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Double Chai Check-In: What’s new with Amy Witt, school fitness proponent and world-repairer

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07/02/2013

Double Chai Check-In: What’s new with Amy Witt photo

Since being named to Double Chai in the Chi: Chicago’s first ever Jewish 36 under 36 list last year, Amy Witt has been busy making Chicago a healthier place.

Witt, who grew up in Deerfield, spends her days as the director of development and strategy for Chicago Run, a local non-profit that promotes health and wellness initiatives for high-needs Chicago public schools—its goal is to get kids up and running and promote an active, healthy lifestyle amongst children in Chicago.

Last month, she participated in the ROI Summit in Jerusalem, which brought together 150 young, innovative Jewish entrepreneurs from 37 countries around the world to network, collaborate, and get the support and space they need to help turn their ideas into dynamic new avenues for engagement in Jewish life. The ROI Community, part of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, is an international network of activists and change makers who are redefining Jewish engagement for a new generation of global citizens.

After graduating college in 2007, Witt joined Teach for America and spent two years teaching fifth grade in the south Bronx, which she says was a life-changing experience. During her time there, she got her students involved with the Mighty Milers program. Run by the New York Road Runners Association, the program promoted 15 minutes of running outside each day, which resulted in more focused students and a more productive learning environment.

At the end of her two years, she participated in the Schusterman Family Foundation Reality program for Teach for America members and alumni, which brings these teachers to Israel for 10 days.

“It was on that trip that for the first time in my life that I really was able to realize that my passion for service and for working to improve some of the issues around education inequity really come from this Jewish place of tikkun olam and comes from Jewish values,” Witt said. “That connection for me was incredibly powerful—just to be able to link my passion for social justice with my upbringing and the values I’ve always grown up with based in Judaism.

When she returned from the Reality program and still inspired by her experience in New York, she moved back to Chicago and learned of Chicago Run, which at the time was only a year old. Since joining Chicago Run four years ago, Witt has helped the organization grow and expand to serving 16,000 students in 55 schools in 33 different neighborhoods around Chicago, introducing running, promoting a healthy lifestyle and improving the self-esteem of the students in the schools they serve.

Witt also serves on the Board of Directors for Repair the World, which she says is working to make service a defining part of American Jewish life.

So what’s next for Witt?

“[I’d like to continue] to work more with the Jewish community in Chicago to really link the social justice and service world with the Jewish values, because for me that’s been such a powerful connection,” she said. “Continuing to get more and more involved with the Jewish community in Chicago is definitely a goal of mine.”

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