About a month ago I got an email out of the blue from the City of Chicago. That’s usually never a good sign…
However this time it was awesome. In it, I was being asked to be one of three judges for the final night of competition for the 58th Annual City of Chicago and Chicago Park District Junior Citizen of the Year Award! The contestants have to be seniors in high school and meet an extensive criteria of grades, civic service and be involved with the Chicago Park District. They were nominated through a variety of routes; through Chicago government officials, regional directors of the Chicago Park District, high school administration, etc. Out of the hundreds that were nominated it has been whittled down to 12 finalists (6 males and 6 females). So this is the cream of the crop! The finals are held at Soldier Field (where the Chicago Bears play), and each finalist will have to give a speech and then participate in a public Q&A session, from questions asked by us judges, to score and rank. Previous to the finals, the contestants had to write a number of essays, all of which have been given to us well in advance to read and score. At the end of the night there will be a banquet dinner where the winners will be announced. Each of the top four winners all receive a nice chunk of scholarship money towards their college education, with only one student being named the 2011 City of Chicago and Chicago Park District Junior Citizen of the Year!
Tonight, Friday March 25th, is the night! I mean, what an honor to be selected as one of three judges who get to award extremely deserving young people actual money to better their lives through their college education! When I contacted the organizers back to say yes, I was wondering how I got selected as one of only three judges for this prestigious city-wide event. It turns out that someone who works at the corporate headquarters for the Chicago Park District follows the work of The Marin Foundation, and this blog, and thought because The Marin Foundation’s work is about reconciliation and strengthening community, in addition to the fact that I speak in public all of the time and face my fair share of criticism (so I know what it’s like to be judged), that I would be a good fit! The other two judges are pretty high-profile Chicago folks (one is an official from the Chicago Public Schools and the other heads up one of Chicago’s largest philanthropic organizations), and from what I understand everyone is going to be there tonight – the Mayor and a number of elected officials, professional athletes and the rest of Chicago’s elite!
I’m still floored… Can’t wait to see what happens.