From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

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.