Featured Alumna - February 2024

Anne Larsen '95 VanderWeele
I remember my time at Chicago Christian High School fondly. Without a doubt, I formed lifetime friendships that continue to bring joy and support to my life. I was able to be a part of a lot of things, including student council, yearbook, basketball, and theater, which I really enjoyed. I remember an epic food fight and dances in the cafeteria, and sweating my ability to make it from A hall to C hall in time for class. I am indebted to CCHS for providing me with an education that grounded me in my faith. Every time I say the Apostles Creed, I remember Mr. Van Kampen's exposition on the importance of the word "seated", in the sentence "seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty". God's salvation work was complete and there was nothing more to be added to on my end. I remember teachers who cared enough about us to allow us to ask difficult questions about the world, our faith, and what it meant for our lives. 

That faith integration very much informed my choice of vocation and my pursuit of a social work and sociology degree at Gordon College. I was excited to live in a new area of the country and to be able to continue the exploration of how to apply my faith in my work and the rest of my life after high school. It was a match. I discovered this was the right profession for me, and my time at Gordon became an exploration of what kind of social work I wanted to practice. Building off of another foundational experience at CCHS, a Close Up trip to Washington D.C., I decided to spend a semester in Washington, D.C., with the American Studies Program to explore the world of public policy. How do the rules that govern our lives get made? Who gets to make them? Is there a way to be a social worker in this space? How can this further the pursuit of social justice? 

After marrying my high school sweetheart, we packed up and moved back to Chicago to pursue additional education, he in medicine, and me in social work. These experiences at Gordon brought me to the University of Chicago's Crown Family School of Social Work Policy and Practice (formerly the School of Social Service Administration) where I pursued a Master's degree in Social Work with a focus on Social Policy. It has been a true joy to live into this calling and profession. I now serve as the Director of Government Affairs and Special Assistant to the President at Metropolitan Family Services. Metropolitan is one of the oldest and largest social service agencies in the city of Chicago with roots in assisting families to recover from the great Chicago fire. It provides a host of social services across the lifespan, focusing on violence prevention, workforce development, behavioral health, early learning, and domestic violence services provided in nine Community Centers across the City of Chicago and suburban Cook and DuPage counties. As the Director of Government Affairs, I have the honor of working on behalf of the families and communities served by Metropolitan to influence the rules that govern their lives for the better. I also work to shape policy that supports the health and human services sector and our workforce. For example, last year we advanced solutions that increased funding for behavioral health mobile crisis response and crisis intervention services, increased funding for early intervention services in childcare and early education, made childcare more affordable, and encouraged state contractors to employ workforce development apprentices, among others. It keeps me busy enough! 

Besides times when we lived in Boston, Baltimore, or Washington D.C., we call the Southside of Chicago in the Hyde Park neighborhood home, where we currently live with our three fantastic kids, dog, and cat. It's hard to believe, but our oldest started college this year. We also have a sophomore in high school and a 7th grader at Daystar Academy which occasionally offers me the opportunity to test my loyalties when we compete against CCHS.