As principal of the Stephen F Gale Elementary Community Academy, Augustine Emuwa has seen the impact that Northwestern’s student volunteers can have on a community level, and the benefits that come from the connections between Northwestern and community organizations and nonprofits.
“They’re learning from us, we’re learning from them,” Emuwa said, describing the students from organizations such as the Northwestern Community Development Corps and MiniChefz who come to help out at the Rogers Park school.
Emuwa took the stage in the Louis Room at Norris University Center Tuesday night as one of the speakers at Celebrate Community Engagement, an event hosted by Northwestern Student Affairs in order to highlight and applaud the work done by a plethora of Northwestern student groups and students to benefit the greater Evanston, Skokie and Chicago communities.
Project SOAR, Delta Chi, Jumpstart, Books & Breakfast and Allow Good also got the chance to take the stage and speak about their groups with representatives from the community organizations they help.
“I, selfishly, get to work with amazing Northwestern students,” said Kim Hammock, Executive Director of Books & Breakfast, a group that offers meals and tutoring to students at three Evanston elementary schools. “What is so compelling for me is I get to work with students that walk in the door passionate about justice.”
A common theme in the community members who spoke about their experiences working with Northwestern students was gratitude for students’ commitment.
“The thing that impresses me… is how dedicated you guys are,” said Laura Antolín, Children’s Outreach Librarian at the Evanston Public Library.
Vice President of Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin kicked off the speeches after students had the chance to mingle, grab food and listen to a three piece jazz band.
“[We are here] to celebrate the enormous amount of work that all of you, in unison, do to enhance our community,” Telles-Irvin said. “Feel good about what you are doing.”
Students were able to speak about the positive impacts they have experienced as a result of taking part in community engagement.
“My time in SOAR has definitely been one of my greatest experiences at Northwestern,” said SESP senior Kieara Reed, referencing Project SOAR, a mentorship program that matches Northwestern students with Evanston children.
Students come to participate in community engagement for a variety of reasons, but for Allow Good Northwestern president and SESP junior Imani Wilson, her mother was the biggest inspiration.
“I’ve always had a desire to do community service work, to get involved in my community, and my mom has been a huge role model for me in that,” Wilson said. “So when I came to Northwestern, I was immediately seeking ways to get involved specifically with students because I am a social policy major with an interest in education.”
Allow Good teaches lessons to students at Niles North High School in Skokie and Evanston Township High School about community development and social justice, and allows each class to give away $1,000 to a community organization of their choice.
“This experience has been super important to my own personal development and career development, but more than that it’s just going to class every week and hearing students talk about issues in their community... with such a level of maturity and seriousness,” Wilson said. “It’s so cool to see youth so passionate and wanting to do something about this.”