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Fr. L. Scott Donahue is President and CEO of the Mercy Home for Boys & Girls.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mercy Home for Boys and Girls: “A City Within a City”

It’s refreshing to hear good news about teenagers—and today, I’m proud to be the bearer of it. As our boys and girls look forward to the summer months, we at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls celebrate a momentous occasion—the graduation of 44 of our children from Chicago area elementary schools, high schools and colleges.

This is an incredible moment for our children, many of whom come to us with profound educational challenges and classroom experiences shadowed by the horror of abuse or neglect at home. Were it not for the many academic supports our expert education team provides, many of these children may have landed among the all too high percentage of youth who do not graduate, who fail to advance and who ultimately dream of less for their futures.

But at Mercy Home, these children find a safe haven, an environment that encourages growth and learning and offers support every step of the way. By providing our kids the most basic necessities of food, shelter and clothing, we open for them a door of opportunity: the chance to focus, to dream and to look toward their futures. And just as it is my Christian duty and that of my colleagues to offer a guiding hand, it is also our responsibility to acknowledge the small successes of our children—and to celebrate their hard-earned achievements.

Recently, our Mercy Home family honored our graduates at a luncheon attended by 800 friends and supporters. We welcomed renowned architect Jeanne Gang, who likened Mercy Home to a city within a city.

“Cities reflect our values, but also our capacity to imagine, to plan, and to act,” she said. “Mercy Home is a kind of city within a city, where kindness, love and attention are the values.”

During the event, one of our young women bravely ascended the steps to the stage, to stand there in front of a huge ballroom full of people, and to tell the story of how this shy young woman found her voice at Mercy Home.

A tumultuous childhood left this young woman feeling powerless, timid and unsure of her place in the world. Tremendous change shook her to the core, and though she assured everyone around her that she was just fine—inside this young woman began to feel hopeless and invisible.

When her schoolwork was affected and her grades began to drop, her family—by God’s good grace—appealed to Mercy Home. In our care, this young woman found something she hadn’t felt in a long time—possibility. In the months that followed, she planned, worked hard and dreamed for something better. And in the fall, this remarkable graduate will join many of her Mercy Home peers as they make their way to colleges and universities such as Morehouse, Northern Michigan and Western Illinois.

Standing there at our luncheon, amongst 44 of our brightest young scholars, I couldn’t help but feel my heart swell with pride. These graduates are living proof of the power of family, and of the tremendous value in providing a safe, stable and loving home.

Though classes have ended for many of our kids, learning is certainly not through. From morning academics at home to a week spent camping in the great outdoors, our young men and women have a host of opportunities ahead of them to help grow academically, emotionally and spiritually.

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