In a classroom full of first-year University of Chicago students last month, local nonprofit leader Charles Walton laughed as he recounted all the things that Chicago-set TV dramas get wrong about his hometown. Characters will refer to going west down a street that runs north and south, for instance, and action only unfolds in one concentrated area.
“Chicago’s bigger than that,” Walton, the executive director of mentoring program 100 Black Men of Chicago, told the group. “Chicago’s more exciting than that. To fully embrace Chicago, you’re going to have to get out and explore it.”
Walton was one of nearly 100 community leaders who met with small groups of incoming students on Sept. 24 as part of the University’s annual Engage Chicago Orientation Week event. Hosted by the University’s Community Service Center within the Office of Civic Engagement, the daylong series of workshops and activities aimed to help introduce the students to Chicago and the spectrum of ways they can meaningfully engage with and positively impact the South Side and the broader city during their time at the University.
For the third year, all incoming College students—more than 2,200 this year—were asked to participate. Participating community partners included South Side elected officials, arts and culture advocates, local school principals, nonprofit directors, small business owners, community organizers, and other civic and faith leaders.