the beginning of the end

Our last week in Chicago was a busy one. To celebrate our procrastination on class projects, we had a study party late into the night on Tuesday.. or Wednesday morning. I think Kelly won with a 4:20am bedtime. Naturally, our party was accompanied with the necessary food groups including a large container of cookie dough.

Wednesday was a strange day. It was warmish and rainy, which always makes a day somewhat off-kilter in my opinion. And then I finished the last of my college classes  in a very anti-climactic ending if I’ve ever seen one. All of the Chicago Semester students met in a building in the South Loop to close our time in Chicago and reflect back on the last three months. My mind had been so focused lately on what I was going to do when I graduate that I think I forgot how quickly my time downtown Chicago was coming to and end.

For dinner, we were all treated to Greek food at the Parthenon in Greek town. The meal was served family style and was almost identical to the meal Kelly and I got at Greek Islands earlier in the semester. A slide show of pictures from the semester closed the night and we got some fun CS shirts and mugs as well.

apartment 701

more new friends

Wednesday was full of celebration, Thursday night was all about reminiscing. Kelly, Andrea, and I went for one last epic burger and sat for a couple hours trying to remember everywhere we ventured in Chicago and everyone who came to visit. This semester, God blessed me with great roommates, with new friends, with some great adventures, and with a few new ideas about what I want to do with my future.

Dana, Kelly, me, Andrea, Abby, Alyssa

I graduate on May 21 and I’m trusting God to show me the way after that.

Shamrock Shuffle

we poured Gatorade. we stacked cups. we served thousands.

Recruiting people to volunteer with Team World Vision at the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle 8k was one of the projects I worked on this semester. I served as the TWV team leader for the event. It was a wonderfully warm 80 degree morning, there were over 30,000 runners on the streets of Chicago, and had a blast hanging out with my brother, coworkers, roommates, and Chicago Semester friends.

The Gorilla Challenge

600 teams

2200 people

12 clues

The first one: “Married with Children made this sculpture famous.”

Kelly, Andrea, Laura, and I ran from Soldier Field to Buckingham Fountain in time to get our picture taken in front of the fountain and grab a list of clues.

The Gorilla Challenge is like the amazing race but in cities around the country. The challenge in Chicago was the biggest turn out that they’ve had so far.  There were people running everywhere in the downtown loop. We were given 12 clues, of which we had to solve 10. Some were trivia about Chicago, some were word problems, some were random facts.

All in all, we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon, got our exercise in for the day, enjoyed some free limited addition Amazing Race Snapple, learned a thing or two, ran right past Vince Vaughn on the street, and got 83rd place.

A few of our stops: enjoy.

service learning

For one of my classes, we were split into pairs and assigned to identify a problem in the city and design a service learning project that would counteract it. My partner, Amanda, and I took a look at the gentrification that was happening in the city and its effect on senior citizens.

In Pilsen, for example, condominium owners and young professionals from the suburbs are buying property because it’s cheap and living there because it’s so close to the heart of the city. This raises rent prices and the cost of living in the area. Those who were originally living in the area and cannot afford the high cost of living are being forced out. Many of these people are senior citizens.

One of the first places my practicum group went to in Pilsen was Casa Maravilla, an affordable housing building for seniors. Amanda and I connected with Sue Vega, the woman managing the building, and inquired about what we could do to serve and further the goal of building community where community was being destroyed due to the gentrification. At first, we wanted to plan a mixer for the residents of the building, but Sue told us to think bigger than that. She said that they wanted to build community with all the residents of Pilsen, new and old. We found out that Casa Maravilla planned to have a community open house the next week and everyone was invited. This is where they needed our help.

So, last Saturday we traveled all around Pilsen, hanging up flyers in coffee shops, book stores, insurance agencies, flower shops, libraries etc. We hung them on lamp posts and handed them out to the people we saw on the street and in the buses. People responded particularly well when we told them about the food and mariachi band that was going to be there.

Ironically, Amanda and I had the class that this project was assigned in at the same time as the community open house, so we were unable to attend ourselves.

It was a great Saturday. however, and we got to visit our fav bakery again!

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my internship

I do in fact have an internship that I work at four days a week. My last two months with Team World Vision have been great. I’ve been doing a lot of writing, marketing, recruiting runners, testing the new website, and managing social media. Team World Vision Chicago is a small office, but I love the people that I work with. Michael founded TWV in 2005 and is now the national director. Lauren is my supervisor and in charge of TWV marketing and communication. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told that without Lauren, TWV would not function. And Chris was a highly involved TWV team captain who moved up to Chicago for this job. He helps Michael with some church relations, helps Lauren with communication and marketing, and helps everyone else on the team with technology.

TWV has some runners running the Shamrock Shuffle 8k coming up downtown Chicago on April 10. (yes, it used to be closer to St. Patrick’s Day, but they moved it back so that the weather would be warmer). I went to a production meeting for the race last weekend in an old warehouse on the south side of town. TWV is in charge of finding 40 volunteers to help us pass out gatorade at the finish line. There are 40,000 people signed up to run the race and for their sakes (okay, and ours), I hope the weather is great.

The semester is coming to an end and before I know it, it will be time for me to officially start training for the Chicago half marathon. May 9, in fact. That’s the day my training with Team World Vision starts. I’ve been running a little bit so far… when the weather is warm :)

My goal is to raise as much money as I can to bring clean water to Africa. The impact that World Vision has in Africa is real and powerful. I have seen so much evidence of this.

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Please, please pray about donating to this work. My personal fundraising page is here.

World Vision staff in Japan is also doing A LOT of relief work because of the earthquakes and tsunami. You can read about their work in Japan here.

a beautiful day in the neighborhood

last week in Chicago was BEAUTIFUL -sunny skies and temps that reached the upper 60’s. I went on a nice run over the weekend from my apartment to Navy Pier and was surprised by how tropical blue the water looked! I’m not saying I’d test it out, but it was nice to look at :)

With warmer weather comes a renewed sense of exploration. It was refreshing to opt to walk places instead of taking the train one or two stops. And it was the perfect week for a field trip. I will always be a fan of field trips. Sometimes they’re even better than finding out a class is canceled…sometimes.

For my community development class, we visited the Marcy Newberry Association – a community center for children of all ages and parents trying to earn their GED (to put it very simply).

For my practicum group, we visited Pilsen again. This time, we went to the Instituto del Progreso Latino.

This 8.5 million dollar non-profit operates out of seven buildings and serves over 14,000 people annually. With a full-time staff of around 150 and part-time staff making that number jump to around 200 staff members, IDPL offers citizenship classes, GED classes, ESL classes, an alternative high school, a health technology class, and several others. They have also purchased a building that they are turning into a college prep high school for people interested in the health sciences. They will offer ~150 spots per grade, with a maximum capacity of 600 students. Admission is by lottery. (If you’ve never seen the movie Waiting for Superman, go redbox it.)

Gabby, the woman we met with from IDPL, is also on the board for this bicycle shop down the road (on Western) called the Working Bikes Cooperative. They fix up donated bicycles and sell some to raise money to be able to bring loads of other bikes to third world countries.

Here, Tim is demonstrating how these countries can use bikes to pump water from wells:

Last, but not least, Jesse and I had the privilege of going out to lunch with Shirley Hoogstra, Calvin’s Vice President of Student Life, and her husband last weekend. I met Shirley (and the rest of the presidential cabinet) when I was a student senator, but was able to get to know her better by being a part of a small Bible study that she led last fall as part of the campus-wide study of the book of Philippians. Shirley and her husband were in Chicago for some meetings for the weekend so we met them at their hotel, the Wit -cool place!

We talked a lot about what I was doing in Chicago for the semester and what I was thinking about doing after I graduated. I think I’m interested in too many things! It was helpful to talk through some of them with Shirley, especially because she’s has experience with some of the things I’m interested in.

Sometimes people ask me what is so unique about Calvin. Mostly, I say the community. From now on, I’m going to say: they have vice presidents who will drive to Chicago to take you out for lunch.

okay maybe that’s stretching it, but, as you can tell, I so appreciated the conversation and lunch.


Direct from wikipedia:

Pilsen is a neighborhood made up of the residential sections of the Lower West Side community area of Chicago. In the late 19th century Pilsen was inhabited by Czech immigrants who named the district afterPlzeň, the fourth largest city in what is now the Czech Republic.

Latinos became the majority in 1970 when they surpassed the Slavic population. The neighborhood continued to serve as port of entry for immigrants, both legal and undocumented immigrants and mostly of Mexican descent.

Some local advocacy groups have formed urging the neighborhood’s alderman to curtail gentrification to preserve the Mexican-American cultural and demographic dominance. These groups have met with limited success, as many of the neighborhood’s property owners are in favor of redevelopment and increasing property values, as well as increasing the diversity of the area both ethnically and economically.”

Last week, my practicum group met at La Cebollita for lunch on Thursday. My two steak tacos, rice, and beans were great. I love Mexican food. We met Alex Morales from The Resurrection Project. This non-profit does a variety of community development projects in Pilsen, much of which includes establishing affordable housing. We walked around the town and took a van tour around it as well. The last place we stopped at was Casa Maravilla – an affordable senior center. On the way back to the train we stopped at Nueva Leon Bakery. Good luck walking past the smells coming from those doors…and the prices. Almost everything is less than $2  – and $0.50 after 6pm. All kinds of baked goods! I’m usually not a big donut person.. but the these were legit doughnuts. yum.

yes, that one on the right is as big as a plate. and it cost $1.50

aand it was back to Pilsen on Friday night to the Nueva Leon restaurant. Another quality restaurant. Chicken and steak fajitas with grilled onions, peppers, tomatoes…and unlimited chips and salsa :) And another trip to the bakery on the way back to the train.

The Bulls vs Atlanta Hawks game completed a great Friday – especially when the bulls win 94 to 76.