From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Connections at the Zoo" by Jeni Kanis

On Sunday, I (Jeni) had the unique opportunity to help with an event for the Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA) where I am interning. They work with an organization called Illinois Connections for Families of the Fallen (ICFF). This organization hosts events to connect families of fallen military members to each other and to services.

Sunday’s event was called “Connections at the Zoo.” And I wanted to share with you all one thing that was really amazing and interesting to me. ITA always brings a “wall” to each event. This wall has four wooden panels and space for people to use grout and mosaics. They can write on the pieces, create designs or just fill in as they like. This gives an opportunity for people to commemorate the lost and to create something out of it. 

I was struck yesterday by how art can help us process difficult things like the sudden loss of a loved one. When there are so many questions, emotions, needs and more, art can place something concrete in your hand and empower you to create when you feel powerless. So they could take ownership of what they put on the wall and create something of meaning and value to them. 

Our art therapist, Leslee, shared with me that she knows she cannot fully understand or empathize with these families because their loss is something she cannot begin to imagine or comprehend, but she finds joy in facilitating workshops and in helping with the wall because the families find ways to connect to each other, and because she gets to see families come back and how much they grow and change between events. She shared that she gets to see the healing process at certain points, and it is so encouraging for her to see that.

The event was a great opportunity to see more about what the arts can do in people’s lives, and how arts therapists can have a unique impact that allows people to create when they cannot find the words to discuss what has happened. I am learning that through creating art can come healing. 

 If you want to learn more about these events and where Leslee has taken the wall, you can see the blog at:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pilsen Neighborhood Tour by Jeni Kanis and Grace Snyder

Today, we took a program-wide trip to the diverse and culturally rich neighborhood of Pilsen. First, we split up into separate group tours around the neighborhood to see the amazing murals located on the sides of buildings and to visit different influential sites. We also met back together and went to the National Museum of Mexican Art for a tour of the Day of Dead exhibit. Lastly, we went to the Instituto Del Progreso Latino (IDPL) for a presentation and our program community dinner. 

On my (Grace’s) small group tour, we visited an arts education and career-training program called, Yollocalli Arts Reach. This is a youth initiative of the National Museum of Mexican Art that provides a safe and nurturing environment for the youth of Pilsen. As is expressed in their mission statement, Yollocalli is a space for experiential learning, collaboration with emerging artists, and the autonomy for youth to realize their own vision. This youth initiative provides free classes, exhibitions, visiting artists, video screenings, workshops and more!  It was so interesting to see this space and to look at some of the art that was produced by the youth involved. Yollocalli Arts Reach is just one impactful example of the communal and cultural resources for the Pilsen neighborhood. 

At the end of the day, we all met at IDPL. To me (Jeni), the institute just seemed like a school when we arrived. However, after we met with a couple of their staff members, it was obvious that their work included so much more. They work with adults and students in order to give them the experiences they need in order to succeed in the job market. For adults, this means that they find out from employers what skills they need and then they do trainings with the adults. The institute also houses an alternative high school where students can take extra science and math classes in order to prepare for careers in the medical field. The speaker told us that they emphasize and require these extra classes so that students are prepared, not overwhelmed, when they reach college. The organization also works with businesses and other organizations in the community. In addition, people also receive help with applying for and taking classes for citizenship and in all this work IDPL is working for a better community, not just changing individual lives. It was challenging to see the high quality and comprehensive work they are doing in the neighborhood of Pilsen.

This was such a great opportunity to see the rich culture of Pilsen and to learn more about organizations working there to encourage the community to thrive.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Interning at West Suburban Medical Center, by Grace Snyder

Hi, my name is Grace Snyder! I am one of the Social Work students in the Chicago Semester Program. So far my time here in the Windy City has been better than I could have imagined! I cannot believe that it has already been just over 5 weeks since I moved in. In the past several weeks I have come to realize that Chicago, and the Chicago Semester program, has so much to offer.

A large majority of my time is spent at my internship with the Social Services department at West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park. Interning in the medical field as a social worker is a very rare opportunity and I feel extremely lucky to be at West Sub. West Suburban Medical Center provides a wide variety of comprehensive medical, surgical and rehabilitation care. Social Services hold a significant role in interacting with patients who receive this care. Specifically, West Sub Social Services provides continuity of care planning, rehabilitation, counseling and long-term care.

Throughout the course of the semester, I will have made rounds to all of the units Social Services covers. These are the Progressive Care Unit, Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Department, Nursing/Orthopedic Unit, General Medical Inpatient Unit, Sub-Acute Rehabilitation/Skilled Nursing Unit, and Mother Baby/Labor and Delivery Unit.

Working in the hospital setting as a social worker has been a very eye-opening experience. Each day is unpredictable as patients are admitted and discharged. The units are fast past and the work is plenty, almost never-ending! I have been challenged with the presence of ethical dilemmas, confronting emotionally charged incidences, feeling helpless and hopeless for patient situations and simply learning how to do the daily tasks of a medical social worker.

Despite all of the challenges involved in this internship, I have never felt more blessed and content. I love the diversity and large cultural presence seen in the patients and professionals at West Suburban. Directly interacting with patients brings me so much joy. I love the connection that is formed during those times. It is so fulfilling to counsel, listen and be a support when needed.

I am excited to continue to learn and grow at West Sub. I am so grateful for what I have experienced thus far, and am looking forward to what is too come. This internship is educating me on how to perform social work roles effectively, identify strengths and weaknesses, and helping me to recognize what career direction I want to head in the future. Five weeks ago I would have never thought interning would be so impactful. Thank you Chicago Semester!