Spotlight on Chicago
Founder and CEO, GMM Nonstick Coatings
RJS Chair and Site Board Member, City Year Chicago
RJS Membership Level: Gold
Member since: 2015
Supporter of: City Year Chicago
Ravin Gandhi grew up and attended public school in a lower-income community outside of Chicago. A graduate of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, Ravin became a successful CPA and business executive. In 2007, he founded GMM Nonstick Coatings, where he remains CEO after the company was acquired in 2016. Ravin also founded Glenborn Partners, a private equity firm, and has invested in several start-ups as a venture capitalist.
When he learned about City Year, Ravin says he immediately understood the urgent need for additional resources in schools that serve high-need communities, and wanted to get involved in bringing those supports to more students in Chicago. “I had the huge benefit of a supportive family environment and parents who truly believed in the power of education to change lives,” Ravin says. “Not every kid has that.”
Ravin and Sonal Gandhi
What inspired you to become more deeply involved with City Year Chicago?
I was inspired to become involved with City Year Chicago several years ago, shortly after my first school visit. I immediately saw the huge impact City Year AmeriCorps members were making on students. What amazed me were the relationships that the corps members were able to form with the students they served. I had many mentors when I was growing up and I know how important those relationships are. Seeing the energy of the corps and how the students smiled at them each morning left a deep impression on me. The teachers in the school were also raving about the City Year team.
You can tell that the students trust their corps members to have their back. Most people are smarter than society gives them credit for, and in many cases, students are underperforming because they don’t feel anyone has their back, whether it’s at home, in school or on the street. City Year corps members have changed the lives of many students, and once you personally see that, you want to roll up your sleeves and help.
Another reason why I’m passionate about City Year is because it invests in developing the leadership potential of its corps. I recently spent time with Chicago’s corps and spoke with them about life lessons and leadership, and I was very impressed with the quality of young men and women in the corps. I am sure I came away from the experience more inspired by them than they were by me!
City Year Chicago AmeriCorps Member and Red Jacket Society Ambassador
Serving Since: 2017
Serving At: Funston Elementary School
City Year Chicago AmeriCorps member Argenis Hernandez, 21, is from the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago. He loves spoken word poetry and leads a spoken word afterschool program. He hopes to stay involved in community outreach programs in Chicago after his service year ends in June.
What does wearing the City Year jacket mean to you?
The City Year jacket is a statement. It represents decades of dedicated service and commitment to making a difference. When community members see our red jackets, they know we serve a purpose. And when I get asked questions about City Year, I make sure to proudly share our service in schools and the impact City Year AmeriCorps members strive to make, every day.
The jacket is also a symbol to me of the positive relationships I make with students, and how meaningful they are. At the beginning of the school year, one student, who I’ll call Amanda, seemed to want nothing to do with me. She usually responded to me with negative comments and typically refused to join my small groups. Even after spending many lunch periods with Amanda and working with her one-on-one, I felt like I was never going to gain her trust.
But after we returned from winter break, things started to turn around for several of my students, Amanda in particular. She is a lot more confident in her academics and she now asks me all kinds of questions and even seeks my advice, which has helped to strengthen our mentor-mentee bond.
Ravin and Argenis