement project is a part of the INVEST South/West Initiative. Read more about the project below in the press release.
The seniors from the South Chicago SALUD Center had a Christmas party in the community room. A Michael Jackson impersonator entertained the evening with music. The seniors are now volunteering at the food distributions once a month. “It's a way to get the seniors more involved and active,” said Social Service Coordinator Wendy Steward.
The first two New Homes are complete. The third New Home is currently in bidding for a builder and will be selected this month. Claretian Associates has selected a general contractor for the SACRED development and is preparing to enter the permitting process.