Chicago Bound offers new way for students to begin a career of service in city

Starting with this year's group of incoming undergraduates, the University of Chicago is giving first-year students an expanded introduction to Chicago's diverse communities and to service opportunities at many of the city's nonprofit organizations.

Called “Chicago Bound,” the new pilot program took place the week before Orientation Week, complementing the traditional day of service that is already built into O-Week activities. It built on that tradition to let new students experience an even greater slice of civic engagement in Chicago.

Twenty students who joined Chicago Bound traveled by bus and train to neighborhood food pantries, community centers and after-school programs. They volunteered their time and met with numerous community leaders, including six UChicago alumni, in the hopes of forming relationships within the city that will last throughout their four years in the College.

“We hope they can become ambassadors to their peers for serving and engaging with people outside of the University campus,” said Amy Chan, director of the University Community Service Center, which organized the weeklong program.

During the course of the week, the group worked in Pilsen, Humboldt Park, Lakeview and Woodlawn, four historic neighborhoods with rich cultures and distinct social needs. They visited a LGBTQ youth resource center in Lakeview, for example. In Pilsen, they taught spelling and reading to children, made and delivered meals to the homeless, and helped register people to vote. In Humboldt Park, they visited the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and a clinic for people living with HIV/AIDS.

“Joining this program is one of the best decisions I’ve made,” said Robin Ye, incoming first-year from Portland, Ore. “I have fallen in love with Chicago even more since I’ve seen the sense of family and community among the people here,” he said.

Ye spent his afternoon at the Lakeview Pantry cleaning four refrigerators and freezers. They normally hold donated food before it gets distributed to people in need. He mopped up spills and scrubbed vents as a new truckload of groceries from a local Trader Joe’s supermarket came in. It was difficult work, but Ye said he was grateful for the chance to do it.

Erin Stephens, the director of volunteers for the Lakeview Pantry, was grateful for the UChicago students’ volunteerism. “The work they did would have taken one person hours to do, or it may not have gotten done at all,” she said. “Volunteer groups like this have a huge impact on our operation.”

As the students wrapped up their visit, she reminded them that the door was always open for them to come back to visit or volunteer, especially with the holidays approaching.

Reflecting on the seven-day program experience, first-year B.J. Barker from Meridian, Idaho, said, "Chicago Bound introduced me to a whole new way of viewing community service. Through partnering with neighborhood organizations that focus on local issues, I saw the lifeblood of social change in Chicago: hopeful and engaged citizens."

The University will invite all the first-year students to get a taste of community service on Saturday, Sept. 29, during the Engage Chicago Through Service events. With turnout to Engage Chicago Through Service growing each year, the University Community Service Center expects a record number of participants. They’ve arranged with 40 different community-based and faith-based organizations throughout the South and West sides of Chicago to accommodate more than 600 student volunteers.

Incoming first-year students who are interested in participating in the Engage Chicago Through Service event can register at




Tyler Kissinger, left, and Sumaya Bouadi, both first-year students this fall at the University of Chicago, help restock the shelves at a pantry in the Lakeview neighborhood on Thursday, Sept. 20. The new students took advantage of a new volunteer opportunity called Chicago Bound, which was organized by the University Community Service Center. The students arrived in Chicago one week before Orientation Week to participate in the pilot program.

Photo by Rob Kozloff

Alice Mukora (left) and Maggie Heneghan, new members of the University community and the Class of 2016, sort through the stacks of donated dishes at the Lakeview Pantry in Chicago.

Photo by Rob Kozloff

Patricia Oigo-Nyaega cleans the glass window at the Lakeview Pantry, as Natalie Wright rehangs signage inside. Both women are first-year students in the College, who volunteered for the Chicago Bound program.

Photo by Rob Kozloff

Andrew Fan, a fourth-year in the College, helps tidy up the window display at the Lakeview Pantry on Thursday, Sept. 20. Fan, a history and political science major, joined 20 first-year students who took part in Chicago Bound.

Photo by Rob Kozloff

Media Contact

Mary Abowd
Campus and Student Life News Officer
News Office, University Communications
(773) 702-8383

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