From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Learn. Lead. Create Community.

by Ann Hersey

Learn. Lead. Create community. My internship, Erie Neighborhood House, keeps this motto on their building and it serves as a reminder for me when I come in to work each day. I have been striving to do those three things during my time here. I have really been growing and doing so much that the first part of the semester seems like a blur. I am already over half way done with the semester!

I have been learning so much by being at my internship. One topic that I have learned a lot about is immigration. I have seen firsthand how immigration policy directly affects our clients. When President Obama delayed immigration action again until after the November election, the community of West Town was outraged. Erie released a statement that they are extremely disappointed and angry about the President’s decision to delay action and feels it is a slap in the face for the community’s many immigrants.

I am trying to take more of a leadership role at my internship. I have led a team-building activity that taught the kids about communication and working together. I have begun a research project where I created a new parent needs assessment for the youth program, YOU (Youth Options Unlimited), to use when they enroll a child. I will be giving the sample to a group of kids for one of their parents to fill out. We hope to find out what the YOU program is doing well and what it needs to improve or add to make it more helpful.

Creating community is something that I see happening at my site each and every day. It is a place where anyone is immediately welcomed no matter what one’s background or the baggage one carries. The kids get a safe place to come learn, have fun, and make lasting friendships. Erie is a place where the neighborhood can grow together and receive the services they need. I am truly blessed to be working in such an amazing organization.

Outside of my internship I have had a lot more fun adventures! My Social Work seminar class visited the Humboldt Park neighborhood together. We were given a tour of the Paseo Boricua, a Puerto Rican themed street, visited a church in the area, and ate some delicious Puerto Rican food.

I have also gone to the Field Museum and National Museum of Mexican Art, went to the Great Chicago Fire Festival, eaten in Greek Town, and took an architectural boat tour on the Chicago river just to name a few. I am looking toward the last half of the semester with an open heart and mind and I cannot wait to see what else is in store for me!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Building Relationships in Chicago

by Allison Brower

Hello, my name is Allison Brower. Currently I am a senior at Hope College (Holland, MI) and am spending my last semester doing Chicago Semester. My Social Work internship this semester is at Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.) in Evanston, IL. Already a month has flown by with so many fun activities and learning experiences. The thing that sticks out most from my experience so far is the relationships I have made.
At my internship I work as a YOUth Serve Member working with middle school students in an after-school program. The program meets everyday in the school cafeteria where we have an hour of homework. Then we cross the street to a church basement to have snack and finish the last hour with enrichment groups and life skills. Seeing the students everyday has really helped in getting to know them. A favorite moment with the students was when we went to a Northwestern football game. We had a wonderful time watching the game, eating food, and having fun just hanging out! The students are such an honest, carefree, and outgoing bunch that I have loved working with them.

Another group of people that I have enjoyed getting to know is my team at Y.O.U. We call ourselves #Team Chute. Working alongside these staff members I have learned things about myself and how to better work with others. Everyday consists of planning the program with one another where we share our ideas, opinions, and passions that we have for working with youth. Nothing is ever going to be picture perfect in the workplace, but my experience so far has been full of positive and exciting experiences.

And of course, I can’t forget the first people I met when I arrived in Chicago -- my classmates! The list of things to do in Chicago is endless and you can bet that we are all trying our best to do it all. One of the first weekends some friends and I enjoyed a White Sox vs. Tigers game (yay, MI). Then mid September a group of us enjoyed food together in a Progressive Dinner that Chicago Semester planned for us. And as smaller groups we have bonded over trying new restaurants, visiting breweries, hitting up Yogurtland, and attending church with one another.

Overall, my time in Chicago has been a semester to remember! I am looking forward to continuing building relationships with people, learning more about myself, and trying new things. Below I have listed some great tips that have been helpful for me while in Chicago!

5 things to do with a new (or old) friend (especially while in Chicago!)
        Take a selfie with them
        Eat a meal with them
        Go to a sporting event
        Try a new beer with them
        Attend a concert together

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Getting Settled in the Windy City

by Ann Hersey

Hello everyone! My name is Ann Hersey and I am a Social Work student at Hope College in Holland, MI. I moved into my tiny studio apartment a little over a month ago and time is flying by! Although it’s small, it’s furnished, safe, and in a great location in the Gold Coast. My roommate and I get along really well, which is a huge relief. The first week was filled with orientation activities, learning to use the CTA public transportation, and getting to know the other students in the program.

This fall semester I am doing my practicum with Chicago Semester. I am interning at a nonprofit organization in West Town called Erie Neighborhood House that works primarily with Latino immigrants. The organization was founded in 1870 and is the oldest “settlement house” still providing services (sadly, Jane Addams’ Hull House closed a few years ago). Erie provides an extremely long list of services to clients, including early childhood education, after school programs, ESL classes, citizenship and immigration services, technology programs, workforce development, and much more. I work in the YOU (Youth Options Unlimited) department, an after school program for youth ages 12-18.

A typical day for me will involve administrative work in the morning. For example, making sure client files are up to date in their folders and in the computer. In the afternoon, I am with the kids for the rest of the day. The kids have to do at least 45 minutes of homework and I help out during this time with any questions the kids have and keeping them focused. The kids can hang out, use the computers, play video games, or go to the gym/outside for the rest of the time. These first few weeks I have been trying to get to know the kids better. It has taken a while for some of the kids to open up, but each day the kids get more used to having me around. This past Friday  some of the high school students planned a party to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. We played pin the tail on the donkey, danced, hit a piƱata, played a Hispanic bingo game, and ate amazing Latino food made by the parents.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I work in the Citizenship and Immigration department. I am assisting clients with the Application for Naturalization, a very long and detailed 21 page form! I am learning so much about immigration and the citizenship process. Every day that I spend in this department makes me thankful that I was born a U.S. citizen, because the naturalization process is long, selective, and confusing.

With that being said, my first month in the Windy City hasn’t been all work and no play! I have done a lot of sightseeing and exploring. I have been to Navy Pier, The Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium, The Lincoln Park Zoo, Jane Addams’ Hull House, a local farmer’s market, and the beach to name a few. I love to eat and Chicago has no shortage of great food and restaurants to try. I have had delicious Chinese food in Chinatown and classic Chicago deep-dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s. There are so many things to do in this city and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester brings.