Most 21-year-olds have big dreams, but not on the same level as Ablavi Ayikpo.
One of these dreams is to make her parents proud, inspired by seeing her parents’ sacrifice and courage.
When she was 6 years old, Ayikpo and her family moved to the United States as refugees from Togo, the West Africa nation sandwiched between Ghana and Benin.
"I’m grateful—we actually struggled a lot,” she said. “My dad wanted a better life for us, he was in the military, so our life was hard.
“Whatever I do I make sure to please my parents and make them proud.”
Today, she considers herself a Chicagoan and a happy member of The Tides community, where she became a member of the door staff last November. Although she hadn’t spent time in New Eastside before, she quickly became attached to the property’s welcoming attitude.
”I love it,” she said. “I tell the residents, I tell my manager that I don’t want to leave anytime soon. You can’t beat this building, it’s perfect—the residents, the community, it’s perfect.”
She also made a quick impression on the patrons at The Tides. One couple who has been quarantined in Canada even called Ayikpo directly to let her know they wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon.
“The residents make me feel like I’m at home,” she said. “Days where I doubled and stayed overnight—it doesn’t bother me when I’m not able to go home. I can never hate coming to work.”
Home is actually East Rogers Park, and there, Ayikpo likes to connect with her spiritual side and study the Bible. She says it is something she’s able to bring to her job to help people.
“We’re very religious and spiritual,” she said. “So I’m always reading books and feeding my spirit.”
Ayikpo hopes to design her own clothing line and launch an online boutique and she loves to pick the brains of business-minded residents.
“I’m in the process of becoming a business woman,” she said. “There’s always something to talk to them about and I love knowing what they do.”
But for now, she is exactly where she wants to be, making her parents proud.
“My favorite part of the job is to help the residents,” she said. “I really love when I can solve a problem on my end. We’re right here, so being able to solve problems makes people’s days better. If I can help in any way, I can.”