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CHICAGO — A career day event for young people was held on the West Side Saturday with a simple message: “You can be anything you want to be.”

Pretty much everyday after school, you can find 16-year-old Justin Rucker at the Marillac St. Vincent Center in Garfield Park. He’s in the Hope Junior program. 

This weekend, he was among the participants sitting down with young professionals representing a variety of fields for the fourth annual Career Day. 

“It was so fun, I start making friends and mentors. Any time I needed something, they were there for me,” Rucker said.

Criminal defense attorney Ari Williams sits on Marillac’s associate board. 

“We are here showing the youth they can be somebody, they can be what they want to be if they work hard and stay motivated and dedicated,” Williams said.

Marillac St. Vincent runs a number of programs supporting families from infants to seniors.

“I grew up in the Hope Junior program, I started when I was about 6 years old,” Latoya Winters said.

Today, Winters is an Associate Board President, opening opportunities for other young people in the program.

“Even though a lot of the kids say I’m their role model, they have no idea how they inspire me as they fight and channel though things they go through,” Winters said.

As the city continues to grapple with violence and inequity, Winters said this is a safe space filled with positivity. 

“I just hope that people are able to see these small places that make a huge impact and I hope it just touches someone and they don’t see Chicago just as as a place of violence and destruction,” Winters said.

Organizers hope career day will help plant the seeds for these young people on a journey towards their own careers and giving back.