Cultivating a Culture of Mentorship in Austin

At the age of 16, Austin resident Jeramie McGill was at a crossroads in his life.  Like many high school students, he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his future.  It was his involvement in a youth mentoring sports program provided by St. Joseph Services (SJS), a partner agency of United Way of Metro Chicago, where he would discover his passion for helping others and become a leader in his community.

His work in youth and community development began after he graduated high school through the support of a Youth Mentor at SJS, Bradly Johnson.  “When I graduated, I had no direction,” said Jeramie. “Bradly didn’t want me to end up taking the wrong path, so he encouraged me to stay involved with the organization.”  This advice would be the catalyst that would solidify Jeramie’s passion for helping Austin’s youth to reach their fullest potential.  

Jeramie transitioned seamlessly from SJS mentee to volunteer. Jeramie found himself thriving as a mentor to kids participating in SJS after school programs and coordinating basketball activities as part of the open gym program. His drive earned him a title and a paycheck; being offered the role of part-time program coordinator. “I was ecstatic when I was offered the job,” Jeramie said.  “I’ve been with the organization ever since then, and have never stopped loving it and giving it my all.” As Jeramie transitioned from mentee to mentor the baton was officially handed down from Bradly, and Jeramie realized he had found his calling.

Now 28 years-old, he boasts the title of Youth Development and Outreach Manager for St. Joseph Services.  Jeramie  works to build the relationship he had with his mentor, with his mentees, much like Bradly did for him. “Bradly was my idol – he was authentic, and he never sugar coated anything,” Jeramie said. “I follow his tactics and utilize his approach of giving honest feedback to my mentees, because it worked for me.”  Bradly and Jeramie still keep in touch to this day. 

It is bonds like this that have an everlasting impact on the lives of young people as they try to “figure it all out.” Jeramie recalled having the opportunity to build a relationship with a young man named Thomas. Thomas had difficulty expressing himself around peers and adults and didn’t like to ask for help or admit when he was wrong.  In order to break through Thomas’s barriers and help him build confidence, Jeramie would offer him rides from Austin to the SJS Humbolt Park facility.  This gesture gave them time to get to know each other.  “I want to identify their strengths first,” said Jeramie, “Because then you can translate that strength into a hobby, academic focus or a career.” After getting to know Thomas, Jeramie was able to help him improve his interpersonal skills and learned he had an interest in art.   With this knowledge, Jeramie was able to help Thomas develop and hone his passion and skills in painting, which has given him confidence and career prospects. 

Jeramie started as a participant of St. Joseph Services and through hard work and determination became a vital part of the organization. His efforts not only improve the lives of his mentees, but he also inspires them to give back to the Austin community.  United Way of Metro Chicago is proud to partner with agencies like St. Joseph Services who work to strengthen their communities through youth development, and Jeramie is a prime example of a community leader who inspires us to continue our fight for stronger neighborhoods and a stronger Chicago region.   Thank you, Jeramie McGill, for your leadership in the Austin Community!

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