This month's Women Who Inspire Us feature is near and dear to our hearts. Carolyn Madigan's fashion organization, Fashion Matters Chicago, was one of MFO's early supporters, and her work as volunteer coordinator and youth director at Metro Achievement Center For Girls inspires us everyday. Here's the inside scoop on this woman we adore.
1. In a nutshell, tell me about Metro.
Metro was established 31 years ago with the goal of providing mentors and coaches for students to instill traits of fortitude, generosity, kindness, perseverance, and compassion and provide them with academic support to prevent them from falling to the wayside. We aim to recruit academically average students to ensure there is a program for them. In the past 19 years, we’ve had a 100% high school graduation rate, a 95% acceptance in college prep high school programs, a 100% college acceptance rate, and 92% college retention rate. My absolute favorite stat is that about 20% of our volunteers and staff are alumni of the program. It shows that they see the greatness of the program and want to pay it back.
2. How did you originally hear about Metro?
I was a high school Spanish teacher. One summer, a friend mentioned Metro to me, and I absolutely fell in love. I liked how they focus on character, getting to a personal level with students, and asking them to be the best version of themselves personally and academically. We do tutoring and mentoring so the girls have one on one attention, something that’s hard to get in the classroom.
3. What's your role at Metro?
I’m the Volunteer Coordinator and Program Director for 4th-6th grade girls. I get to meet all of the volunteers, figure out what their passions are, and why they want to be involved. My favorite question to ask volunteers is what personal qualities they think make them a good role model for the students. It’s fantastic to hear all of these amazing women answer so conscientiously!
4. What are the biggest issues these girls face?
I believe the largest issue is a lack of knowledge. At Metro, we work to show the girls that they are beautiful and can achieve great things if they put in the effort and care. We work with the parents especially, helping them in their role as primary educators of these girls. We do a lot of work to help the girls develop an understanding of true friendship and their own inestimable value.
5. What is your relationship with the students, staff, alumni, and volunteers at Metro?
Metro is like a big, loving family. All the staff members, volunteers, and parents work together in order to support these students. It’s funny because while we're helping the students grow, everyone is growing together. It’s a beautiful experience from my end – seeing everyone with an end goal of both personal and academic success. It really is a joy to be a part of such a tight knit community.
6. What’s been the most rewarding experience so far?
I don’t know if I could pick one! Everyday is a rewarding experience. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. If you come to Metro with a positive attitude, there's a ripple effect and a world of good happens. You see it the moment you walk through the door. The staff is so cheerful and there is symphony of well-being. We are always looking for volunteers or professional women to empower young girls.
7. What else fulfills you outside of your work?
I'm a total extrovert. Anytime I spend with other people or building friendships is very fulfilling for me. I also love fashion! I work with Fashion Matters Chicago, which has supported My Favorite Outfit's efforts in the past.
8. Describe Fashion Matters Chicago?
FMC is an educational initiative focused on studying the relationship between fashion and culture, in order to provide a forum for lectures and seminars on the subjects, while working to reawaken style through the recognition of women's dignity and to promote inner beauty through fashion.
We actually have an event coming up is on March 25th at Deerpath Inn. Designer Leonor Silva is coming to speak about starting her own fashion line. It will be followed by panelists, who are leaders in the style industry. I'm excited to be a part of it!
9. What do you do with FMC?
I'm on the social media committee, a section of the FMC board that is responsible for broadcasting our events and raising awareness of what we and other fashion industry leaders are doing to promote true feminine beauty through fashion.
10. How has helping others impacted you both in and out of work?
It has shaped me tremendously and has helped me with self reflection. It just amazes me to see all of the good that people can and are doing!
11. Describe your own personal style.
I like to keep it simple, elegant, but timeless. I think that fashion is a person’s first perspective of who you are. The way you dress gives a glimpse of your personality and inner beauty.