Blog Spotlight: Tristan Slemmons

Tristan Slemmons is a long-time supporter of the foundation who has leveraged her network and position at Bank of America to support the foundation, volunteer and bring new individuals to IIF events.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Tristan Slemmons. While I am from Minneapolis, Minnesota, I consider Chicago home. I am the Community Relations Manager for Chicago with Bank of America.

How did you first heard about IIF?

I was first introduced to the Israel Idonije Foundation in 2010 as he was recognized as a Bank of America Local Hero. The Local Heroes program was a Bank of America award that annually recognized 5 stellar individuals for their work in the community. A selection panel selected Israel and 4 others that year among 75 applications. I believe Israel’s story resonated and was chosen because he is passionate about service and youth and sincerely making a difference.

We partnered on an event for the students of his First Down Program at Shedd Aquarium. Like many people who run organizations, Izzy was there. Unlike many who run organizations, he was truly involved with the kids. He knew their names, their teachers, their challenges and their stories. For someone who is as busy as he, travels as he, is asked to be everywhere and anywhere, it was clear this was a priority. And he learned it early on from his parents and I believe, is just doing what is natural to him. His excitement got me excited and was on board.

What event(s) have you volunteered at with IIF? Can you share a story from one of them?

As a volunteer for IIF, I have been a part of Shop With A Cop for three years. It is my favorite volunteer event because the message is near to my heart. My father was a St. Paul, MN cop for 26 years. My dad put his life on the line every day, serving the community, and making sure the streets were safe for all and particularly for me and my sister. As he wore the uniform of what is often looked at as the enemy, his only goal was to take care of the community. He cared for others and expressed it in how he served. What I love about this event is that it works to rebuild the relationship between cops and the kids and helps open the dialogue to gain trust and understanding. It is what my father did and he was loved and respected by the community he served, which made a difficult job worth it.

Why is supporting at risk youth so important?

I support at-risk youth because we do not have our choice of family into which we are born and it should not determine our destiny. I grew up in a neighborhood that had its clear challenges and significant lack of opportunity. Fortunately, my mom did something very simple - she gave me a book. Since then I have always loved to read because it took me places beyond my neighborhood street light and corner stop sign. I believe the game changer for me is that I was blessed with parents who worked incredibly hard to change my reality. Had I not had people around me to point me in the right direction or who cared about me, with something as small as handing me a book, I may have a very different story to tell. We never know who may impact our lives and make a difference. For some it could be a parent or a teacher. For others, it might be a Chicago Bear or a Chicago cop.

Either way, IIF is making a difference and I am thrilled to be a part of it!