Emerging Leader Lives Life of Service
Elizabeth Galik, Executive Director of River City Development Center (R CITY) in Chicago, Ill., and a 2017 We Raise Foundation Emerging Leader Grant recipient, calls her life “pretty ordinary,” despite the fact that she lives in a neighborhood that many avoid.
R CITY operates in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park (WHP) neighborhood, an area that ranks in the top 1% of Chicago police beats for prostitution, drug arrests, violent incidents, and homicide. It’s also a neighborhood where families face a poverty rate of 98.8%. Galik and her family are embedded in the neighborhood, living with and walking along side residents and serving “the least of these” with love and compassion.
Galik and other R CITY leaders desire to serve WHP residents “from cradle to career,” addressing all of the life stages of children in WHP’s struggling families. The We Raise grant supports R CITY’s Harambee Citybuilders program, a tuckpointing apprenticeship that molds, shapes, and prepares students from ages 12 to 18 for college or career.
“WHP youth don’t know any world beyond their neighborhood; they don’t know how much higher the expectations of work are beyond their high school; and they don’t anticipate the cultural disconnect between them and the college world and the professional world,” Galik says. “If you look at the college dropout rate statistics, only 22% of low-income students are able to complete college, compared to 67% of high-income students. Our apprentice program prepares them and gives them the grit it will take to transition into college or the working world.”
Tuckpointing apprentices earn a stipend for their work as well. “Our youth need money immediately—some of it’s for fun, but some of them are paying for the lights to go back on in their house,” Galik says. “At the same time, we’re working on a project for our community.” Harambee Citybuilders provide their work free-of-charge to low-income WHP homeowners.
Raised in northern suburbs of St. Paul, Minn., Galik grew up attending mission-focused churches and became passionate about serving youth from urban environments. “By the time I was 18, I was designing and leading a program at a week-long girls program at one of the sites,” she says. It was during a mission trip to Gospel Hill Camp, a day camp that bussed kids from St. Paul, that Galik knew she loved urban work. “I fell absolutely in love, volunteered throughout high school, and went back as staff in college,” she remembers. “You might say I learned the culture of the city from the children.”
Galik is grateful for We Raise donors for their contributions to Harambee. “This past summer, we apprenticed two 18-member teams of older youth who worked five long, hot, intense days each week and took home checks of up to $500-600 every two weeks—all made possible by the grant,” she says. “Because of We Raise, these youth worked real days, earned real money, and are really prepared for the adult world despite experiencing significant trauma and significant challenges.”
Justin has been coming to R CITY since he was in 4th grade, and thrives in the environment. If he’s not helping the kids sign-in at the front desk, he’s serving food or helping kids with their homework or playing games with them.
“When I first came here I was a Dreambuilder, someone who works with the little kids,” Justin shared. Because of We Raise donors, Justin says, he gets to come to R CITY and help. “I have fun and I got to work here and I thank people for giving a donation because R CITY is actually really fun.”
Galik is very fond of We Raise Foundation and loves to talk about the support and care she has experienced in working with the staff. “They really care about our story,” she says.
Because of donors like you, Elizabeth Galik and R CITY have become part of the stories of WHP youth like Justin, walking with them to a bright and productive future. Thank you.