One of the often unseen but vital forces behind READI Chicago is mothers. Many participants live with parents, and outreach workers and job coaches are full of countless stories of mothers who drive their sons to and from work, help mediate conflicts within the program, and answer early morning phone calls to wake sons who overslept. This Mother’s Day, we highlighted just one of the moms helping make READI Chicago a success.
Sharon’s son Marquis has been in READI Chicago for almost a year, and she said she has already seen a huge change in him.
“I see a change in his behavior, his tone, his drive, his thinking,” Sharon said. “He’s not as angry as he used to be.”
Sharon is a recovering addict, and Marquis spent much of his childhood with his grandmother while Sharon worked to get clean. His father was absent, and Marquis dealt with depression before getting into legal trouble. Sharon said the cognitive behavioral therapy Marquis receives in READI Chicago, as well as the support of the staff and their communication with her, is not only helping Marquis with anger and impulse control, but also helping to mend the family’s relationship.
“When he joined the program, it’s like they were reinforcing everything I’ve tried to tell him,” Sharon said. “Whatever they’re doing in that program, it’s getting through to him. I see such a huge change in him. He’s even come back and said, ‘Thank you, Mom, for being hard on me.’ So I’m going to make sure he keeps going and make sure I keep talking to READI Chicago.”
Marquis himself said he would not be where he is today without Sharon’s support. He said she is always quick to let him know that she believes in him and that he is well-loved.
“My mom is ecstatic about my work in READI Chicago,” Marquis said. “She loves to see me going to work every day and working hard. I come home at night and we tell each other about our days.”
Sharon said raising children, and boys especially, in Chicago can be difficult. She has had to steer her four children through peer pressure, drugs, and gangs, all while navigating her own struggles. It was difficult, she said, and hard to imagine the future she is living today. Sharon is now 15 years clean and no longer receives welfare or food stamps, things she never thought would be possible. She said her primary motivation is staying positive so she’s able to keep Marquis and her other children safe and help them thrive.
“I love READI Chicago,” Sharon said. “In my mind, people look at people with a background or a felony a certain way. There’s a stigma, but I see you guys at READI Chicago in the neighborhood with your vests, and I see how the staff interact with these guys. I pick him up, drop him off, and I see the camaraderie and the unity and the love the staff give each other and give the participants. I see a total change in Marquis.”