Chris Lamprecht, a senior studying community psychology, has participated in service since high school, but this year, he was able to find to a project that combined his desire to make a difference with an opportunity to gain skills for his future career as a community psychologist.
“I was looking to get more involved with the community, as well as to do something related to community psychology values and research,” said Chris.
Chris is working with DePaul’s Center for Community Research where he gathers and analyzes data on students who attend Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The goal is to identify stressors CPS students face that can lead to violence. Ultimately, the research will be used to support a program that helps these students find positive ways to manage stress.
“It’s service, but its practical experience too in terms of me getting to participate in research. I’m still out there in the community helping to find a way for students to cope with stress, but this is great internship experience for me too.”
While participating in service shaped Chris’ education, it wasn’t a deciding factor in his choice to attend DePaul.
“Choosing DePaul, I was very attracted to the campus, the city of Chicago—a lot of self-interested reasons, but it ended up being the best choice. Service has changed my outlook on life, the way I look at my friends, family and politics. It has opened my eyes to tolerance and acceptance. Being able to connect with other people has been one of the most profound experiences I’ve had.”
Molly McVay grew up understanding she would go to college. Most of her family members and neighbors were college graduates. “All along the way, we talked about how my grades and the activities I did would come into play in college. At the time, I did not even realize that was such an advantage,” she says.
Now she and other student members of DePaul Volunteers Supporting Youth (part of the DePaul Community Service Association) are returning the favor. Every Friday afternoon they join about 60 elementary-school children at Hope Junior, an after-school program at the Marillac Social Center in East Garfield Park. The activities are simple—helping with homework, playing Capture the Flag. The goal is greater—to get the kids imaging college in their future.
“We’ll start talking about their dreams. Do they want to be a doctor, a policeman, a teacher?” she says. “To get those jobs, they need to go to college. To go to college, they need to get good grades. And that’s why studying for that spelling test matters.”
After three years volunteering, Molly is excited about the sense of community and connections that have developed between the DePaul students and the children they work with. With great affection, she talks about a boy who wasn’t interested in working with any of the DePaul volunteers until he connected with her. “He’d tell everyone he had no homework until he saw me, and then out would pop the math and the English and the science,” she says. “Now, he’s excited to work with everyone. He’s really become more open and involved.”
Molly signed up for the program because she thought it would be a good complement to her academic studies. She is double-majoring in sociology and American studies with a concentration in racial and ethnic integration and plans to become a social worker or lawyer specializing in urban youth. She’s gotten the insights she was hoping for, plus some she wasn’t expecting.
“It’s so much fun to walk in and see that the kids are excited to have us there!” she says. “To outsiders it might appear that I am helping them but often they are the ones providing me with the wisdom!”
There’s something about fleece blankets that makes you smile.
Freshman student-athletes from all 13 of DePaul’s NCAA teams discovered that in September when they gathered to make 600 blankets
for low-income children. It was one of the many service activities the Blue Demons do throughout the school year. Most of the student-athletes had never made a blanket before. Some had never done service before. They all loved it.
“It was more than team bonding,” says women’s basketball
player Elri Liebenberg. “It’s that warm feeling in your heart that you know you did something that’s going to keep someone else warm during the winter. It was very fun.”
But the big fun began when the student-athletes hand-delivered the blankets to kids in the St. Vincent de Paul Center. The Blue Demons helped with crafts, played “Duck Duck Goose” in the gym, and clambered around on the playground with the delighted children.
“It was awesome just looking at their faces. They were so happy for all of us to work with them. Even if it was just gluing leaves on their sheet of paper, you could tell, it made their day,” says soccer player Lauren Frasca.
It can be difficult for college student-athletes to find the time to volunteer. DePaul Athletics works hard to create service opportunities that fit into players’ schedules, allowing them to connect with the community in ways beyond athletics. That’s one of the reasons softball player Angela Scalzitti committed to DePaul.
“That’s something that’s so great about this university. Service is a central part of the DePaul experience,” Angela says. “It’s part of how I’m growing as a person, not just as a player.”
Jessica Ramser is a leader. The junior’s involvement in service has provided leadership opportunities that have shaped her experience at DePaul.
“I started doing service through DePaul’s service immersion program and went on a first-year trip to St. Louis. From there, I was recommended to be a service immersion trip leader. I became a leader the spring of my freshman year,” said Jessica, a political science major.
After her service immersion trip, she joined the DePaul Community Service Association (DCSA) and became the site coordinator for DePals, a program that works with adults and students who have developmental disabilities.
“We mentor the students we work with, but we also offer friendship. It’s something I look forward to every week. We know about each other family’s lives. We build relationships,” said Jessica. As a coordinator, Jessica also communicates with the site, recruits volunteers, schedules visits and helps plan activities.
But Jessica’s role with DCSA expands beyond the DePals program: She’s also a member of the senior team. With approximately 25 service sites and two coordinators per site, the senior team ensures that resources are appropriately allocated and any issues that arise are quickly handled.
“Between planning events, setting up sites and securing transportation, we’re here to make sure everything runs smoothly throughout the year,” said Jessica, “My leadership skills have developed and strengthened through all of these opportunities.”
But she’s not just gaining leadership experience and skills that will serve her well beyond her time at DePaul, she’s also had the opportunity to explore Chicago and think beyond the boundaries of campus and classroom.
“I’m not just going to school to get a job for myself and make money. I am part of something. We have a great city at our fingertips to learn and be involved. Service has challenged my views and given me a new perspective.”