Monday, April 13, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: Christine Nielsen

This week we’d like to highlight the involvement of one of our first-year volunteers, Assistant Attorney General for the State of Illinois, Christine Nielsen. A Michigan native, Christine came to Chicago in 2005 right after finishing law school at the University of Michigan. After passing the Illinois Bar Exam, she got right to work in the consumer fraud department of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office. There, she works on identity theft and data privacy issues, which she enjoys a great deal. However, before law school, she was a professional dancer, having received her BFA in dance at Western Michigan University along with a BA in Political Science and a Minor in Journalism. She recently discussed her unique career path with students as part of our Career Week programming which coincided with CPS students’ spring break.

Christine got involved here at Cabrini Connections through her friend and fellow lawyer Susan Garver, who had done a lot of research on places to volunteer with at-risk youth. They had heard about Cabrini-Green through the media and decided they wanted to see for themselves what the situation was on the ground by getting involved in the lives of its young residents. After visiting the program, Susan was paired up with Schiller 7th grader Olivia Williams and Christine was paired up with Lincoln Park High School Senior Dominique Dobbs. Throughout the year, according to Christine they have built a “good dialogue. She feels comfortable talking to me about school stuff as well as personal stuff.” Since Dominique is a senior, they have been spending a lot of their time together researching colleges and filling out college applications. Right now, they’re working on Dominique’s personal statement essays.

Since Dominique hasn’t always put as much effort into her education as she is presently with Christine’s encouragement and support, she is frustrated that her High School grades aren’t better. However, Christine has been helping Dominique address this by working with her to figure out the most effective way to explain her recent change of attitude towards school and newfound dedication to her studies in her college application essays. Fortunately, Dominique is determined to make it to college and Christine has been working with our College Zone Counselors Carla and Stephanie to ensure that Dominique puts her best foot forward with her applications.

Another thing that Christine and Dominique have been working on is organizational skills. Being a lawyer, Christine has to constantly navigate a wide array of documents, books and other resources, while ensuring that she makes it to all of her myriad meetings and appointments. Therefore, Christine is trying to impart some of her organizational prowess on Dominique and is working with her to improve her habits. This is currently taking the form of helping Dominique organize her college applications so she knows what needs to be included and when they need to be submitted.

Since Dominique will be graduating this year and hopefully moving on to college, Christine will definitely try to stay engaged in her life however possible. If she decides to remain in Chicago for a while she is considering mentoring Olivia Williams’ little sister, who will be a 7th grader next year.

Thanks so much for all your hard work and dedication to the program Christine! We’re so glad you’re a part of Cabrini Connections!

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