Photo/Michelle Johnson

Charnesha Collier (center) leads her tuckpointing crew in Chicago. Collier participated in MCC’s Summer Service program and moved into a leadership position this summer.

Each summer young adults of color work in their local communities partnering with the MCC Summer Service program. Charnesha Collier, from Chicago, participated in Summer Service through River City Community Development Center Harambee program. A first-time partner of MCC, Harambee focuses on leadership development through tuckpointing for low income homeowners. Tuckpointing repairs and replaces crumbling mortar in brick homes.

Collier began working with Harambee at 16. As she continued to work each summer, she gained more responsibility on the tuckpointing crew. After five years, this past summer Collier was promoted to head crew leader, leading other young adults on the worksite. She used patience, compassion, open-mindedness, creativity and organization skills in this new role. “I used everything I learned from Summer Service orientation to lead my crew,” she reflected.

Charnesha Collier began tuckpointing as a 16-year-old and was  promoted to head crew leader this summer.Photo/Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson, Collier’s on-site supervisor, was able to invest more deeply in Collier through partnering with the MCC Summer Service program. “In a past summer, Charnesha had to find a second summer job to fill in for weeks Harambee wasn't in session,” Johnson said. “But this summer she was able to gain much more experience with us and benefited our program immensely as we had her input during our preparation and training weeks.”

There is no shortage of brick homes that need repair and teens who need positive work experience to combat the other negative influences in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. Youth can enter the Harambee program as young as 12. All participants attend a life skills class each morning before leaving for the job site. They earn a stipend, gain new skills and serve homeowners in their own neighborhood.

“We see work as a function of being made in God's image. He works, and we work. Even in the garden before the fall, God gave Adam and Eve work to do as part of their imagine their Creator,” Johnson said. “In the same way, our kids are reminded of their dignity and value as they work and restore homes in our community.”

Young adults who successfully complete the Harambee program not only learn a trade but also valuable life skills that can be used in any job. Charnesha Collier embodies the vision of Harambee and MCC’s Summer Service program. “The skills will help me to grow to be an even better leader than I am right now,” said Collier.