Aaron Garrett, a graduate of Thornton Township High School '03 and DePaul University, Class of 2006, is now pursuing a career in New York but his heart is close to Chicago.
Aaron Garrett is the oldest of five boys-and the only one whose first name doesn't start with M-and he is the first member of his family to live outside of Chicago. Now a resident of New York, where he works in advertising, he recalls his initial surprise to realize he could leave Chicago: "During the call I learned it was actually a position in New York," he recalls of a job interview with Teach for America's operations department. "My heart dropped. Me? Outside of Chicago?"
In many ways, the suggestion was welcome. After a rocky childhood spent in various parts of Illinois with grandparents and in foster communities, Aaron had spent two "less than mediocre years" at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before transferring to DePaul University, where he played volleyball and also began working in member services at the city YMCA. After graduating, he was promoted and worked as a membership coordinator for the next six months before starting to explore other options. "It was a passive job search," he explains. "I was looking online at positions, talking to people, but had no real interest in leaving the Y."
Aaron describes finding Chicago Scholars in much the same way. "It came up in my FastWeb results and I randomly applied," he says. "Never did I expect to be called in for the interview, so, naturally, when I received the call I was floored." Since then, despite the "nerve-racking interview process," he speaks glowingly of the organization. "My experience with CS has been amazing," he says. "Truly a supportive organization. From the Board of Directors to the staff, everyone's committed to its mission."
The job opportunity with Teach for America didn't pan out, but "it launched something inside of me that I'd never experienced," Aaron reflects: "I could live outside of Chicago." After a couple months of preparation, he moved to New York at the end of February 2009, and less than a month and a half later was an entry-level advertising professional at Orion Trading. One year and one promotion later, he is broadening his knowledge of and experience in the field, with an eye to a later career in media consulting. Though he's left much of his Chicago life behind, he finds time to give back to a new community. "I'm a mentor and volunteer with the Children's Aid Society in New York," he says. And volleyball? "My priorities shifted a bit," he admits. "Now I get my exercise walking from 2nd Avenue to 7th Avenue!"