Monday, April 26, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Tonya Myers

4/27 update: I received tragic news this morning that Cierria Thomas, pictured above, passed away in a house fire on Sunday. Please keep her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers. This is a sad moment for the entire Cabrini Connections family. Cierria's mentor, Tonya, is in the spotlight this week because they had been doing a great job lately. I was thinking about them as I wrote this story yesterday, and now, a day later, I hear that Cierria has passed away. It is a somber reminder to cherish every moment. Again, please pray for the Thomas family today. Cierria, you will be missed.
Second-year mentor Tonya Myers grew up in a rural area in Rockford, IL, 90 miles west of Chicago. At her high school in Winnebago, IL, there were only 90 people in her graduating class. Thinking back to those days, Tonya’s tip for current high schoolers is, “Don’t be too concerned with what others think about you… Be true to yourself.” Great tip!

Tonya went on to study music education at Millikin University, a small, private school in Decatur, IL. She had a “work hard, play hard” mentality, which means she took a lot of classes and did well in them, but she also had a lot of fun. For example, she joined a sorority (Alpha Chi Omega) and sang in multiple choirs. Tonya says to “get as many different experiences as you can” while in college. It is a unique time in your life, so take advantage of it!

After graduation, Tonya taught junior high and high school for two years, she worked at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, and then she went into marketing, which is where she still works today. Tonya writes marketing proposals for a financial services firm. They help mostly corporations invest or reinvest money and most of her time is spent responding to requests for proposals.

Tonya has lived in Chicago for 13 years. “I love the city. I love the energy,” she says. “There are so many things to do, see, and appreciate.” In her free time, you might find Tonya at a small concert, a musical, or an opera. She is also loves arts and crafts. She enjoys knitting, stamping, and she makes announcements, invitations, and even programs such as the one she designed for our 2009 Year-End Dinner.

Tonya heard about Cabrini Connections through someone she knew at Cabrini Green Tutoring Program, our sister program for grades one through six. Since joining our program in spring 2008, Tonya has worked with 10th grader Cierria Thomas. Due to a scheduling conflict, they meet on Tuesday nights. Tonya has appreciated meeting on a non-tutoring night because it is quieter and more personal.

She says Cabrini Connections is a great program and she really likes the 1-on-1 setup. Her tip for mentors is, “Don’t get too caught up in improving grades.” Often times it is the intangibles which really make a difference: learning responsibility, study skills, leadership, etc. Lastly, she says, “The most important thing is showing up and being there on time every week.” We couldn’t agree more, Tonya! Thank you!

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