Spring Break Service Trip

Nandini Jain, Opinions Editor

At the beginnig of spring break, 26 students and 5 teachers led by Mrs. Barnes hopped onto the Amtrak going to Chicago for the Montgomery Plan Service Trip. For 4 nights and 3 days, we resided at Hostel International Chicago located downtown. Throughout our time, we were not only able to participate in rewarding service activities, but also explored parts of Chicago and learned about the city’s history.

We started off at the Erie Community Center, which is a “home without borders,” and serves as an educational facility that provides care and schooling to children living in low-income communities. We played with the children and helped them with their daily activities. Avi Dundoo ‘19 says, “it was interesting to actually be able to interact with the kids because we could see the impact we were making,” and he calls it one of his favorite activities on the trip. In the second half of our day, we cleared out invasive species contaminating the forest grounds of Chicago’s famous Shedd Aquarium. With the help of a particularly inspirational and enthusiastic employee, we snipped and cut numerous infected trees, thus creating a safe and clean environment for native species.

On our second day, we went to Cradles Without Crayons, an organization that provides essential supplies to children all over Chicago. While some of the group cleaned shoes, a majority created the bags that are distributed to children. We got lists, partnered up, and found as much as we could in the warehouse. On some of the lists, there were facts about the child that influenced what kinds of toys, clothes, or shoes we would put in the bags. These facts allowed us to glimpse into the lives of the children we were helping. We also volunteered at the St. Malachy + Precious Blood Church’s outdoor food bank, which gave food to anyone who came to the gate. Contrary to food banks where one must provide information for eligibility, Father Matt Eyerman, the leader of this bank, created a system for people regardless of circumstance. In order to normalize the process, he bought shopping bags from Aldi, so when parents went home, their children would think the food was coming from a normal grocery store. The inclusivity of this particular bank was extremely impressive to our group.

On our final day of service, we visited La Casa Norte, which serves youth and families confronting homelessness and provides access to stable housing and services. We heard somber statistics regarding homelessness in Chicago and had time to ask questions about the facility and its goals. Some people were set to cook a meal for incoming youth, and others cleaned parts of the building so there was a sense of comfort when people entered. A majority of us made paper-mache pots for an Earth Day festival. After completing our work, we toured the youth housing and were amazed with the organization, cleanliness, and discipline. After La Casa Norte, we took the bus to the Anti-Cruelty Society and made toys out of t-shirts for dogs. We also played with the most adorable puppies and toured the facility.

Along with service, we also explored the city. We visited the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University. There, we gained a sense of the historical events of Chicago’s beginnings and, to the chagrin of some acrophobics, climbed to the top of the theater to see the view from the sixth floor. We went to dinner at House of Blues one night and enjoyed some lovely Blues music. We went to a Bulls game, and even though they lost, we still got to experience the joy of buying overpriced stadium food and watching dance teams and cheerleaders. Dr. Koropchak started the Chicago Running Club and took some of us on a run in the morning by the lake and Navy Pier.

All in all, the service trip this year was exceptional. It was the perfect balance between service and tourism, and it was memorable, to say the least.