BUILD Puts At-Risk Youth at the Podium

BUILD has helped more than 90,000 at-risk youth in Chicago’s worst areas choose education and hope over lives headed towards gangs, violence and crime.

That’s 90,000 lives made more productive and hopeful by the small but mighty nonprofit since 1969 – a fantastic accomplishment!

A recent public speaking contest by teens currently in BUILD’s program, hosted by US Messenger, showcased the nonprofit’s life-transforming capacity. Young people stood alone on a large stage and shared their life stories and goals – highlighting BUILD’s influence – to judges and other strangers in the auditorium.

Speeches started with descriptions of childhoods that no one should have to experience, like:

“By the time I was in seventh grade, my mom was in jail again and I was too badass to go to school…”

“I grew up in Cabrini Green and Pilsen, where no one really paid any attention to me…”

Fortunately, someone connected each youth to BUILD at a crucial time, as each speech emphasized. Often, just having an adult routinely show up and care was enough to turn the teen from abundant neighborhood temptations and self-destructive conduct to a more positive future.

Every speech ended with an enthusiastic description of hopeful future plans. Most speakers already had earned scholarships to the colleges they will attend next year.

Many accomplished adults are not comfortable with this type of public speaking.  Remembering this made BUILD’s accomplishments with the underserved teens even more impressive. Junior high drop-out to college scholarship student and confidant public speaker – that is success!

The contest judges included: long-time BUILD stakeholders and Annual Dinner Co-Chairs Marcie & Avy Stein; Chicago Cubs Charities Chairwoman Laura Ricketts; BUILD Board Member John Kaphusman; wife of US Messenger President and BUILD public speaking coach Mischa Wanek-Libman; and myself. We were inspired by every speaker and left feeling that we got far more than we gave.

The official winners – Krystal Grant, Javier Navarro and Amaury Valentin – earned scholarship money and opportunity to speak at the BUILD’s annual gala “Our Chicago, Our Future” on May 4th.  But, it is clear that every speaker is a winner in life, thanks to BUILD. And BUILD is a winner for transforming over 90,000 lives.

To donate, purchase tickets to “Our Chicago, Our Future” or learn more about BUILD:

US Messenger Public Speaking Contest group photo:
(From left to right)

Avy Stein
Susan Noyes
Mischa Libman
Adolfo Tolayo
Laura Ricketts
Briana Grant
Carlos Contrearas
Michae Moore
John Kaphusman
Roslind Blasingame-Buford
Ron Libman
Briana Carter
Javier Navarro
Krystal Grant
Amuary Valentin
Justice Mosquera
Steven Jackson
Jonathon Suarez
Marcie Stein

Caption of 4 women in first photo:

Avy Stein, Susan Noyes, Roslind Blasingame-Buford, Laura Ricketts