Our One Summer Chicago Program is in full swing! Chicago Cares is so pleased to be partnering with the City of Chicago to provide youth with a safe and structured learning environment this summer, and with a roadmap for civic engagement moving forward.

Research has shown that children who engage in volunteer service perform better in school, are more likely to graduate from college and believe they can make a difference in the world. Building upon these lessons, we’ve adapted and expanded our signature service learning programming and are working with more than 200 youth for six weeks. The students are being led by a team of Chicago Cares staff, trained mentors and adult volunteers leveraging a structured curriculum developed by Chicago Cares.

Through this program students have honed their leadership skills. They’ve learned about communication etiquette and conflict resolution. They’ve also researched and presented on a variety of issue areas ranging from hunger and homelessness to working with adults with developmental disabilities. They’ve applied this knowledge in the field, participating in weekly hands-on service projects that have fed the hungry, beautified public spaces and engaged senior citizens.

Through this intensive, hands-on program, these students are learning to become problem solvers before our eyes. Their work will culminate next week, when, after much research, dialogue and personal experience they will unveil representations of their “dream communities,” outlining how pervading challenges in their neighborhoods can be addressed through resources and community-building. I can’t wait to see what they develop!

Katie Clendenning is Senior Manager, Youth in Service for Chicago Cares

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