From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hunger Banquet and Citizenship Day

One of the things that I love most about Chicago is that I have the opportunity to see many different cultures and ethnicities all in one place. Just walking down the street, I see many people that I never would have seen if I had stayed back home this semester. I get to hear different languages being spoken on the El and as I walk down the streets. Learning about diversity has always been very interesting for me, so it is something that I am definitely enjoying!

Chicago Semester recently had a Hunger Banquet. It was the first one they have done. I went, and am glad that I did! Everyone was divided up into different classes. Some were upper class, and because of that, they were given more food than others. I was in the lowest class. I was homeless.

There were 4 of us total. Everyone else was served their food, but for us to get our food, we had to walk down the hall to one of the classrooms. It was to signify the distances that many homeless people must go for food. When we got there, we were only given a small serving of white rice. The one perk for us – we were allowed to beg the higher classes for food. That night for dinner, I had a small serving of white rice, one chicken nugget from McDonald’s, and part of a bread stick. This was a great experience, and it shed a little light on what many people in Chicago (and around the world) go through on a daily basis. It definitely gets you thinking.

Something else that I have participated in was Citizenship Day. Everyone in Chicago Semester went to a different place to volunteer at for a few hours. We went to Fourth Presbyterian Chicago Lights. These are just a few of the services that they offer: a weekly community meal that usually serves 125 persons, bag lunches distributed three days a week, a food pantry, distribution of clothing, housing information and assistance, computer classes, community voice mail, local transportation assistance, job readiness training, advocacy, health screenings, support groups, and (limited) case management.

We went mainly to help out with the food pantry, but also helped with many other aspects of the program. The food pantry is set up like a mini grocery store. Guests can walk through with a grocery cart, and pick out whatever it is that they need. I loved that it is set up that way! I think it’s really important to show that people have some dignity and worth, no matter how much they do or don’t have. How a food pantry is set up will set the tone of the environment and the people that come in for help. If you just hand them a bag of food, it isn’t as empowering as allowing the guests to come in and pick and choose what they want to take home with them (just like when they go grocery shopping).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Tears Foundation, Sarah Tow

Ohhh, it’s been a while! I was not born to be a blogger, haha! Chicago has been busy, and so have I. I’ve been spending a lot of time at my internship and getting to know the city more and more. I’ve been thinking about my next blog for weeks now, but I’m finally writing it.

A few weeks ago my supervisor was told about a new organization (or at least new to IL). It’s called The Tears Foundation. It’s actually pretty interesting. The Tears Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to help parents with the financial expenses that they face when making arrangements for their baby that has died. They also provide bereavement support for the parents.

This organization was started in 2002, by Sarah Slack. She and her husband had experienced a stillbirth with their son, and she took her tragedy and turned it into something good. The Tears Foundation has received two awards: Award for Innovation in Service (Non-Profit Excellence Awards), and the Pay It Forward Award (Principal Global Financial). It seems like a great up-and-coming organization.

My internship has been great! I love everything about it, and I can definitely see myself continuing this in the future. I think my favorite part is spending time with the patients. I’ve noticed that they all have different support systems. Some have parents with them all of the time. Others have someone with them in either the mornings or evenings. And then there are some that are alone the whole time. I’ve also noticed that if a child is in foster care, they don’t usually have anyone come visit them. I like to target these kids and spend a little extra time with them.

We’ve had a few field trips this semester. Our Metro II class went to the Jane Addams Hull House Museum one afternoon. It was very interesting learning about the work that Jane and her colleagues were a part of, and the difference they made.

I also went to see the movie, The Interrupters. I really enjoyed it. It’s a movie about Violence Interrupters of Chicago that try to keep the communities safe from violence. Each of the three Violence Interrupters that they follow used to be involved in the violence that they are now trying to end. It was a very interesting movie, and I would definitely recommend seeing it.

Well, that’s it for now! Until the next post!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Start of fall 2011 semester

My name is Sarah and I am a social work student from Cornerstone University. This semester, I am doing my internship at Loyola University Medical Center in the Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital. I am working with the Child Life Specialist.

I’ve been in Chicago for a few weeks now, and I am loving it! The first week was orientation. We lived downtown in Hotel Allegro. Our days were filled with meetings and excursions into the city. It was a busy week, and there were a lot of new faces and information being thrown our way. We went out to eat at a few restaurants that week. My groups went to Flat Top Grill and CafĂ© Iberico. Both places were very good!

I also started my internship that week. It’s still only the beginning, so I’m still doing a lot of following. I check on kids and see if they need anything brought to their rooms. I also play with kids when they come down to the playroom. We have art, pet, and music therapy for them throughout the week. I have also had the chance to attend a few conferences with my supervisor. I’m really excited for my internship and I know it will be a great semester!

I have a commute of one hour and fifteen minutes, so my days are pretty long. I have a few hours in the evenings and my weekends free to relax or go out and enjoy the city. So far I’ve gone on tours (both boat and bike), eaten pizza, enjoyed the Chicago Jazz Festival, gone to a Cubs game, spent some time at the zoo, and many other things! Life is exciting here!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Deciding on an internship placement at Chicago Semester

Jenny recently posted this comment/question: " Hi Sarah!  My professor gave this link to your blog because I am  considering the Chicago Semester.  I am just wondering how you decided what placement you wanted to do?  I am filling out my application for next spring and I am a little stumped.  Thanks - Jenny"

Thanks for your question. I’m glad you are following my blog!

The process of finding an internship for me was easy. I just let Nancy Fox, the social work liaison; know what areas of social work I was interested in. From there, she made some calls to agencies that deal with the populations I wanted to work with. In fact, the agency I am working at, The Lawndale Christian Health Center, was an agency I already knew I wanted to work for. I asked Nancy Fox if she would see if there were any internships available. She was able to find one for me in the Maternal and Child Health Department of LCHC. I did my interview over the phone, and then I was all set. My case was an exception. All the other CSers who are in social work program were set up with some interviews to a few different social work agencies. They came to Chicago to do the interviews, and after they were able to pick which agency fit them best. There are MANY to choose from. I am confident you would be able to find a great one. Don’t be nervous! The Chicago Semester staff is SO extremely helpful. Everything from orientation to the city, housing, and internships sites, they welcome any and all questions!

In addition to your question, I thought I’d might as well give you some additional information as to what we do for the social work class (practicum). We meet with a group of 4-5 social work majors and a liaison to discuss things that have happened throughout the week. This has been a great time to connect the things we have learned in the classroom to things we are learning at our placements. We write papers about ethical dilemmas we have faced, present cases we are working on, get feedback and insight from our peers, and as always we go to the Jane Adams Hull House as a field trip. It is a great ‘circle of friends’ to let out pent-up thoughts and feelings about our clients, sites, homework, life, etc. (with respect to confidentiality, of course!) We talk about current issues, watch documentaries, and this semester we had a great speaker come speak to us about community development.

This has been a full and rich experience. Every detail has been covered to make your time here enjoyable, productive, and a life-lasting experience. But if there ever were concerns the staff would be on the ball to accommodate your needs. The social work need in Chicago is extensive, but at the same time there are so many EXCELLENT agencies that are great models for social change. It is great to be a part of it!

Let me know if you have any more questions!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Family Farmed

Fans and Followers:

This past weekend I was able to attend (That’s right. You guessed it...) another conference!

I don’t know about all of you, but never before have I enjoyed conferences and workshops as much as I do now! I fully believe it has to do with the great staff members at the Chicago Semester who can hook-a-girl-up with the best of the best opportunities that relate to me as an individual and who I aspire to become. With that said, let me tell you a bit about this blue ribbon exhibition I attended Friday and Saturday. 

 The conference was titled, “The Family Farmed Expo.” If I could summarize all the many aspects of this conference I would say that ‘it was an opportunity for professionals who attack food related injustices on a daily basis to come together and share their stories, expertise, advice, challenges, successes, insight, and wisdom into the plethora of issues regarding food in the Chicago-land and the United States.’ There were people from the entire spectrum of food production to consumption, from farmers, government officials, NGOs, non-profits, school nutritionists, and restaurant owners. Everyone represented a field of food that wanted to make the city of Chicago, and the whole country, a safer and more accessible place for food consumption. Major issues were covered, but one workshop I really enjoyed attending gathered successful restaurant owners in Chicago who also create menus of completely organic and local produce and meats. They discussed the importance of quality no matter what the food costs. They also have preserved the affordable costs of their food by reducing portion sizes. (Which Americans need anyway, no?)

The conference also had a food “market.” It had more than 100 local businesses who manufacture tasty, healthy, wholesome, sustainable foods. It was great to see which restaurants, butcheries, bakeries, and brands to look out for.

At the end, I bought a deck of cards, but not just any deck. I bought the “ a la card,” a deck of 52 cards with 52 top local and sustainable restaurants in the city of Chicago. On each card is the name, description, and prices of the restaurant. Best part? Each card is a $10 gift card to that restaurant! Needless to say, I will be starting a food blog about the 52 places I am going to visit in the next year! Interested in getting a stack for you? Go to this website:

Overall, it was ‘the cream of the crop’ of conferences. These issues have become ‘the apple of my eye,’ but before I get ahead of myself and ‘count my chickens before they hatch’ I’m gonna quit these farm idioms and check out my first card: Karyn’s on Green-Vegan Cuisine with a French Twist.

Bon Appetite!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Field Trips!

To all my many followers:  It has been about two weeks since my last post and things here in the city-of-windy have been rockin’. The sun has finally started to emerge, and the crisp, cool smells of spring greet me as I step into the morning. All the joys of winter are quickly dismissed as we look forward to the coming of longer days and rays of sunshine on our faces!

The past two weeks have been very eventful. I have been able to participate in a few field trip opportunities—one to the Jane Addams’ Hull House on the University in Chicago’s campus, and also the whole Chicago Semester program took a day to attend the SCUPE Conference on urban ministries. The SCUPE conference was a gathering of many religious leaders in the Chicago area who are intentional, or are trying to be intentional, about creating and developing the communities in and surrounding their parishes. Speakers addressed issues such as ministry to gangs, building community, and advocating for community member’s rights. We were also able to participate in a march to the Thompson Center downtown Chicago to rally to pass bills regarding the carrying of concealed weapons. Recently, the state of Illinois was considering passing a law that approved the carrying of concealed weapons with license, but the religious leaders of SCUPE were upset about this bill. They wanted to make sure no one was allowed to carry weapons to prevent unnecessary violence. They conducted a peaceful protest outside the Thompson Center by sharing personal stories, singing hymns, and raising awareness about the subject. Overall, it was a neat experience to actually be IN a group that was advocating for something very real in our world today.

The social work and nursing students were also able to attend a field trip and tour at the Jane Addams’ Hull House at the UIC campus. It was the original Hull House Museum where we were able to learn about Jane’s life as the first “social worker” to open a settlement house in the United States. Her model of holistic health created a standard for all social work and health care practice since.

Besides the educational trips, my internship has been getting better and better! I think the longer we are here the easier it is to be completely immersed in what we are doing. I have been able to get a lot of experience in a broad spectrum of social work roles. I have been able to do case management, resource referrals, business and administrative tasks and research, general research, client specific research, teach education classes, provide home visit services, and conduct enrollments into health support. Overall, this has been a great experience! I can’t believe we are already a little more than half way done!

Ready for the restaurant referral?

I dream of Falafel is a great restaurant that has now become a few locations strong around the downtown area of Chicago. There is also one located only 3 blocks from the Chicago Semester Offices! If you like Mediterranean Cuisine (i.e. gyros, pita, hummus, tubule, etc.) you will LOVE this place. It’s also a great find for vegans and vegetarians! Yumm…..!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sarah Russo: On Social Work and City Living

Hello friends! My name is Sarah Russo and I am a senior at Hope College in Holland, MI. I am very excited to be spending the next few months in Chicago, IL. I’m so thrilled to report to you all things comin' down here in the windy city. Get excited for updates on my internship, trips, and fun nights out in this superb metropolis! There is so much vivacity all around, and I cannot wait to share it with you all!

Our first week here we had a rock’n orientation at the Allegro Hotel in the heart of downtown. Being in the midst of all hustle when you walked outside was the BEST! There are so many great restaurants, coffee shops, shopping, and of course people watching! Since I am a social work student, and I already had my internship previous to arriving in Chicago I was able to spend a lot of time exploring. One of the Arts in the City professors even gave me a sweet hook-up to this small venue that plays local music.

Some girls I met the same day and I went and enjoyed an eclectic new style of music we had never heard before. It was great to experience some of the richness of local Chicago culture in addition to all the commercial aspects. It was a charming way to start off the first week of the semester!
Chicago is made up of 77 different neighborhoods, and the population I serve in my internship is the 3rd poorest of them. My Social Work internship is at the Lawndale Christian Health Center in the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago.
I work in the Maternal and Child Health Department of this free clinic. I spend most of my time enrolling low-income mothers into our family case management services. Case management provides these mothers (ages 14 and up) support during their pregnancies in any way they can. We offer them referrals to other services they may need besides health care, like: transportation, housing, job referrals, day-care options, and education opportunities like obtaining their GED. I also work in the Lead Department. In Chicago, there are so many buildings over 100 years old that were coated with lead-based paint that are still around today. Even though there is not any trace of lead in the paint we use now, there are still young children living in homes where it is everywhere. Children ingest this lead and are poisoned from it. It is one of my jobs to provide lead education to the parents/guardians of these children, for lead poisoning can cause serious cognitive development. I also do a lot of administrative work, such as: updating referral resources and completing customer satisfaction surveys. 

I really enjoy my internship. My supervisor has been very intentional to make sure I have a very well rounded experience. I am so grateful for her. She keeps me very busy, and there is not a moment that I feel “bored.” I also decided to opt-out of Chicago Semester housing, so I could be closer to my internship (across the street from it actually). Living in the neighborhood I am serving has been extremely helping in getting to know the people here. However, I am not sure I would choose it again since I am not living with other CS students. I would try to stay with the CS housing if you decide to come.

Overall, my experience so far has been grand! I have been able to attend many local music shows, art exhibitions, and last week we saw the Broadway version of Les Miserables! These opportunities were amazing and so affordable. In addition, I have been able to do some great taste testing of all Chicago’s finest vegan/vegetarian cuisine. I am a vegan, so it was always hard to find things in Holland. Chicago has everything your heart may desire and more. I will keep you posted with at least one really great restaurant with every post. Make sure to check these places out next time you are in Chicago. I will also provide links for your convenience.

I’m off to class, but I will post soon about the field trip we are taking to the Jane Addams Hull House on Sunday and a really great spot called the Bleeding Heart Punk Rock Pastries.