In the early hours of a crisp March morning, roughly 100 SAIC students shuffled onto charter buses headed for Homan Square, where SAIC operates a classroom space in Nichols Tower. As part of SAIC’s second annual Day of Service, students volunteered their time and skills to help enrich organizations in the North Lawndale community. While many felt inspired to serve the greater Chicago community, the event also helped students forge new friendships.
Students were divided into work teams and shuttled throughout the neighborhood to help with projects such as developing promotional flyers to repairing and painting old walls. International students Jinchen Cai (BFA 2020) and Sunny Bae were tucked in the food pantry of Family Focus, organizing the canned goods and throwing out expired food.
“Opportunities like this can help with your organizational and collaborative skills,” Bae said. “Volunteering helps because you’re communicating with other people rather than working stuff out on your own, and you’re giving back to the community. We should always keep in mind not to be too self-focused."
When SAIC opened remote classrooms in Nichols Tower last year, the School resolved to help activate the Homan Square community. Not only does it integrate community challenges into learning opportunities for degree-seeking students, but it also offers an artist residency program and free art classes to North Lawndale residents. The Day of Service was just one way for the School to introduce itself to the community and start making connections.
The School partnered with seven groups for this year’s Day of Service: Firehouse Community Art Center, the Foundation for Homan Square, Sweet Beginnings, DRW College Prep, Family Focus, the Chicago Youth Center, and BBF Family Services. Catering for breakfast and lunch was also provided by two local businesses: Inspiration Kitchens and Miss Jeri’s Place.
Taykhoom Beviji (MA 2017) was a student volunteer for the first day of service. This year, he helped organize the event as a student worker in the Office of Engagement.
“The Day of Service is just nice,” he said. “We’re a school that talks about self-care and caring for others. This is a direct way of doing that.”
Sun Kawazoe (BFA 2017), an RA and student leader for the Day of Service, was so excited for the day that he transformed the event’s logo into necklaces for fellow student leaders.
“On every level, I’ve been really impressed with the group of students and their positive attitudes and their commitment to community,” said Jaclyn Jacunski (MFA 2007), Research Associate at the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Center and one of the administrative organizers behind the Day of Service. “It just makes me understand how special our school is and how great our students are. That’s what SAIC is about: using creativity to solve problems and improve things."