Better Makers: Redefining Possible at Gary Comer Youth Center’s Pivotal Campus

Thirty minutes south of the Loop lies a beacon of hope for Chicago youth.

The Comer Education Campus — housing the Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC), Gary Comer College Prep, Gary Comer Middle School, and the college success initiative UtmostU — offers a variety of programs and services granting students the tools to succeed in both college and career. Open to youth across the South Side of Chicago, the campus offers academic, emotional, and social support programming both during and outside of school.

“I’ve endured the stereotypes of being a youth from Chicago,” said Laura Jones, GCYC alum, currently working as an opportunity coordinator at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley. “Don’t allow the stereotype to define amazing people like myself coming from the city. I don’t allow that stigma to be carried with me. It’s the confidence I have instilled in me by the people who believed in me that allows me to speak the truth and work with the next generation to make it better.”

Jones was joined by fellow Comer Education Campus alumni Markese Malone, GCYC alumnus and current student at University of Wisconsin Madison, and Miracle Burres, current senior at Comer College Prep for a panel discussion at the 7th annual “Redefining Possible” benefit luncheon. Hosted by ABC 7’s Hosea Sanders, the trio shared personal accounts of being defined by their environment, individuals who changed their trajectory, and the necessity of a safe place to learn and grow.

Held Sept. 27 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, the luncheon raised over $400,000 for the Comer Education Campus.

Guests were treated to an on-site farm stand featuring fresh honey, herbs, and produce from the center’s urban farm and rooftop garden. In addition to the youth center, schools, and program partners, the 1.75-acre Youth Education Garden welcomes families to enjoy the outdoor classroom, athletic field, and organic produce production center.

Students from the GCYC Culinary Arts Program joined forces with Girl & the Goat pastry chef Faith Taheny to craft the closing course: a decadent dessert reception.

The Comer Education Campus is committed to providing youth with a safe and supportive environment to thrive, and continues its mission to change the trajectory of the over 2,000 youth annually from over 70 South Side schools.

“Understand that no matter what you do, there is always someone watching you and a legacy to leave behind,” Jones said. “Make your actions intentional so the people coming behind you can learn and see what their future can look like.”

The 2019 “Redefining Possible” benefit luncheon was generously sponsored by Lara & Cass Anderson, BerbeeWalsh Foundation, The Comer Family Foundation, The George Lucas Family Foundation, Patrick G. & Shirley W. Ryan Foundation, and many more.

Gary Comer Youth Center: Greg Mooney, Rhonda Hopps, Guy Comer
Greg Mooney, Rhonda Hopps, and Guy Comer at the annual Comer Education Campus luncheon.
Gary Comer Youth Center: Alderman Leslie Hairston, Rhonda Hopps, Miracle Burres, Markese Malone, Laura Jones, Hosea Sanders
Alderman Leslie Hairston, Rhonda Hopps, Miracle Burres, Markese Malone, Laura Jones, and Hosea Sanders take the stage at the 2019 Redefining Possible luncheon.
Gary Comer Youth Center: Vereita Mims, Jamel Cole, Bea Billups, Jennifer Beller
Vereita Mims, Jamel Cole, Bea Billups, and Jennifer Beller enjoy the reception.
Gary Comer Youth Center: urban farming, Youth Education Garden
A farm stand featuring fresh produce from the center’s urban farm and rooftop garden.
Gary Comer Youth Center: Hosea Sanders, ABC 7 Chicago
ABC 7 anchor Hosea Sanders
Gary Comer Youth Center: Esther Emmerman, Kathy Bresler
Esther Emmerman and Kathy Bresler pose in front of student artwork.
Gary Comer Youth Center: Kelly Dean, Richard Mosley
Kelly Dean and Richard Mosley
Gary Comer Youth Center: Courtney Comer
Courtney Comer
Gary Comer Youth Center: Comer Education Campus, art auction
Guest admires the exhibited artwork from the youth art auction.

Emily Stone earned a degree in journalism from Elon University in North Carolina. Along with writing, Stone has a passion for digital storytelling and photography. Her work has been published in Chicago Athlete Magazine. Stone is a supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Stone is a fluent Spanish speaker who in her free time loves a good dance class.