A Mountain of Potential and Purpose

By Carlette S. Mack, Interim Executive Director

“I love the idea that it doesn't take one person only to achieve your potential. It takes a village, it takes a community, a street, a teacher, a mother.” -Mira Nair

Every ounce of work we do at Covenant House Illinois - every trial and tribulation, every success and celebration - is in an effort to help our youth realize a promising future and to reach the potential they hold within themselves.

Potential is the first thing we see in the faces of each young person who walks through our door - the potential to overcome obstacles, the potential to heal, the potential to excel, and the potential to make lasting positive choices for their own lives. While many of our youth have not yet been surrounded by the “villages...communities...and teachers” that it takes, we are unwavering in our belief that, with the right support and resources, they can begin to see their own unending potential and begin using their individual power of choice to build a promising future.

For most of us, choice can be a tricky thing. We might choose to hit snooze on the alarm clock a few more times than we should, or break that New Year’s resolution in February, or struggle to be honest with a loved one or friend. Yet for our youth, making the right choices can be an even bigger challenge. Our young people have often made poor choices because others in their lives have seen and treated them as less-than-worthy. When others don’t acknowledge your potential, it’s hard to know it exists.

Our promise to our youth commits us to seeing them in the light of the potential of who they can be, even with, and in spite of, the poor choices they may have made in the past.

In the time I’ve spent at Covenant House Illinois, I’ve met young people who arrived angry, defeated, and lost. With little-to-no support system to encourage them to succeed, their lives have been governed by poor choices. Through individualized case plans, and with the help of our community partners, those same youth were able to receive the resources and support necessary to not only bring about a sense of confidence and self-worth, but also the power to make positive choices. The reason we love each and every one of our youth unconditionally and with absolute respect is simple: we hope that one day they will see themselves in the same light that we do - worthy of making the best, and sometimes difficult, choices to achieve the promise of the lives they deserve.

When I think about our youth and my hope for their time at Covenant House Illinois, I am reminded of a quote from author Augustine “Og” Mandino:

“I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.”

It has been an incredible honor for me to serve as Interim Executive Director as this still-growing site helps shape the lives of its young and vulnerable neighbors. As I head back home to CH Alaska and bid Covenant House Illinois farewell, I know that the youth here in Chicago are rising up, realizing their own self-worth and learning to make the choices that will allow them all to grow as tall as mountains.