As the capstone to the weekend, students participated in service projects proposed by one of nine local community partners. Before splitting off to their assigned sites, they convened at XS Tennis and Education Foundation in Washington Park to hear remarks by Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“We believe that gratitude can’t only be rhetoric. It has to be action,” Clinton said to the more than 600 students who chose to participate in the Day of Action.
“You don’t have to run for office to do public service,” Emanuel added. “One person with a vision and self-will can take what was barren and empty and can create doors of opportunities for the future. That is the power of civic engagement.”
Undergraduates Sean Hu and Nuhamin Tekie were two of 300 students who assembled meals with Rise Against Hunger. “I”ve been able to meet people from all over the world,” said Hu, a second-year in the College. “I feel like I’m part of something far bigger than myself, on an international scale.”
A College first-year, Tekie formed many charity clubs at her high school in Ethiopia. “Civic engagement is necessary to maintain humanity. It’s a way to be well-balanced, healthy and show gratitude,” she said.
College third-year Maria Snaider, who helped students at Dyett High School paint murals in their school, said it’s important to be an inclusive member of your group, so that everyone feels welcomed, safe, healthy and happy.
“That idea will challenge how I make my reality every day,” she said. “We learned about Bronzeville and Chicago Public Schools before starting the art project, which grounded our work in the economic, social and political underpinnings of the neighborhood. This was a great example of inclusive tribalism that was extended to us, a group of strangers.”
Other community partners were Burke Elementary School, Chicago Youth Programs, Coppin Community Center, DuSable Museum of African American History, KLEO Community Family Life Center, Sweet Water Foundation and the University of Chicago Arts + Public Life Arts Incubator.
The UChicago Office of Civic Engagement, which aims to be a bridge between the University and its surrounding community, was instrumental in planning the Day of Action. Staff selected the participating community partners and helped review student applicants to the CGI U event. OCE also will lead a follow-up meeting and will coordinate advising opportunities for participating students with a cross-university group.
“At the CGI U Day of Action, we saw the exchange of ideas and opportunities lead to action and impact as students from around the world worked together to support nonprofit organizations on Chicago’s South Side,” Douglas said. “These passionate students have a great deal to contribute, and it was inspiring to see them in action today.”
—Article originally appeared on the University of Chicago Civic Engagement site