Monday, November 15, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Lisa Coy

First year mentor Lisa Coy grew up about an hour south of Chicago in “a small town full of corn and cows.” She stayed there through high school, but had to get away for college. “People stay comfortable. They stay where they know,” she says, “instead of merging out into other places… I wasn’t myself there,” so 10 years ago she moved to Chicago.

“It was really scary,” she says. “I was scared to get lost,” but eventually, getting lost is what introduced her to different parts of the city. “I pushed myself further to explore new things… to see what is out there besides what is in front of me.”

Lisa attended Columbia College Chicago where she majored in Vocal Performance, singing classical blues and jazz music. Again, her explorations of the city were useful. She got to know professional artists around Chicago and started singing at various jazz and blues clubs. She even sang at the Jazz and Blues Festivals over the summer in Grant Park.

At Columbia, Lisa lived in the dorms, which was a really fun experience. “I met some of the weirdest people in my life then,” she says. “I’ve never been exposed to so many different cultures at once.” However, once more, it was an effective way to get to know people.

Lisa graduated in 2003 after finishing the four-year program in three years. A sudden death in the family motivated her to focus on her studies. “My passion helped my tragedies become a positive experience,” she says. After graduation, she worked in the mortgage industry for awhile. She also did web design and was a personal shopper.

But, for a long time, her passion has been music. In the second grade, she was extremely shy, but one day her teacher heard her singing in the bathroom. She encouraged her to join the choir and “it opened up a whole different life for me… It made me go places.”

Now, Lisa has combined her passion with teaching. A few years ago she started tutoring kids and adults from Korea. It was not until then that she thought she could be a teacher. So she decided to go back to school and in 2010 she received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Columbia. “It was the hardest two years of my life,” she says, “but it was the most beneficial thing, because it’s not about me; it’s about the kids and making sure they get the best education with what resources they have.”

Lisa is currently a music teacher at Glover Cleveland Elementary School. She teaches kindergarten through 8th grade and kids with special needs. She gets to experience a “vast amount of personalities in a day” and she says it is “fun, never boring.”

For students, her insight into the mind of a teacher (herself) is: “I let the kids know how smart they are and how important they are. I create a positive learning environment. Kids get caught up in what they can’t do instead of focusing on what they can do. Everyone is really good at something. It’s about figuring out what that one thing is. Everything else will align.”

Lisa brings this same attitude to tutoring. She heard of Cabrini Connections through her friend Lindsay Devick Richardson who is a College Zone Coordinator on Thursday nights. Lisa works with Starisha Owens on Wednesday nights. “She’s really smart,” says Lisa. “I constantly encourage her. She can be what she wants to be. Just keep focused and keep working hard.”

You’re a great motivator, Lisa. We are proud to have you on our team!

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