Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture

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Chicago Center 40th Anniversary Gala

December 13th, 2010

Boulevard Ribbon Cutting Ceremony ( L to R: Founders - Don and Eunice Schatz, Executive Director - Scott Chesebro, and Board President - Bruce Texley)

Carnivale - Location of the 40th Anniversary

Dinner at Carnivale

Chicago Center Founders (Bottom Right: Don and Eunice Schatz) with Chicago Center alumni

“The Chicago Center for Urban Life Culture has been a great experience to me with the help from the fellow staff. Not only has it benefited my life, but also, it has impacted other lives as well. This was represented in its entirety during the luncheon and the 40th anniversary. The luncheon had a great turnout with the alumnus, founders, staff, and current students. I think it was a great way to bring all the people who had gone through the Chicago Center, past and present, to exchange stories of how they have changed following this experience. Also, it was great to be around during the ribbon cut as it represented the 40 years of success. The founders of the Chicago Center and the others that kept it going for 40 years deserved all the gratitude they received. I couldn’t imagine what they had gone through to make it to this point, but I’m thankful they made it, so I could get the opportunity to experience Chicago. It was great for me to meet some of the alumni, to see how their lives are going and any other things that came to mind. I will say the food helped top off the luncheon right.

Following the luncheon, I went to set-up for the Gala. Upon arrival, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The building exterior and interior were marvelous. They had a great mixture of colors and decorations to coincide with each other. When I walked in, I could sense it was going to be a wonderful night and indeed, it turned out that way. The Chicago Center had a lot of supporters, as represented at the Gala. There were 202 guests at a facility that had a capacity of 200. This just proves that the Chicago Center has changed so many lives over the years. 40 years is a long time, but through thick and thin, they stuck around to change lives time after time. As for me, I’m glad I made this decision because this experience as given me a new perspective on life. Coming from a place where different perspectives rarely differ, this experience really gave me a much in depth insight to life, and I plan on sharing that when I venture back home. Because of the Chicago Center, I have become a well-rounded individual in all aspects of life and upon my completion here, I plan on taking what I’ve learned here, back home and sharing it with others. 40 years and still going strong till this day. This is a such a great accomplishment for the Chicago Center. Because of my experience with the Chicago Center and the city of Chicago, if it all works out, I plan on returning to the City of Chicago to make a difference where it’s needed. I just want to thank you for this life changing experience. It’s well appreciated.”

~Austin George Smith, Bethel College,  Fall 2010 Urban Academic Practicum Student

Arvis Averette recieved a First Voice Lifetime Achievement Award for his unwavering commitment to teach and organize for racial and economic justice

Scott Chesebro was presented a suprise tribute video

Phyllis Cunningham recieved a First Voice Lifetime Achievement Award for her vision and action in breaking the mold of traditional education for non-traditional students

Chicago Center Alumni and Friends

First Voice Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients and Presenters

“Today was such a lovely day. I’m not going to recount the day for you because you were there and I have plenty of pictures to help me remember, but I will say one thing. I feel so blessed to be a part of such an incredible organization. I didn’t realize how many people you have touched or how far the Chicago Center’s reputation has reached. I have met some of the best people EVER here and I am dreading leaving. I have never been so close to a group of people and felt so at home. I really hope we are able to stay in touch, because these people are better friends than people I’ve known for years. If anyone was debating whether or not to come here I would tell them that this has been the most amazing semester of my schooling. This is not a just a program it’s like a home. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be one of your kids for a semester!”

~Ryann Bird, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Fall 2010 Urban Academic Practicum Student

The Chesebros

Chicago Center Staff 2010-2011

40th Celebration

Dancing the night away



After her Chicago Internship Program: Jessica’s Apprentice Highlight

December 13th, 2010

Jessica Junke, Academic Program Coordinator

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 Jessica Junke, Academic Program Coordinator talks about her experience with Chicago Center:

“I received the email inviting me to apply for an apprentice position with the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture on Tuesday, February 23rd.  It was a typical Northwest rainy day, but it was a day of celebration for me.  I had just spent the past six months not only finishing my undergraduate degree, but also working 60 plus hours a week to pay for the many consequences that came from an incredibly irresponsible decision I had made the previous summer.  But, I was finally done.  That Tuesday, with the words of my peers and counselors still echoing in my ear from a different sort of graduation, I opened an email that ended up marking the beginning of a hopeful, new chapter in my life.

I knew immediately that I wanted to apply for an apprenticeship.  The last time I had been in Chicago I was a student with the Center and I had never quite gotten the city out of my head.  Leaving her was extremely hard.  She had taught me more about myself in those three short months than an entire lifetime had before and saying goodbye to Chicago was like being ripped away from someone you had only just realized you loved.  It seemed like I had just arrived to the windy city when my dear friend Emily, a student teacher while I was an academic student, drove me to the airport at the end of the semester to go home.  As I hugged her goodbye, I told her that I wasn’t ready to leave.

I recognize now that I wasn’t permanently saying goodbye to Chicago.  I was simply returning home to finish out that chapter of my life.  A chapter that was really important for me to experience fully and see through to the end.  The two years I spent back in the Northwest allowed me to return to Chicago willing to completely give myself back to the city that I had grown to love so much through the Center.

The most exciting aspect of our jobs as Chicago Center apprentices is that we get to re-live our own personal discoveries that we had as students through the current students’ experiences.  We’re all continually witnessing how the students are growing by not only learning copious amounts about the city itself, but perhaps more importantly, about themselves.  I am speaking to who they understand themselves to be in the world they live in.  I’m sure that students often end up leaving more confused about that understanding than when they come to us, but to me, that signals that we have done our jobs right.  I am still processing things I witnessed and conversations I had years after my time as a student had ended.  The Chicago Center made my world a lot more complicated than it was before, and that may be the biggest compliment that I can give to an educational institute.

The most important skill that I learned as a student was to listen.  The Center introduced me to voices in the city that I would have never otherwise had the opportunity to hear.  Without those narratives, I would have continued living my life only knowing my own version of the world.  With close to 3 million people living in Chicago, how can any one of us claim to know what is going on with the people we huddle up against at the bus stop if we never stop to actually listen to what they have to say?  Too often, we rely on the so-called experts to tell us how to think and feel about things like immigration, racism, and the LGBT community (to name only a few).  While reading those perspectives has an undeniably important place in education, I would argue it is as equally important to actually engage in a dialogue with those who are living through those issues first hand.  Utilizing first voice is simply an incredible tool that not enough people have the opportunity to learn from.

As the Long Program Coordinator, I am currently in the process of finishing up my first semester-long program.  During wrap-up this past Friday afternoon, I told all of the students how appreciative I was of them.  They did not realize coming in to this, but they were the first big lesson we all had as new apprentices.  We learned how to manage large groups of students in the city, improvise when adequate class planning did not suffice, parallel park a 15-passenger van, and we were constantly reminded why we fought to return to the Chicago Center.  That’s what being an apprentice has been for me, coming back to finish out my CCULC chapter.  A chapter that countless other people also hold dear to their hearts, as evidenced by our incredibly successful 40th anniversary celebration.

I can only hope that in another 8 months when I have to say goodbye to the Center for perhaps the final time, that I will be ready.  That is my goal.  I have a daunting amount of learning, living, and experiencing to do between now and then.  However, I am extremely fortunate, as I have one of the coolest jobs in the world to transition from my college self into adulthood.  I am the Long Program Coordinator for the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture.”

We’d like to thank Jessica for telling us about her experience and letting us share it with our potential students and alumni!


Chicago Center’s 40th Anniversary coffee table book: Coming Home Again

November 22nd, 2010

Coming Home Again: Chicago Center 1970-2010

Chicago Center’s 40th Anniversary coffee table book is a powerful retrospective of our 40 year history, and includes the stories of 20 alumni from 1970-2010 as well as reflections from founders, current and former staff members, and lots of photos.

Excerpt from Preface by Scott Chesebro, PhD

“I’m often asked if Chicago Center keeps track of alumni or has any data on the impact of our programs on participants once they leave. My usual response is that we don’t do a good job of tracking alumni and that we have never had the resources to do a study of those who have done the program. When Phil Schmidt, History Professor at Southwestern College asked me if he could spend his sabbatical with us, I immediately knew what I wanted him to do. This book is the culmination of his sabbatical project and involved many hours of travel, interviews, transcripts, writing, editing, layout, and graphics and finally publishing. Many others besides Phil became committed and involved in the project. I now have an answer to the question posed above.

Phil Schmidt spent his sabbatical travelling to different parts of the country to interview people that I selected for the project. Out of the interviews, Phil Schmidt and Ashley Holloway, along with an editing committee which included Tiffanie Beatty and Megan Crawford created the stories included in the book.  Alleigh Schmidt, Lane Cheseboro, and Cameron Siefkes helped transcribe the interviews. Tricia Fensky, a student in the Summer Session of 2010 and a senior at McPherson College designed the book and took responsibility for mounting photos and all of the graphics. Emily Nelson managed the project and brought all of the pieces together.”

Raj Biyani Excerpt

As General Manager of the CIO/Product Group Strategic Initiatives team at Microsoft Industries, Raj Biyani offers students this advice. “The major your focus on will prepare you for the first three to five years after college. And in fact, you may be at a disadvantage to your peers at more focused institutes like MIT or the University of Waterloo, which are great computer science programs. But when it comes to your life five years and beyond, its liberal arts education that’s going to ground you and enable you to learn what you need. And so I would put the Chicago Center experience in the context of a liberal arts education, because in a lot of ways Chicago Center is an immersive liberal arts program in the midst of a city.”

Any LaChance Excerpt

“…a woman was speaking named Christina Martinez and as she was speaking I said to myself ‘that’s what I want to do. I want to do what she’s doing.’ After she was done talking I went up to her and said ‘I really liked what you had to say and I’m just wondering how did you get into this kind of work? How did you get here?” …Amy LaChance later earned a Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy with a specialization in Community Development; the exact credential Christina Martinez told her about. After completing her MUPP, Amy was hired as the Senior Resource Development Associate at Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. “Interestingly, Christina ended up working here later on as the Neighborhood Director at our Back of the Yards office. And I told her one day, ‘you don’t know me, and you don’t know this but you’re the reason I’m here.’”

Phyllis Cunningham Excerpt

“…it’s away from the whole notion there’s somebody who has all the knowledge. That knowledge is the knowledge, rather than the fact that our job is making spaces for people to create their own knowledge and that knowledge is not defined by a group of people, but rather knowledge is something created by all people.”—Phyllis Cunningham, CCULC co-founder

To purchase the book please visit our homepage


Chicago Center celebrates 40 years

November 15th, 2010

By Ben Cook
StreetWise Staff

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., or call 773.262.1313


Chicago Center looks back on 40 years of urban education

November 10th, 2010

Hyde Park Herald, November 3, 2010

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


After his Chicago Internship Program: Ben’s Apprentice Highlight

October 28th, 2010

Ben Cook, Housing Coordinator

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!



October 21st, 2010


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.” 

The symposium will conclude with a post-observation discussion led by experts in urban education. For registration information, visit:

Just days after the symposium, CCULC celebrates its 40th anniversary on November 6 with 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:

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.



Farewell, Apprentices!

August 6th, 2010

Today marks the last day of work for our 2009-2010 apprentices! After completing a year long contract with the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture, Amy VanBecelaere, Emilie Lewandowski, Kevin Zabel, Michelle Bess, Steve Broadwell, and Whitney Voss will be moving on to the next chapter in their lives.

2009-2010 Apprentices (Not Pictured: Amy Vanbecelaere)

The Urban Apprenticeship is an exciting opportunity we offer Chicago Center alumni that have recently 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.

Michelle Bess, LearnChicago! Coordinator reflects on her experience: “Being the LearnChicago!  Coordinator has been the most phenomenal job!  I have learned so much about the city, life, and most importantly myself.  It’s not often that one can find a place of work that encourages you to grow and learn, pushes your boundaries, and inspires you to make a difference.  The Center does such amazing work; it was an honor to be on staff.” Following her apprenticeship, Michelle will remain in Chicago working as the Assistant to the Director at the Chicago Posse Foundation, a leadership scholarship program for public high school students. Learn more at

Steve Broadwell, Recruitment Coordinator plans to move back to Oberlin and spend time thinking about graduate school.  Steve shares, “I’m proud of the infinitely talented students I’ve seen come through the Center this year, and it’s been a pleasure to be a part of their experiences.”

Marketing Coordinator Emilie Lewandowski says, “Working at the Chicago Center has been a really great experience for me. I have learned so much, and grown tremendously as a person. I have really enjoyed being a part of the Chicago Center staff and watching students grow as they complete our programs. It is wonderful to have been a part of that.” Emilie will begin the Master of Social Service Administration program at the University of Chicago in September.

Amy VanBecelaere, Housing Coordinator, is still living in Chicago, and attending graduate school at Columbia College Chicago where she will acquire her M.A. in Dance Movement Therapy and Mental Health Counseling. Amy says, “The Chicago Center Apprenticeship inspired me to become a more articulate, cultured, well-informed individual. I am so grateful for the richness of experiences I have been graced with in the past year, and intend to use all the tools I have gained at my time there in life, in relation with others and undoubtedly in my graduate studies. Through the Chicago Center, I have not only discovered so much about cultures different than my own but have gained an enhanced understanding of my own culture as well.”

Administrative and Special Events Coordinator Whitney Voss says, “I want to say thank you to the Chicago Center for giving me the opportunity to work in the city and extend my time in Chicago for another year.  This experience has taught me so much about the different communities and cultures throughout Chicago, and the injustices in our society.   My time here has far surpassed my expectations, and I know that I have grown into a better person because of the Chicago Center! ” Whitney plans to travel home to Michigan and enjoy the rest of summer relaxing by the pool. She is looking forward to spending time with family and making plans to attend graduate school in the next year.

Kevin Zabel, Long Program Coordinator, is heading to Knoxville, Tennessee for an Experimental Psychology PhD. program at the University of Tennessee. He says, “My experiences with the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture, both as a student and as an apprentice, have provided me unique opportunities to hone invaluable work skill sets. Collectively, my experiences will forever affect the ways I think about not only my perceptions of others, but the ways in which others perceive me. In short, my experiences have forever impacted me. I am grateful for the many class resources, co-workers, and students I have had the opportunity to meet, engage with, and learn from along the way!”

Our apprentices have all worked really hard this year and contributed a great deal to the accomplishments of the Center.  A new set of apprentices will join the Chicago Center during the upcoming week.


After Her Chicago Internship Program: Whitney’s Apprentice Highlights

August 6th, 2010


Whitney Voss, Administrative and Special Events Coordinator

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 Whitney Voss, Administrative and Special Events Coordinator talks about her experience with Chicago Center:

“Hello! My name is Whitney, one of the six apprentices finishing up our final week at the Chicago Center! I am amazed by how fast the time goes by and sad to be ending this wonderful opportunity to live in Chicago. I am grateful for my time at the Chicago Center, and now feel equipped with the tools to take on any adventure that comes my way!

My hometown is Sterling Heights, Michigan, about a half hour north of Detroit.  I am an alumna of Albion College, Class of 2009, where I received a liberal arts education graduating with a degree in Interpersonal Communications and Dance.

I attended the Chicago Center my last semester at Albion, coming to beautiful snowy Chicago in January 2009 to participate in the academic term. To complete my credits to graduate, I wanted to find an Internship in dance in which I could learn the behind the scene facets of a dance company.  After interviewing with several theatre and dance companies, I was excited for the opportunity to work as a Development Intern at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, a contemporary company internationally recognized for their innovative, groundbreaking movement.  I was also lucky to receive the Kemper Arts Fellowship, a program that allowed me to extend my work into the city, gaining hands-on experience in arts management and non-profit leadership through promotion of diversity in education, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Coming into a dance internship, I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of inequality throughout our communities, but my time spent with Hubbard Street opened up my world and made me realize how much I still have to learn.

Working at Hubbard Street Dance gave me a taste of the struggles non-profits face and the importance of cultivating strong community-based partnerships. I also learned the ground work for fundraising and event planning, which is what I have been doing for the past year at the Chicago Center!

Participating in the Communities and Culture seminar as a student was probably the most invaluable experience I received while in Chicago.  Having the opportunity to be exposed to diverse urban neighborhoods forever changed the way I see and understand the world. Visiting the Southwest Youth Collaborative and meeting Camille Odeh is one experience that sticks out above the rest.    Meeting the at risk youth at SWYC made me realize the pressure on urban adolescents and the need for organizations and activities that give youth an outlet to be creative, get help with school, talk to mentors and meet friends.  Working with the youth at SWYC for my research topic, allowed me to personally interact with urban teens and gain a better understanding of how an activity like dance could keep youth involved and off the streets.   

I enjoyed my time as a student at the Chicago Center so much that I decided to apply for the apprenticeship program.  It was easy to fall in the love with the city and I really wanted to extend my time in Chicago.  I was excited to be chosen as the Administrative and Special Events Coordinator for the 2009-2010 year, and was even more excited to learn that I would be helping plan the 40th Anniversary gala.    

Staffing the student’s events is one of the best parts of the job,  you continue to learn about the city and travel to hidden gems and neighborhoods that have so much culture and history.  A big part of my position this past year has been managing the Fall and Spring Fundraisers.  Donations and gifts play a big part in keeping a non-profit company running, and I was happy to manage two successful fundraisers, and hope to have laid the ground work for more successful fundraisers to come.  

Aside from providing administrative support for office function and maintenance, along with organizing and updating the Chicago Center database, I have most enjoyed working with my supervisor, Althea Conyers, on  planning  the 40th Anniversary gala! Celebrating Chicago Center’s 40 years of service is a very exciting time, and I was proud to be a party of the planning committee.  The 40th Anniversary celebration will be held on November 6, 2010 at Carnivale!  After viewing several different locations to find a venue, I am absolutely positive that we have found the perfect place to celebrate the Chicago Center and bring together four decades of alumni!  I cannot wait to celebrate the 40th Anniversary and meet so many of you whose lives have been enriched because of the Chicago Center!

I want to say thank you to the Chicago Center for giving me the opportunity to work in the city and extend my time in Chicago for another year.  This experience has taught me so much about the different communities and cultures throughout Chicago, and the injustices in our society.   My time here has far surpassed my expectations, and I know that I have grown into a better person because of the Chicago Center!  A quote that has been heard several times this year perfectly wraps up my feeling about the Chicago Center.

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.                                                                                                                                                                                        -Confucius

Thank you for helping me understand.  I still have so much to learn.”

We’d like to thank Whitney for telling us about her experience and letting us share it with our potential students and alumni!


Alumni Reflection: I wouldn’t be where I am now without my Chicago Center experience!

July 14th, 2010

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


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