Here at Chicago Center, students get firsthand experience in issues of social justice and community engagement every day. Spring ’12 Social Work Practicum student Siri Lokensgard wrote about an unforgettable experience during her Social Work placement.
“Throughout the entire day, I was at Legal Assistance Foundation in the South Loop helping them with a Children Across Borders Event, in which lawyers, judges, social services providers, and attorney generals from around the world come to the United States under the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Visitors from Brazil, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Uruguay, Netherlands, and Cambodia (to name only a few) were present to discuss issues regarding children, such as poverty, abduction, foster care, trafficking, and immigration. All of these individuals were coming together to provide more insight into these issues internationally and offer the United States a better understanding and perspective of these problems at large. This was probably one of the coolest and most interesting things that I have ever been a part of. It was very neat to see this unification of influential leaders from around the world come together to address and fight against these social injustices.
In the afternoon, I attended the meeting, interacted and talked with these leaders about social justice issues. I felt so fortunate being able to discuss issues that I have been researching, getting a better understanding of international efforts and cultural practices. I think it helped me become a lot more competent not only culturally but also academically. It definitely made me reflect on and critique the way our systems work in the United States. For example, in many of the countries being represented, they do not believe in nursing homes, viewing them as shameful and disrespectful to the elderly. In addition with all of this, we broke up into smaller groups to discuss specific topics, such as community engagement, trafficking, social work, and immigration issues. I had the honor of actually leading one of these discussions. I couldn’t believe that, as only an undergraduate student, I would get to lead a group of influential leaders from around the world on issues that I am passionate about. In this discussion, we talked about social work efforts, theories/models, challenges systemically and institutionally, and creative strategies. In this discussion, I learned a lot more about foster care efforts in other countries.
Finally, we ended the event by having a time for networking. I had been itching to talk with this man from Cambodia on the issue of sex trafficking, since that is a passion of mine and a field of practice for him, as I learned during introductions. Through this connection, I was able to see possible work in Cambodia some day for myself. This entire day just empowered me, giving me new energy to take on social justice issues around the world, teaming up with others to truly make a difference.”
The Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture was founded in 1970, and since then has helped thousands of college students make Chicago their classroom. The Chicago Center serves students from more than 30 liberal arts colleges and universities by providing practicum opportunities in all academic majors as well as urban teaching and social work in Chicago.
The Chicago Center engages students with urban resources, realities, and issues through a first voice pedagogy which uses the city directly as a teaching resource.
Upon arrival, students share apartments in the heart of Hyde Park (1327 E. Hyde Park Boulevard). They receive a one – or two-week course in the culture of the city, attending a variety of different religious services, plays, music, venues, museums, and festivals throughout the city.
After touring of the city, students are steered towards an internship that will challenge their particular academic interests.
StreetWise has hosted six interns from the Chicago Center in the last three years, including Brenna Daldorph, whose August 5, 2009 cover story won ‘Best Feature’ at this year’s North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA) awards.
Rachel Sylwestrzak, the most recent intern, told us about her experience with the Chicago Center and interning at StreetWise.
“I was interested in publishing, and StreetWise was one of the contacts that the Center game me.” Sylwestrzak said. “It wasn’t the exact idea I had in mind, but I thought that working here would challenge me, in addition to giving me an inside look at a lifestyle that I hadn’t really been exposed to. I’m glad I came here, because it worked out great. One thing that was kind of big for me – I live in the suburbs, and we don’t have public transportation. One of the things the Center stressed was how to use the CTA to get around the city. So, it’s made me more comfortable when I have to go out to different locations for stories,” She continued.
“I got to cover a few city hall meetings, which is something I’d never got to do before. It was very interesting and definitely something I will remember from my experience here in Chicago.”
Sylwestrzak concluded, “The Chicago Center is very supportive of the internship. I like how they let us take charge of the experience. It’s been a perfect fit.”
Marit Ehmke interned at StreetWise through Chicago Center in January 2009. Reflecting on her experiences, she said, “I learned a lot of new things, met a lot of great people, and experience what life in Chicago is really all about. Working at StreetWise reminded me of how important it is to help out in when, where, and any way you can.”
For more information about the Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture, visit www. chicagocenter.org, or call 773.262.1313
The Chicago Center, located here in Hyde Park, could very well be the most important neighborhood institution you’ve never heard of. Tucked away in the office space at 1515 E. 52nd Pl., the center has spent four decades bridging the gap between urban communities and those that attend university with an eye to studying them, teaching in them and otherwise working in those places. Scott Chesebro, who heads the center, describes it as having more in common with, for example, a living abroad program than with a more traditional urban studies format.
We don’t think of ourselves as a service learning program. We don’t think of ourselves as a vista-type education program [We are] an urban education program that utilizes the city and its resources as an educational tool,” Chesebro said.
Students at Chicago Center, who come from over 30 colleges largely in less urban settings and in many cases from across the Midwest, are given crash courses in navigating public transportation, exposed to the diversity of neighborhoods throughout the city and are challenged to deal directly with the people who are represented by the studies and statistics that often are the main fare of such majors as sociology and urban planning.
It is this quality, which Urban Social Work Practicum Director Arvis Averette describes as “a reliance on first voices,” that sets the center apart from many other kinds of programs.
“It’s like study abroad in Chicago,” Chesebro said. “It functions more like a study abroad program than it does a service learning program or an internship program that a student might do while they’re at the University of Chicago. Maybe they do an internship at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, but they’re still living on campus, they’re still going to classes every day. They’re just doing a volunteer experience in the neighborhood.”
Averette contrasts this to other learning environments related to urban studies.
“Many of the academic things that one does in school-you look at the community and study it, look at the statistics and so forth. But here- the separation from the other programs I’ve been aware of – is this reliance on having people from that community who are very responsible people, who know the community and speak to it to the students in a learning fashion,” Averette said. “For example, if we are going to deal with Bronzeville, we would invariably talk to Tim Black or Harold Lucas who are the reigning experts on these areas.”
By all accounts, students currently at the center give high marks to the approach.
Student Ryann Bird, who comes from a small town in rural Nebraska and attends school in Lincoln, said her initial impression of the South Side of Chicago was, like many people, based on pretty unreliable source of information.
“I’m from a really tiny town in Nebraska with 5,500 people. My parents, they knew everything they see on TV about the South Side of Chicago. I was nervous at first,” Bird said. “But Hyde Park is really safe and homey…it’s not like the media portrays it at all.”
Bird is interning at the DuSable Museum of African American History, which she gets to via public transportation each day from the apartment building the center recently purchased for its students. Student Beth Izzo, who is teaching second grade at Beasley Elemetary on State Street, said the shared living quarters have been a big help to her as a student teacher.
‘It’s good to live with other student teachers so we can talk about our experiences, which always helps,” Izzo said, “It’s nice to have that support system.”
Chicago Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a full day of events this Saturday, Nov. 6, culminating in an evening at Carnivale. For more information, call Althea Conyers at 773-363-1312 or visit chicagocenter.org
The Urban Apprenticeship is an exciting opportunity we offer Chicago Center alumni that have just graduated college. More than a job it offers opportunities for learning and skill development in a supportive urban learning community.
The apprenticeship started in 1990 and grew out of the mutual interests of Chicago Center alums to prolong their contact with Chicago Center and the Center’s interest in strengthening its staff and program. It has exceeded expectations in both arenas and has become a great strength of Chicago Center. The Urban Apprentice usually spends one full year in residence at Chicago Center. This month Ben Cook, Housing Coordinator talks about his experience with Chicago Center:
“My name is Ben Cook and I am the new Housing Coordinator at Chicago Center. One of the great things about studying at Chicago Center is the group living arrangement at our new Boulevard building, here in Hyde Park. Students experience firsthand life in a diverse, urban environment while they participate in academic internships, student teaching programs or social work practicums. My job is to be a group living resource and support for students, to help ensure that every student gets the most out of his or her time spent living in Chicago.
I came to Chicago Center in the Fall of 2009 in part because I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and to experience life in a big city. More importantly, I came because I studied Sociology at my university and I found it fascinating, but abstract – it was disconnected from my experience. My semester at Chicago Center was the most important part of my college education because it gave life to those academic concepts and ideas which I found so interesting. It’s one thing to read about gentrification; it’s something very different to meet a community organizer who is actively trying to protect thier neighborhood’s way of life. It’s one thing to study how immigration law affects immigrants; it’s something very different to have conversations with friends and family of undocumented workers who live in constant fear of deportation. For a whole semester, I regularly met people who are on the front lines, fighting misunderstanding and intolerance. The best part: Chicago Center watered nothing down.
But Chicago Center had a profound impact on me for another reason as well. It introduced me to Renee, the amazing, beautiful woman who would become my wife. Renee came to Chicago to participate in the student teaching program. She and I hit it off right away during the intense week of orientation activities. We love to reminisce about our first memories together – all of them at Chicago Center events: the Latin American Music Festival, the Chicago Architecture Tour, Barrel of Monkeys… Renee had an incredibly rewarding experience student teaching choir at two schools in Chicago Public Schools during her semester here. It’s safe to say that we are both very appreciative of Chicago Center. After my year as an apprentice, we hope to stay involved as alumni and friends of the Center.”
We’d like to thank Ben for telling us about his experience and letting us share it with our potential students and alumni!
CHICAGO CENTER FOR URBAN LIFE AND CULTURE TO HOST URBAN EDUCATION SYMPOSIUM
Plenary speaker Dr. Gregory Michie discusses Public Education in Chicago and its Implications for National Policy
October 4, 2010 – Chicago,IL – On November 4 & 5, Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture (CCULC) will host an Urban Education Symposium, bringing in educators from across the country to take an in-depth look at Public Education in Chicago and its Implications for National Policy. The symposium will begin with a plenary address co-sponsored by the International House Global Voices Program and will be delivered by Dr. Gregory Michie, author of “Holler If You Hear Me: The Education of a Teacher and His Students” and “See You When We Get There: Teaching for Change in Urban Schools.” Dr. Michie’s address is at 5:30 p.m. on November 4 in University of Chicago’s International House, 1414 E. 59th Street, and will be free and open to the public.
Dr. Michie has worked in education for the past 20 years; he spent 9 years as a public school teacher on the South Side of Chicago before stepping into the role of a teacher-educator in 2001. He was a recipient of the Golden Apple Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1996.
“The crisis in our public education system has moved front and center in the national dialogue, spiked by the ‘Race to the Top’ and the movie ‘Waiting for Superman,’” Scott Chesebro, CCULC Executive Director said. “Chicago Center has developed a recognized urban teaching program and has been placing student teachers in Chicago’s Public schools for three decades. It is the perfect moment to bring together educators and students to engage in the dialogue, and I can’t think of anyone more capable of stimulating the discussion than Greg Michie.”
Recognized nationwide as a leader in experiential education and founded in 1970, Chicago Center has extended the classroom walls for thousands of students from more than 30 liberal arts colleges and universities from across the country by providing practicum opportunities in ALL academic majors, as well as urban teaching and urban social work in Chicago. Through its Urban Teaching practicum, CCULC has connections with dozens of Chicago Public Schools and currently has 23 student teachers placed around the city.
“At Chicago Center we connect our students with experts and leaders in their field and give student teachers the resources they need for cross-cultural teaching. We ask Dr. Michie to speak to Chicago Center student teachers because of his commitment to understanding the children we are teaching within the contexts of their lives,” Nancy Friesen, CCULC Urban Teaching Practicum Director said. “Top down education policies can leave little room for students, families and communities to be heard; he’s a voice for making sure the children don’t get lost. He encourages people to be responsive to their students while working with mandates from above.”
On November 5, the symposium continues with a structured introduction to Chicago Public Schools via CPS school visits and discussions with educators from various Chicago neighborhoods. Participants will also have the option to spend the morning observing a CCULC cooperating teacher or current student teacher.
“Providing all students, including those in urban classrooms with highly-qualified and highly-effective teachers is essential to the ongoing development of our students, our communities and our nation,” said Suzanne Katz, symposium participant and Associate Professor of Educational Studies at Ripon College. “Events like the Urban Education Symposium, led by CCULC provide those seeking teacher licensure the opportunity to experience the promise and challenges associated with teaching in an urban setting. The Symposium is a means to clarify their eventual classroom role as one of engaging in productive, positive learning experiences with a wide circle of students, families, and communities.”
Just days after the symposium, CCULC celebrates its 40th anniversary on November 6with a full day of Exploring Chicago’s Communities and Cultures. The day includes a Chicago Center Signature South Side Tour, an Alumni Lunch Reception, and an evening Anniversary Gala. For more information, visit: www.chicagocenter.org.
Chicago Center equips college students and other participants to learn from diverse urban communities through innovative programs, seminars and internships. The Center expands the traditional classroom with a community-based, first-voice pedagogy that prepares its students for greater self-awareness and global citizenship.
Chicago Center Alumni Jean Boen, May 2006, recently shared with us a speech she gave at her home college, Bluffton University. Jean writes:
“I found this reflection that I wrote to give as a speech at Bluffton University in 2006, after I returned back to campus after my experience at the Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture in the South Side of Chicago. (At that point known as the Urban Life Center) The Chicago Center is a life changing experience that is located in Hyde Park. I was looking through a text book from college and this speech was folded up inside. Even though it’s not incredibly well written, reading over this now is so interesting. My experience at the Chicago Center really shaped who I am in just a few short weeks. It was like striking a match, which slowly…through life experiences since then, has turned into the fire that keeps me moving each day in my job. I’m forever grateful for the experience that was the catalyst to getting me where I am today. So here it is….
“Thou shalt not be a perpetrator; thou shalt not be a victim; and thou shalt never, but never, be a bystander.” This quote perfectly states what I learned from my cross cultural experience in Chicago. Throughout the years I’ve had many experiences that have forced me to rethink what I believe and be able to state why I believe in something. However, a few weeks after the experience, my passion begins to fade, my convictions become less and less noticeable to those around me, and soon I let what I learned become only a distant memory. I am proud to say this was not the case with my experiences with the Urban Life Center. I became so comfortable with my neighborhood that wrongly has the reputation for being dangerous and run down. This is best descried by an excerpt from my journal. I wrote this on the bus on the way back from the loop in downtown Chicago…
“After walking through the fair, overhearing many authors reading excerpts from their novels or poetry, after dodging many strollers and rollerbladers, as I walked by the booths, I began to find myself overwhelmed by the amount of people in the small area and decided to head back home. Home I call it, home it is beginning to feel like, the home I respect because of its diversity, it’s openness, it’s unique beauty, it’s culture, the home I call Hyde Park.”
The experience at the ULC has taught me to take my knowledge and do something with it. It’s not enough to know about injustice and feel sorry for those who are oppressed while facing what seem to be unsurpassable challenges. We have to realize what is going on in our world and do something about it. While listening to instructors, artists, and citizens talk about the issues that Chicago struggles with; I have learned that many of these issues reach outside the city limits. While I was hearing more and more about the extreme segregation here, I thought about the segregation at Bluffton. Why is this? Why are we comfortable with this? And why aren’t we doing anything about it? Why is it that cultural events at our University seem to have the least attendance out of any events on campus? Why is it that this cross cultural program is the only one I know of in which students continually interact with people from a city INSIDE the US? Why aren’t more of our cross cultural experiences under the supervision of other institutions like the ULC? Why are we simply taking professors out of the classroom setting to teach the exact same beliefs that they teach in the classroom? Are we not supposed to be exposed to anything different? Why does it seem that sometimes we are encouraging spoon feeding instead of giving students opportunities to see both sides of an issue and decide for themselves? I have struggled with many questions while on this trip. I can now say that when hearing racist jokes that yes, believe it or not, are still often stated on Bluffton’s campus… I won’t be afraid of speaking my mind and telling them how incredibly ignorant they are.
By spending time in Chicago I have learned that YES, we have freedom, but we do not have equality. I know now that we have much farther to go than most people think, and if our generation doesn’t do something, we will continue to sit at a stand still. I have learned to not be satisfied with where we are. I am committed to sharing what I have learned with others. I will do my best to point out the injustice that I see in my small corner of Ohio. I will not be a victim, I will not be a perpetrator, but most importantly…I WILL NOT BE A BYSTANDER.”
Some will say this was written by an idealistic college student? Yes….I know. But I still stand by it.”
After leaving Chicago and graduating from Bluffton University, Jean began a Housing Program in Wooster Ohio at a Social Service Agency, Liberty Center Connections. They house two smaller agencies, STEPS (a substance abuse and treatment facility) and Every Woman’s House (a domestic violence shelter, mental health counseling facility, and batterer’s intervention center). She began the “Liberty Center Connections Housing Initiative” in April of this year. Liberty Center Connections received the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) Grant for our County. Jean’s role as the program director is to develop awareness of the housing crisis in her area, develop case management models to help clients achieve housing stability, and work to achieve community partnerships and leverage resources.
“My May Term experience at the Chicago Center, even though it was short, made a definitive impact on my career path. In fact it was the catalyst to a complete career path change, to social work. I’m so thankful for everything I learned, and the tools Chicago Center gave me to develop a passion to inspire change. I left Chicago with a new outlook on the communities we are involved in. I truly don’t believe that I would be where I am now without my Chicago Center experience, and I certainly wouldn’t have the passion for my job without the knowledge and experiences that I gained through May Term.” – Jean Boen
This week’s edition of the Hyde Park Herald showcased Chicago Center’s new student housing. Click the image to check out the article “Chicago Center raising digs dough” on the Hyde Park Herald Website, or read the article below!
Chicago Center raising digs dough
By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
The Chicago Center has begun fundraising for its new Hyde Park student building.
The Chicago Center, which is a Hyde Park-based non-profit organization at 1515 E. 52nd Pl., offers programs that expose college students to city living and world cultures. The center has cooperative agreements with about 40 colleges to act as a host to students who want to study any subject in an urban area.
The center’s newly purchased student housing, which is located on the 1600 block of Hyde Park Boulevard near Kenwood Avenue, is a three-flat with five bedrooms on each floor, which has 3,300 square feet. Each floor can house up to eight students so the building can hold up to 30 students total. The property also has a garden level where a study, recreation and laundry room will be added
Each residential floor is named after the center’s principal founders Don and Unice Shatz, Phyllis Cunningham and Jim Bertucci. The center is planning to make plaques with the founder’s names for each floor.
Scott Chesebro, executive director of the program, said the center once owned a building at 5004 S. Blackstone Ave., but sold it in 1992 “because it was too small for the program’s purposes.”
Although the program went on to rent several apartment units in the neighborhood, Chesebro said that they always intended to purchase another housing unit, so when the center’s real estate agent called to tell them about the property, which once served as housing for students of the Zavarian religious order, they moved quickly, purchasing the property on Dec. 21, 2009, and moving in on Jan. 5, 2010.
“This building represents more than a building – it’s how our students relate to one another and community,” said Althea Conyers, marketing and public relations director at the center. “The students will learn what it means to live as a community.”
Chesebro said with all the students living in one building they won’t feel isolated and the center will have an easier time dealing with issues of safety and maintenance.
“Since most of the students come from rural areas their colleges and parents will feel better knowing they are together in a central place,” Chesebro said.
Conyers said weekly student staff meetings and other workshops also help students feel secure and gain confidence in their areas of study.
Kevin Renderman, who completed his urban teaching practicum at Kenwood Academy in April, was a part of the first group of students to live in the new student housing property. He said he enjoyed the level of support he received. He was especially grateful for the education seminars and other professional and lifestyle support classes given through the center.
“In the [education seminar] class we would just talk about our week and our experiences and when problems arise we would talk them out and get advice and lesson plan ideas from each other,” Renderman said.
Shortly after the property was purchased, the center received a $200,000 loan from the Illinois Facilities Fund for remodeling. Now the center is reaching out to alumni and friends to make donations toward maintaining the property.
Donators can sponsor the upkeep of a room for $1,000 or have their names inscribed in bricks for the garden for $200.
The Chicago Center is gearing up for a weeklong celebration of its 40th anniversary in November. In addition to the purchase of the student housing property, the organization has a new logo and Web site.
For more information about the Chicago Center, call 1-800-747-6059 or 773-363-1312 or email email@example.com.
This week’s edition of the Hyde Park Herald showcased Chicago Center Student, Kevin Renderman. Kevin is from Millikin University, he participated in Chicago Center’s Urban Teaching Practicum during the Spring 10 semester and student taught at Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park. Click the image to check out the article “Student as Teacher” on the Hyde Park Herald Website, or read the article below!
Student as Teacher
Chicago Center student taught at Kenwood
By DACHELL M. PHILLIPS
Although Kevin Renderman is a Chicago native he never traveled too far outside of his tight-knit Irish Catholic neighborhood of Mount Greenwood until it was time for him to attend Millikin University, an undergraduate, Presbyterian institution in Decatur, Ill. Once he decided he was interested in teaching in the city, Renderman found the Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture’s Urban Teaching Practicum as a great help.
Renderman said he decided he wanted to become a math teacher his junior year at Marist High School, but once he got into college he changed his mind and began to pursue a degree in physical education because he “didn’t want to be stuck in the classroom eight hours a day.”
Faced with the choice to student teach in Decatur or Chicago Renderman chose Chicago and said although he is a native he has learned so much more about his hometown through participating in the Chicago Center Urban Teaching Practicum.
The Chicago Center, which is a Hyde Park-based non-profit, offers programs that expose college students to city living and world cultures. The center has cooperative agreements with about 40 colleges to act as a host to students who want to study any subject in an urban area.
“The center’s experiential learning philosophy, which allows students to learn through first-person experience, is what attracts many of the students to its programs,” said Althea Conyers, marketing and public relations director at Chicago Center. “Unlike most higher education institutions in Chicago, the students who attend are encouraged to live, work and study in all part of the city.”
Renderman, who started the program Jan. 5, said he saw parts of Chicago he’d never been to before and learned about Chicago’s architectural history.
Renderman was also part of the first group of students to live in the Chicago Center’s newly purchased student housing. The new building, which is located on Kenwood Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard, is a three-flat that can house up to 30 students. The program formerly had long-term leases on several apartments in the neighborhood. Renderman lived in one of the units with seven roommates.
Renderman said that he’s enjoyed the level of support he has received during his time here.
“I heard a lot of bad things about [Chicago Public Schools],” Renderman said. “When I told people I was coming here they would say, ‘Oh sorry,’ but I have not had any problems.”
On Jan. 11 Renderman started teaching three 7th through 8th grade PE classes and two health classes at the Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave. He was also the assistant coach for the freshman basketball team.
He said that Kenwood teachers were great mentors and that principal Elizabeth Kirby and assistant principal David Barain were great influences.
He said the Chicago Center’s weekly education seminar with Nancy Friesen has also provided a great deal of support.
“[Friesen] has been a teacher for over 25 years and is a great mentor,” Renderman said. “In the class we would just talk about our week and our experiences and when problems arise we would talk them out and get advice and lesson plan ideas from each other. “
After completing the Urban Teaching Practicum on April 30, Renderman returned to Millikin to prepare for graduation on May 16. He said that he is considering teaching in Boston for a short time but after that, becoming a CPS teacher on a permanent basis is definitely a goal for him.
The Chicago Center is gearing up for a weeklong celebration of its 40th anniversary in November. In addition to the purchase of student housing, the organization has a new logo and Web site. For more information about the Chicago Center, call 1-800-747-6059 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Wednesday, April 21, Chicago Center Social Work students traveled to Springfield, Illinois to participate in the annual Lobby Day event where thousands of social service providers, teachers and union members gathered at the state Capitol. The students spend the day learning the parameters of lobbing for any issue that may face them as a social worker. Students had the opportunity to go inside the capitol building, speak with members of congress, and participate in the “Save our Schools” march (For more information, check out www.illinoiseducationassociation.org).
Members of the rally wore pink to illustrate the pink slips indicating the dismissal of nearly 20,000 teachers in Illinois. Below are pictures of Urban Social Work Practicum Director, Arvis Averette (pink suit) and Chicago Center Social Work Practicum students.