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One woman's plan to fight crime

Grow Your Value finalist Ebony Lucas envisions a Chicago with safer streets - and she believes in a solution that starts with young people.

Grow Your Value finalist Ebony Lucas envisions a Chicago with safer streets - and she believes in a solution that starts with young people.

As a mom of four, she’s increasingly concerned about those impacted most by Chicago’s spike in crime: kids and teens. Last year, there were over 2500 victims of gun violence. The night before Lucas submitted her video to the contest, two teenagers were killed just three blocks from her home.

Lucas wants to help teens improve their job readiness – a mission she considers central to fighting the violence plaguing her city by keeping kids off the streets.            

Lucas observed her 16-year-old son struggling to apply for his first job – and realized he needed to improve his resume and develop stronger application-writing skills. A thought started to nag her: if her son, with supportive parents and a good education, was struggling to apply to a job, what was it like for the kids with fewer resources and no support network? Those are the kids she wants to help most.

Last summer, she designed a job readiness curriculum for teens ages 13-16. Designed to be taught during three Saturday seminars, the program aims to help students acquire and fine-tune the skills for applying, interviewing and landing a job. For Lucas, who works as a real estate attorney and hopes to launch the program this April, it feels less like a side project and more like her purpose. “To me, it’s empowering. It makes me feel like I can do something to help the community,” she told MSNBC. Even just helping a few kids, she said, will have made her effort worth it.

Lucas faces those same work-life challenges that so many of us face on a daily basis – we are often spread too thin to focus on ourselves. “As a parent who’s working, you don’t really get the time to be introspective,” Lucas told MSNBC. “As women, we’re always giving to other people. As parents, we’re always giving to our kids. Know Your Value is about looking inside and knowing what your purpose is.”

She entered the Grow Your Value bonus competition as a way to potentially fund her job-readiness program, but has found that the Know Your Value movement was also way to do something for herself – to grow her value, to understand her purpose with more clarity.  

Ebony’s genuine community spirit inspired me. We selected her as a Grow Your Value finalist because she has a clear purpose: to help equip young adults with the tools to succeed. Her mission is admirable, and we can't wait to hear more about it on stage in Boston.

You can catch Ebony and the other Grow Your Value finalists compete for $10,000 at Boston’s Know Your Value event on Friday, October 23 at where we’ll be livestreaming the event. See you in Boston!