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Mary Beth Sammons
Mary Beth Sammons

Beautiful People On a Mission Inspire With Story

Beautiful people, powerful stories, inspire teen

"The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Recently, I had the opportunity to witness the beauty and power of sharing stories, and passing them on to the next generation.

I was attending an awards ceremony in which the architect for the high school I work with received first-place honors for community design excellence in helping to make Chicago's neighborhoods strong and vibrant. It's a huge event attended by 1,400 of Chicago's leading architects, real estate developers, community organizers, educators and city leaders and the honor is equally as prestigious.

When John Ronan, the architect received the honor, he quickly explained to the crowd that he was creating a scholarship opportunity for one of our high school students, Anthony, a junior to attend Illinois Institute of Technology's "Experiment in Architecture" summer internship program.

During the rest of the evening, I had the honor of being alongside Anthony, and witness as a parade of prominent attendees came up to him to shake hands and to encourage him to pursue his dreams.

Each person, (and the ranks of the crowd included businessman and philanthropist Richard Driehaus, whose foundation presented the award) passed on a piece of wisdom from their own journey through life, both personal and professional. Some were hard-earned lessons, others were stories about staying the course, not giving up and overcoming obstacles.

It was clear that most of the people in the room were ordinary people who were making an extraordinary difference in the lives of those who live in Chicago's neighborhoods. The award ceremony is created by LISC/Chicago, (CNDA), which is the nation's largest awards program dedicated to neighborhood-based development.

As Elizabeth Kubler Ross says best, these were beautiful people, with beautiful stories of overcoming adversity and pursuing their dreams, who took a few brief moments out of their lives to pass on their lessons to the next generation, a young man poised on the threshold of college and endless possibilities.

What these people might not know about Anthony and the students who are his peers at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep on Chicago's West Side, is that the students there face unbelievable odds. The Austin neighborhood is one of the hardest hit by the recession and is debilitated by gangs, drugs and violence. For students like Anthony and their families, the school provides hope in a world where that is hard to come by.

During the awards ceremony, Chris Kennedy, president of Merchandise Mart Properties and chairperson of the award committee told the crowd: "All of you in this room are building community and changing lives forever."

I'd like to add that they are also beautiful people with powerful stories of life, who because they took the time to share them with Anthony, will inspire future generations.

About the Author
Mary Beth Sammons

Mary Beth Sammons is an award-winning journalist and book author.

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