Grow Your Value finalist Ebony Lucas envisions a Chicago with safer streets – and she believes in a solution that starts with young people. As a mom of four, she’s increasingly concerned about those impacted most by Chicago’s spike in crime: kids and teens. Last year, there were over 2500 victims of gun violence. The night before Lucas submitted her video to the Grow Your Value bonus competition, two teenagers were killed just three blocks from her home. Lucas wants to help teens improve their job readiness – a mission she considers central to fighting the violence plaguing her city by keeping kids off the streets.
If you could go back in time and give yourself at the beginning of your career one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do informational interviews, find a working mother mentor and network.
You’re a real estate attorney. What do you think is the most important issue facing women in the legal field?
I work in a male-dominated field where women are constantly questioned and not as respected as their male counterparts.
Who inspires you?
My father is my role model. He grew up in the projects and neither of my grandparents had college degrees. My father completed college and was a successful entrepreneur and always managed to also be a family man.
How has being a mother shaped your career?
Being a mother has helped me to define my career. It is important for me to do something that I enjoy, make a difference in others’ lives and have good work ethic. I want to set an example for my kids: that life is not only about making money – it’s about leaving a legacy. During times that I was doing work that I did not enjoy, I always sought happiness because it is important to teach my children.
You’re a mom, a lawyer and have now developed a job readiness program for teens in your community. How do you keep yourself from spreading thin?
My faith keeps me centered and balanced. As long as there is a purpose in what I am doing, I feel good about it and have the energy to complete tasks.
The ultimate mission of your job readiness program is to make Chicago safer. Have you always had a strong community spirit?
My community spirit started at an early age. For as long as I can remember I have always been involved in activities that allow me to help others. My undergraduate degree was in elementary education and I have a master’s degree in nonprofit management. I went back to law school so that I could deepen my ability to make the world a better place. I practice real estate law and specialize in creating and preserving home ownership. I just love knowing that every day I am doing something to help others.
What do you hope to gain from the Know Your Value movement?
I thrive on helping others and tend to neglect myself in the process. This movement provides strong, valuable resources that can help me strengthen my own leadership so that I can be my best self while fulfilling my life mission.
You can catch Ebony and the other Grow Your Value finalists compete for $10,000 at Boston’s Know Your Value event on Friday, October 23 at msnbc.com/knowyourvalue where we’ll be livestreaming the event.