Perhaps one of the biggest themes of the last year and a half is that of women empowerment – from the Women’s March in January 2017 to the “Time’s Up” action at the Golden Globes – women across the U.S. are speaking up and acting out. One of the most popular sayings that has spread far and wide is “Empowered women empower women” – and there is no saying that would better fit Chicago Volunteer Callie Rodenbiker.
Callie is a Volunteer this year serving at the Chicago nonprofit Girls in the Game. Girls in the Game is a nonprofit that provides sports, health, and leadership programming to girls all over Chicago. When asked about their programming, Callie said, “We serve girls through after school programs, teen scholarship programs, citywide special events, and summer camp. Through our year-round, long-term programs, we hope that all girls will find their voices, discover their strengths, and lead with confidence…Our vision is to empower all girls to be gamechangers, no matter where they come from.”
Callie is serving as the Citywide Initiatives Coordinator this year, which, Callie says, puts her in charge of planning and executing roughly 40 Game Days (one-day sports, health, and leadership extravaganzas for up to 100 girls at schools & parks) throughout her LVC year. She’s also involved in planning seasonal events as well – Winter and Spring Olympics, a spring break clinic, citywide field trips to sporting events, and summer camp.
To describe her position on a more day-to-day basis, Callie said: “My position is about half event planning – phone calls & emails, visits with school administrators, coordinating donations & volunteers – and half–my favorite half!– working with the girls! Some days I do a lot of paperwork, but some days I get to teach Beyonce’s ‘Move Your Body’ dance to eighty middle schoolers. And that is certainly an unforgettable experience!”
In every way, Callie’s LVC experience has revolved around powerful women – from her service at Girls in the Game, to going home every night to a community of five other women. However, in both LVC and at Girls in the Game, Callie is actively empowering women with more than just their physical strength – when asked which of LVC’s three core values (intentional community, social justice, simple/sustainable living) she has found to be the most significant throughout her year so far, Callie focused primarily on LVC’s value of social justice. “In college classes I read about racism and educational injustices; here in Chicago, I see these things every day and how they impact the girls that I coach and care so much about. When I see these injustices, I get mad. When I get mad, I get inspired to keep fighting and having uncomfortable conversations and confronting oppressive speech and actions.”
Callie’s passion for social justice tied in directly with her passion for her placement. “I find that I am most passionate about types of social justice that directly impact the girls that I work with–namely, social issues like education, racism, and sexism… my service at Girls in the Game has changed my view of social justice work by demonstrating that in order to serve people, you need to listen to what they need instead of assuming that you know what they need. The girls that I coach tell me about the issues that they face in their lives and how they wish they could be changed; they need me to be a listener first and foremost.”
For some Volunteers, one of the biggest transitions can be moving into new communities – both moving into a new house community, and (usually) a new city and local community. However, when asked about where she has found the most joy in her year, Callie said, “I find so much joy in my housemates. I could not have asked for better women to explore a new city and talk through this life-changing year with! We have SO much fun together–watching The Bachelor, taking ridiculous BuzzFeed quizzes, debating what the best Harry Potter house is, eating ice cream, eating donuts, eating cheesecake (we eat a lot of desserts…), and tackling the rodent problem in our basement. Eating supper together is often the best moment of my day, and I look forward to keeping these friendships for the rest of my life.”
Some of Callie’s struggles and learning curves of the year also came with her new city of Chicago: “As I get to know and love the parts of Chicago that some people turn their noses up at, I get very angry at the people who do the ‘nose turning up.’ I understand that a lot of people’s apprehension about certain areas of Chicago comes from fear; however, it’s not okay to disregard an entire half of a city. I’ve met some of the most loving and thoughtful people I have ever met (and I’m from the state that coined ‘Minnesota Nice’!) in neighborhoods that the media (and certain people from more affluent areas) love to hate… A pastor from Englewood talked to us during orientation about wearing “bifocal lenses” and seeing both the glory of God and the brokenness of humanity in every person and neighborhood that we encounter. This mindset has shaped my experience in Chicago, and I am confident that it will stay with me for the rest of my life–as a teacher, as an advocate for social justice, as a Christian, and as a human being.”
Although Callie was born and raised in central Minnesota, we’re sure that her kind demeanor and perspective is hers alone. Callie graduated from Concordia College with a degree in English Education, and plans to teach high school or middle school English after her year with LVC. Callie loves anything that allows her to step into the lives of other people–documentaries, novels, musicals (especially Hamilton), music, etc. Callie loves eating cheesecake, working out, sampling milkshakes – her goal being to find the best milkshake in America (the current winner is a cookies and cream milkshake from a mountainside gas station in Oregon), and fantasizing about her future life filled with St. Bernards. A powerful woman, indeed!