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Jenny O'Byrne, 19, is getting used to all the idiosyncrasies of living with five roommates (three of which are guys) in her inner city apartment on Chicago's West Side. It's been nearly six months since the group of young adults -- strangers from various states across the nation -- moved in together. It didn't take long, however, before their proclivity toward household chores became apparent.
"Some of us like to cook and kind of take over in the kitchen," said O'Byrne, a 2000 graduate of Kingsland High School. Others are better suited to keeping their humble quarters neat and clean. With no TV to vegetate in front of, the team has been forced to learn how to interact and get along.
Sound like an episode of the popular reality-based TV show Real World? Not quite, but O'Byrne and her roommates are getting a healthy dose of reality. She and her housemates are living in a genuine inner city community as part of Mission Year, a twelve-month Christian discipleship where young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 sign up to live and work in inner cities across America. For O'Byrne, who grew up on a quaint farm in rural Wykoff, interrupting her sophomore year at Northwestern College in St. Paul to temporarily move to Chicago was a no-brainer.
"I had traveled to Chicago on two mission trips with my church during high school," she said. That's when she first got introduced to the Mission Year organization. With such positive memories, O'Byrne didn't hesitate to take a year off from college to follow her dream. "God has given me a passion for this," she said. And even though inner city Chicago couldn't be further from rural Wykoff, O'Byrne's parents are proud of the choices their daughter is making.
Mission Year operates like this. Teams, like those O'Byrne lives with, are connected to a local church in inner city communities in Atlanta, Philadelphia, California or Chicago and devote themselves to community service in area schools, hospitals and other social service agencies.
The teams also receive ongoing training, team-building, and personal devotions. The host cities have three to five teams working under the direction of a full-time city director. The teams, comprised of an equal number of men and women, are led by a team leader who acts, in part, as their mentor. The team's goal? To become the best, most helpful, most openly loving neighbors they possibly can b .....
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