Sunday, April 5, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: Tony Carozza

Veteran volunteer Tony Carozza has been with our program for longer than 6 of our 7 staff! In fact, during the time that he’s been working with his student, CICS Northtown Academy senior Charles Thomas, Tony has both gotten married and had a child! He started way back in 2003 when another lawyer at his firm, Cabrini Connections board member and tutor Mike Hayes, sent out an email to all the young associates at Pretzel & Stouffer, the law firm where they were working at the time. In the email, Mike explained his involvement at Cabrini Connections and encouraged Tony to join him for a tutoring session so he too could get involved. When Tony eventually accompanied Mike to tutoring he liked what he saw and soon found himself matched up with Charles, then a 7th grader at CICS Washington Park. They hit it off right off the bat and got to work getting to know each other and building a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship.

In Tony’s words “It’s been awesome growing up with him for the last 6 years. Charles has gone from a kid to a man! He’s 18 years old. He has his driver’s license now!” Living out in the western suburbs, Tony isn’t able to see Charles as much as he might like to, but he treasures his time with him and has been working with Charles and his mother, with whom he stays connected, to figure out his post-high school plans.

Since Tony himself utilized community college as a stepping stone to Illinois State University, DePaul University College of Law and eventually a successful career as a defense lawyer at Bollinger, Ruberry & Garvey, he has been trying to encourage Charles to do the same in order to prepare him for a 4 year college education. Luckily, since he has been working to build good repoire and trust between him and Charles over the past 6 years, Charles knows that Tony is looking out for him. In fact, for Tony, their relationship is not just a tutor/mentor thing…they’re buddies! They’re comfortable together and can speak honestly, saying what’s on their minds without mincing words.

For Tony, who has spent most of his life in the western suburbs, volunteering at Cabrini Connections has been an eye-opening experience. Working with kids from Cabrini Green he’s been introduced to a whole new world seeing the sorts of social marginalization, gang violence and other struggles that our kids face on a daily basis. However, he’s also come away inspired by the dedication of our numerous volunteers and staff who are willing to dedicate their time and talents to address these issues and help these kids develop into successful adults. Thanks Tony for being one of these generous individuals and using your skills and passion to make a difference in a child’s life. Keep up the great work!

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