ALSO outreach worker Cierra McGee talks about being part of two communities. The first is Humboldt Park, where she lives and works. The second is a growing community of outreach workers around the city. On June 17, she completed a training for outreach workers through the Metropolitan Peace Academy, a training committed to professionalizing the roles associated with the street outreach and case worker community. In addition, she received a special "Leaning Into Your Discomfort" Award. In June, ALSO Outreach Worker, Nelson Torres, and Resilience Manager, Linnette Acosta, also completed the Peace Academy training and participated in the celebration. “The training,” McGee says, “gave me a platform to speak up and helps me keep going in this work.”
Last July, McGee was a FLIP worker for ALSO. The FLIP (Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace) program employs participants in violence prevention programs as mediators. “Even before I became a FLIP worker, I was involved in the community. I always went on the Peace Walks, handed out stickers, passed out hot dogs, and I attended one of the trainings.” She became an outreach worker for ALSO in October of 2019.
“I am always in the community,” she says. “I enjoy helping people, and working with the outreach team has brought out the best in me. We also have resources to connect people to job opportunities and get other services they need.” That, she adds, can mean delivering food boxes to community residents, connecting people to GED programs, and more.
McGee has turned what she has learned from her personal experience into a positive as an outreach worker. She has two daughters who are eight and twelve. Her daughters, she says, “love going to ‘Light in the Night’ activities in the community. They also see that I’m happy in what I’m doing.”
The fathers of her children both died from gun violence in Humboldt Park. When she was in kindergarten, her best friend died.
“I have to carry on,” she says. “I have to be strong. When I work in the community, I always know that we need each other in order to uplift each other.”
As a member of ALSO’s outreach team, she says that she feels she is with family. “They love me for who I am.”
McGee typically works with women in the community. “Just about everybody I meet in the community wants to work,” she says. “Our job is to help them get on the right path.” McGee shares many examples of how she connects with participants and others in the community through her work. “One participant was starting her own business selling customized merchandise,” she says. “I reached out to her, and helped her connect to possible customers.”
“I am upfront and honest with people,” she says. ”You have to give people the truth. I reach out to them, see how they’re doing, and encourage them. ‘Don’t give up,’ I tell them. “I’ll share information about whatever resources I get.”
In many cases, she says, community residents show interest in serving the community and becoming outreach workers themselves.
Through a family member, McGee also learned about and is assisting a woman in the community who is a survivor of domestic violence. She has also recently worked with a man she met in the community who “wanted to change his life. Sometimes we can step up and help people who are in tough situations get settled.”