Steans Center > For Students > Service Speaks > In Community

In Community

​​​​​​​​​Service learning thrives on work within communities: Students work closely with community partners in order to learn from and create a mutually beneficial relationships. Below are student reflections on community partnerships and active engagement in communities. 

Cynthia Flores

“The Jumpstart Program goes into under-resourced preschool classrooms to help improve children’s literacy and social–emotional skills. For many children, preschool is the first experience away from home for a long period of time. Also, it is a first experience in a structured classroom setting. Therefore, for us, it is important to create a comfortable, consistent and committed atmosphere in the Jumpstart sessions.

This past year, my service was at The Gads Hill Center in the North Lawndale community. When the site closed down due to COVID-19, it not only greatly impacted all the families in the community but Jumpstart as well. The impact occurred at a time when the Jumpstart members and the classroom had just established a comfortable relationship. Thus, we never had a chance to really see the relationships flourish to their fullest potential. We still try and connect with the families and classroom as much as we can during this time with videos and e-mails.”

Cynthia Flores

Frannie Nicolo

“I was volunteering at LUCHA but since the onset of COVID-19, I have been unable to volunteer. They have not been able to offer any remote volunteering opportunities either. Before coronavirus, I was working on organizing a system for work orders as well as designing a database for the waitlist for the affordable housing units. I also helped with First Time Homeowners workshops. I’ve loved volunteering at LUCHA. I have been able to connect with people in the community as well as enhance my Excel and Microsoft Access skills.”

Frannie Nicolo

“This past year, I have been working with Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA). My work consisted of going into the office about once a week, and working on various projects. I worked on research for creating a cohesive and updated re-entry policy, and data entering. Additionally, LUCHA hosts housing workshops for first time homeowners to learn about the steps they may need to take and about resources available to them. I would help out with those on the weekends. It was definitely more rewarding to be a part of the community work when I could meet and talk to people at the workshops.

Zoe Seipp


“I got it [A Just Harvest] to become one of the community partners at DePaul: I helped foster that relationship. This work is so rewarding and I wish to do more of it. It's like a part-time job; planning commutes accordingly, making sure to arrive on time and giving it the same respect as you would a place of paid employment."

Post-college plans for the Spring '20 alumna include working at Google as a large customer sales associate with continued work with the community partner.

Bushra Amiwala

Muslim Education Center

“The Muslim Education Center being so close to where I live is a big contributor. Especially since it reflects my faith. I’m doing this for my community and it’s so close to me. [About COVID-19] They’re second graders so it’s a little hard to figure out what they should be doing at home that’s enjoyable and engaging, and fosters their learning on Zoom calls.”

Mahum Inaba Ahmed

Alex Hernandez (CCDOC)

"The mission of CCDOC as it relates to programs is to be able to offer educational programs to individuals behind bars – from remedial math to vocational auto-shops to college level courses.  To be able to change and or imitate the idea of becoming or change someone’s life through the idea of programs.

 My experience with working with DePaul students to faculty staff has been an ongoing one-time experience. With that being said, I never imagined myself being able to work with Professor Lazu, Moe to Biagi, Worthman Paeth and offering college courses to this population.  The work that has gone that has been put into the “Inside Out” program has made an impact on recidivism. The key factor of service learning that benefited CCDOC was tremendous because the inmates can feel as if they are in college but behind walls. CCDOC has witnessed that the service-learning component has reduced the number of incidents within.  The outside students impacted of has had an impact in our organization because inmates whom enroll in these courses tend to make a dent in their life and perceive their education differently. A takeaway while working with the DePaul students either behind bars (Inside) or Outside students have been the number of interested individuals on furthering their education and becoming more involved. It always makes me think of how great these programs are because as we tend to start our recruiting process, inmates tend to be so interested and show the greatness of interests."

Alex Hernandez

"For the campaign, our target audiences were DePaul students and young Black and Hispanic males. To ensure our message connected with our target audiences, we sought support from the Steans Center at DePaul who then connected us to multiple community organizations in Chicago. We were able to reach out and partner with NAACP Westside, Chicago Westside Health Authority, The Resurrection Project, among others. Since the beginning, our community partner hosts were very helpful and interested in hearing what we had to contribute. 

The planning meetings with our community partners went smoothly and it was a two-way conversation. We provided our expertise in communication and public relations and they advised us about their community members and the best approached to reach them with census messaging. Since all of the community organizations we partnered with already had plans to promote the census we were able to help them improve their tactics based on our research and to provide them with social media content among other things. It became an organic partnership.

As an international student, relatively new to the city of Chicago the work we did with these organizations gave me the opportunity to know other neighborhoods and to experience their Midwestern hospitality and kindness."

Adriana Talvera

"We wanted to do all we could to educate our audiences about the 2020 Census and motivate them to be counted. To do this, we attended events at the NAACP Westside branch and the Westside Health Authority, where we talked with community members and passed out our campaign fliers and stickers. We also developed social media content for the Westside Health Authority’s Facebook page. 

Our community partners were kind, generous with their valuable time, and eager to support our campaign. They invited us to events and took time out of their busy schedules to discuss our campaign. Our community partners led us through example; by watching them, I learned how to successfully engage with community members. 

This project exposed me to the incredible work of Chicago’s community organizations. Through my partnership with these groups, I discovered that I have a passion for empowering others. I want to use my skills in communication to help others make their voices heard. In the future, I want to continue supporting this important work, whether through donating, volunteering, or even working on staff. 

My team and I adopted the Steans Center’s “serving with” approach to service: we wanted our community partners to lead our actions, not the other way around. I hope that my legacy is of someone who used this approach and did whatever she could to support the organization and their census outreach efforts."

Abigail Barbeau

"Frieda was really open to us about her love for the community kitchen and the people she loves. It was heartwarming to create a safe space that she felt able to express that. This class has gotten me out of my comfort zone.Thea: My favorite part was honestly just meeting incredible people I may have never met on my own. I think Frieda was patient with us and we were patient with her."

Jairus, DOC 396/496

"I have the goal of returning to Su Casa and to make more content for other organizations or just to volunteer and spend more time with other organizations as well."

Kaitlyn, DOC 396/496

"I have come to love being behind the camera and it’s been real empowering to capture moments that are real. I really enjoy creating content that really helps them ( WB) and their mission. Bikes are more empowering than I realized. I’d like to teach this class someday."

Megan H, DOC 396/496

Joshie Tikka

Joshie Tikka is a DePaul University graduate student in both the Social Work and Women and Gender Studies programs. In community service, they have worked with the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls and are currently interning at Saint Francis Hospital’s AMITA Health in Evanston where they do one-on-one therapy.

“For me, there’s a lot of solidarity in working with people with disabilities and I’m pretty open about having similar experiences. I’ve admitted to being vulnerable,” says Tikka on their involvement with therapy.

As a Steans Center Meister Scholarship awardee, they reflect on their journey toward community service saying it began at age 18 when starting a homeless outreach program.

“Living in Chicago, we can’t leave our homes without seeing people on the streets. That’s what got me interested in social work and social injustice work. We’re able to humanize the people we see.”

Joshie Tikka