Monique Mervin serves as the chief of strategic initiatives for Office of the City Clerk. A native Chicagoan, she is excited to have another way to give back to the community as a member of the board of directors at Erie House. We caught up with Monique to talk about the launch of the Chicago CityKey, a civic engagement initiative for local youth, and more.
How did you first get connected with Erie House?
I first met (Executive Director Kirstin Chernawsky) a little over a year ago during a reception at Erie House for Jaime Guzman, who had just joined the Board of Education. Then I found myself at Erie House again when working in a different setting as the Office of the City Clerk was hosting roundtables across the city talking about the Chicago CityKey program.
We hosted a roundtable there in March: We had staff members from Erie House and folks who are benefitting from Erie House every single day. We really just wanted to hear from them why would the identification system would be relevant to them. Hearing their testimonials as to why Erie House has really been a true anchor in their lives was sort of like a little light bulb for me.
Why did you feel like Erie House would be a good fit for you?
It was really about reconnecting back with the community and finding ways to directly impact people’s lives through programs and services. I was drawn to Erie House’s mission and the opportunities they have from cradle to adulthood—from Head Start to ESL and adult learning—and it was just really, really impactful for me to know that this is a good fit and to be able to use my experiences to give back. I worked at a nonprofit earlier on in my career and so I had really missed the client-focused purpose of that, and so I thought Erie House would be a great place for me.
There’s such a dynamic leadership team and staff at Erie House, people who are passionate about the work that they do and who use that passion to affect the lives of the people they serve.
What do you enjoy about your work with the Office of the City Clerk?
I would say the most enjoyable part is the people. Because it’s a citywide office, I get to go out to every community in Chicago and talk about how we’re bringing services to those communities. So it’s really meeting people, trying to use my platform to be as helpful as possible and connecting people to other services. The Chicago CityKey program is just a real passion project. I’ve heard stories from people who are seniors, homeless, disenfranchised youth—and they all found some opportunity in this new ID card that we’re launching and how it will benefit them. It’s really about understanding the basic barriers that you and I take for granted every day and then hearing these stories and saying, “Wow, we have to execute on this and secure services for all of Chicago.” That is really what I enjoy most about my job.
And then also we’re doing a civic engagement initiative with youth. Through CPS we’re working on a new opportunity to get young folks interested in government and what we do every day. So we’re launching monthly city hall visits and reimagining our curriculum and forming a council to help us do that work. So often we focus on national news when we can really be leveraging our platform here in our city to do great work and civically engage in our communities. This is just so important. And the one thing for our youth is exposure—you can’t be what you don’t know.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
It’s really giving back to my community, both inside and outside of work. I’m very involved in a local ministry and I go to church and I use my platform to ask, How can I give back on the weekend? Can I go visit a food pantry or a local organization? Can I go to an event? That’s really what I love to do. I love people, and I love being able to make some else’s life better. So that’s me!
Conversation edited for clarity and brevity.