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On August 15, 2013, our high school mappers wrapped up the summer of 2013 by presenting their findings, opinions, and experiences to their fellow mappers and those interested in MAPSCorps. Their presentations involved powerpoints, posters, mini documentaries, and even small Q and A sessions. The mappers filled out one last survey and were given their “star” and “super star” certificates for attending at least three out of the five Fridays for the Future events. Thanks to everyone that made MAPSCorps 2013 possible. We hope to see you all again in the summer of 2014!

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In this week’s blog postings, the UCSC interns share their thoughts on “town gown” relations and community based research initiatives such as MAPSCorps.

Mappers from Claretian pose with their Field Coordinators on their last day of programming before their final presentations; image courtesy of Claudia Giribaldi at #mapscorps on Instagram

Mappers from Claretian pose with their Field Coordinators on their last day of programming before their final presentations; image courtesy of Claudia Giribaldi at #mapscorps on Instagram

While MAPSCorps is the first example of a Community Based Research project I have been exposed to and have worked with, I have observed that it has been planned and executed in an effective manner with regard to its relationship to the communities it is conducting research on. A frequent criticism of the University and other large research institutions is the way they conduct research on surrounding communities without providing the community they are researching a direct benefit. MAPSCorps has effectively dealt with this problem in two major ways. First, this project employs youth from the communities being mapped, creating opportunities for them to develop job skills and gain insight and guidance from college students. Working with the high school students has given us the opportunity to advise them in the college search and admissions process and have important conversations they may not often be confronted with. The second major benefit to the community is that they are involved in the data collection process via MAPSCorps’ partnerships with community-based organizations (CBOs). The CBOs and their communities then have access to the data being collected through southsidehealth.org, which can help further the work of CBOs with an asset-based mindset. I look forward to continuing to learning more about various approaches specifically addressing the community relations aspect during the remainder of my time at the University in both my classes and in the field.

                                                                Vidal Anguiano, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

In this Friday’s discussion of the town-gown relationship, we turned to the topic of the role of MAPSCorps in UChicago’s relationship with the community and our conversations out in the field. We talked about the challenges of effectively conveying the mission and purpose of MAPSCorps to community members and business owners. Many of us mentioned that we usually don’t speak of MAPSCorps in relation to the University of Chicago, mainly to avoid bringing up any negative connotations residents might have. I usually talk about MAPSCorps in this way, but after this discussion and based on positive responses when I have mentioned UChicago, I’ve found myself wondering how to better frame these conversations to include the University’s role. In many ways, the interns and the high school students are the faces of MAPSCorps, and by taking the time to explain the goal of the program as well as its supporting organizations, we can definitely contribute to cultivating a positive town-gown relationship. I also think that MAPSCorps could continue to support the community by making the initiative more well known and the data more accessible to the residents and business owners. For example, business owners might have the option of submitting information online about their business to include in their listing. Making the site even more user-friendly (through interface design and translating to other languages) and having the data available on multiple platforms will make accessing the information much easier for residents. Mini-workshops held at community-based organizations and clinics on the South Side could go over the goals of the program, as well as how to access and use the data, particularly as the HealtheRx program begins. These are just a few small ideas for outreach, but I think that initiatives like these can further the conversations MAPSCorps is having with the community and ensure that its wealth of data has a meaningful impact on individual residents.

                                                       Kavya Minama Reddy, University of Chicago, Class of 2014

Town gown relations have often been viewed in a negative light. Common grievances among community members unaffiliated with the University usually stem from a lack of communication between both parties. In order to initiate and improve upon town gown relationships, University officials need to be willing to open up their doors and recognize that citizens of the community occupy an important role in the overall function of the institution. Likewise, the community at large should strip itself of constant suspicion and interrogation of University actions without first understanding the reasoning behind those decisions. Ultimately, through employment and offering a voice in decision-making, universities can begin to build more involvement instead of isolating the community which they call home.

                                                                     Christina Leon, University of Chicago, Class of 2016

My MAPSCorps experience has been heavily influenced by the communities that I’ve been assigned to work in: South Chicago and its neighbors on the far Southeast Side. There is a great deal of socioeconomic diversity from community to community in the area we’re working in, which obviously contributes a lot to the feel of the Southeast Side. Actually, one of my favorite things to do while mapping is picking out my favorite houses in each community, which my mappers also seem to really enjoy! I’ve realized that at least in the area I work, middle class and working class communities really do live side-by-side, and so it’s not accurate to speak of “the South Side” as if it all looks one way, or as if all people face the same issues. Previously, I definitely fell into the trap of assuming that the South Side neighborhoods were all working class with the exception of Hyde Park. Now, I think I’d say that knowing one area of the South Side isn’t enough to allow a person to speak for the community as a whole, whether that area is a single neighborhood or even a cluster of neighborhoods like the Southeast Side. There is simply so much diversity that goes unnoticed!

                                                                     Lauren Springett, University of Chicago, Class of 2014

The University of Chicago has not always had a positive relationship with the surrounding community. Many citizens and businesses have been upset by expansion and economic influence from the growing campus. Initiatives such as MAPSCorps, however, appear to be a step in the right direction. By taking an interest in the assets of the South Side — mapping those services that already exist and exposing those services that the community lacks — MAPSCorps is attempting to improve community life without imposing its own agenda. MAPSCorps is an appealing community initiative because it is not changing a community which already distrusts the University, but it is instead giving valuable data to the community so that it can be used as the community sees fit. From here, a positive step for the initiative might be to provide resources or financial assistance to the community organizations that have received the data once they determine what the best course of action might be.

                                                                    Joseph Archer, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

This week we explored town-gown relations, which is a very relevant topic for the MAPSCorps project. While in the field, many of us have been met with suspicion and distrust upon mentioning that we are researchers from the University of Chicago. While I personally have never received a negative reaction from talking about the University, I can certainly see why the University’s history in the South Side has led many community members to become suspicious. In order to continue to improve the relationship between the University of Chicago and surrounding South Side communities, I think it is important to stress transparency in every project that the University undertakes and also to have a more constant informal presence in the surrounding communities. The relationship between a university and the surrounding communities should involve a two-way flow of information, with the communities learning from the university and vice versa.

Meaghan Lyons, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

Over the past seven weeks with MAPSCorps, I have been fortunate enough to explore communities I had never been to, as well as learn more about those I have already visited. In the past, I have instinctively associated myself with the University and Hyde Park, despite where I was working. Other neighborhoods were foreign and peripheral to my UChicago bubble. However, through MAPSCorps, I have found myself connecting with my high school students and their particular neighborhoods. I no longer think of 67th Street as the southern border of Jackson Park, but as the street where Janece lives. Likewise, the Gary Comer Youth Center is not only a place for UChicago volunteers, but also home to the South Shore Drill Team and where Gary spent many of his high school years. Through the MAPSCorps students, I have found ways to connect with places outside of Hyde Park and become a member of the larger South Side community.

  Katrina Nygaard, University of Chicago, Class of 2013

It is hard to believe that the MAPSCorps internship will soon be over. Throughout this program, my perception of the community has grown and changed substantially as a result of my interactions with my high school students as well as the greater South Side area. Prior to this program, I experienced an inner conflict between my UChicago student status and my place in the surrounding community. During this week I attended the Youth International Poetry Slam called Brave New Voices (BNV) at the UChicago Logan Arts Center. What I witnessed was the gathering of poets from South Africa to Alaska to Hawaii to England, not in competition but in community. The poets have a saying: “The point is not the points; the point is the poetry.” This mantra is what unites people of differing cultures and backgrounds into a community dedicated to the celebration of spoken word and its performance.

The love and unity of this community, regardless of regional conflicts or personal history, was the manifestation of the inner resolution for which I had been searching. I came to realize I am no longer just a member of the UChicago community nor the South Side community. Through my work with MAPSCorps, I chose to join an even more encompassing community of people who are dedicated to educating, advocating, and improving their lives and the lives of others. MAPSCorps taught me to look for assets in the community and to look at myself as an asset to any community I am in. My background, cultural mannerisms, and education are irrelevant in a community united by altruistic motives. MAPSCorps helped cultivate this community because it allows for information to be gathered in a community by adding its members to that community rather than “parachuting in” to conduct research. Each member has unknowingly internalized aspects of the communities they mapped, carrying small but meaningful connections from one community to another. Personally, I have fallen in love with the Bronzeville community. Long after this internship ends, I will continue to visit my tailor, Derek, and my favorite café, Ain’t She Sweet Café. I’ll tell my friends and classmates about the people I have met and businesses I have encountered. The interpersonal skills I learned helped me make more connections in Hyde Park, like David, the vegan chef at Bonne Sante, who is teaching me to cook. The last several weeks have expanded my understanding of community to include just about everyone I meet because I never know who could be an asset.

Quote of the week: “We should continue to take care of us, but it doesn’t hurt to expand what we consider us.” -George Watsky, on including animals in our conception of “us” at Brave New Voices Finals

                                                                  Cameron Okeke, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

My perception of the communities we have mapped has changed drastically over the summer. Communities bearing the names Chatham, South Deering, and Avalon Park were alien and seemed uninviting. Furthermore, why would a University of Chicago student from Richmond, VA, find himself in communities like Eastside, Roseland, or Calumet Heights? The MAPSCorps experience not only gave me the opportunity to set foot in these communities but also gave me the job of recording the assets of each community, which allowed me to see the personal value of each community. Ultimately, thanks to the MAPSCorps experience, I have encountered several communities where I can get a service provided, where I can volunteer my time, and where I can interact with engaged community members.

                                                              Michael Andrade, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

With the summer of 2013 coming to a close, our theme for this week’s mapper reflections is the MAPSCorps experience: What they’ve learned, what has challenged them, and how they plan to move forward with the skills and insights they gained over the past six weeks.

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Students take a break from mapping; image courtesy of Washington Park Consortium Field Coordinator Emma Roberts

From what I’ve seen in various communities of the South Side, I’d tell community leaders that we need more black-owned businesses and less liquor stores, fast food, and beauty supply [stores]. I feel as though these places are really destroying our communities and aren’t really helping to give us growth. I really feel we need change!

–Arkier Burton, 18, Centers for New Horizons

The life of a MAPSCorps mapper is tiring. It [takes] a lot of courage and energy to walk every day. My mapping experiences in the field taught me communication skills and to also be open-minded. I would tell community leaders to be more considerate as to where we walk, like. in rough neighborhoods. I think that there should be more medical clinics [on the South Side], especially if MAPSCorps is giving sites and locations for healthy environments and lives.

–Willie Fields, 16, Centers for New Horizons

As a MAPSCorps mapper you have the opportunity to meet many new people and places. For example, when riding on the bus people are engaged and curious as to what MAPSCorps is and what we do. There are people who want to learn more about us and those who praise us for the service we provide. As a mapper you get the chance to discover new places and allow other South Side community members to see them as well. Mapping in the field has taught me how to approach people, communicate professionally, pass on information, and create great first impressions. Based on the South Side communities we’ve been exposed to, I would tell community leaders that we need more community programs, such as centers dedicated to health, rather than liquor and convenience stores.

–Lorianna Anderson, 17, Centers for New Horizons

Throughout the MAPSCorps program, I have developed skills that I will need in the future. I’ve developed skills such as public speaking, people skills, and problem solving skills. This program has been very helpful. I have benefitted dramatically from being here.

–Danielle Howard, 17, Centers for New Horizons

A day of a MAPSCorps’ mapper is definitely interesting. Every day I encountered something new in a neighborhood. This helped me learn more about my community and where things are. I learned a lot about where streets are and the sections they’re broken into. We also got to meet and talk to a lot of people of different ethnicities. Being a mapper may seem boring, but it’s the best you could ever do to have a full-blown experience through Chicago’s big jungle. There is more to the South Side than just violence and I am definitely learning that.

–Amber Foster, 17, Centers for New Horizons

In my community the only thing we see is stores, not parks or things that would benefit families…Now that I’m walking more since MAPSCorps, I have been seeing parks I never saw, so I tell my community to explore more. [The South Side] is more than stores, it’s parks, lakes, and more places that people can enjoy.

–Catherine Jones, 16, Centers for New Horizons

I would improve the types of stores out here on the South Side. The South Side needs more hospitals and more childcare places. Also the police need more improvement on helping people.

–Shontanese Luckett, 17, Centers for New Horizons

My experiences in MAPSCorps have helped me travel and know the streets of Chicago. It has also taught me public speaking skills, as well as ways to explain and elaborate my [role with MAPCorps]. I have also learned a lot of patience, as much is needed with the obnoxious people on the bus. Perseverance is needed especially when I don’t feel like writing or walking. Overall, I feel empowered and well-deserving of the lessons I learned over the time I have been here.

–Raushan Richardson, 17, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation

One suggestion I would give to a community leader would be to add more programs to clean the community. Since I’ve been mapping I have noticed many empty lots that are filled with trash. I think adding more programs that clean up the community would motivate people to take more pride in their neighborhood.

–Nina Hunter, 18, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation

MAPSCorps fits into the field of data science in many ways. In my opinion, MAPSCorps explains science. MAPSCorps uses science by collecting data, and science is mostly about data collection and [finding] similarities [in those data]. MAPSCorps also fits into the science field because of the sources it uses to collect data. Science deals with people, comparisons, computers, and data—MAPSCorps put all of these into one field.

–Candace Tolbert, 17, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation

A day of mapping is a very inspiring thing. We walk a few miles, which is very good when it comes to my exercise. I am very pumped to work for this type of organization because it brings a lot of youth together to help cover strengths and weaknesses. I am trying to become the key element in everyone’s group because I never want people to fall out. I think that what defines a mapper’s day is: complex, busy, and fun. From walking around and talking to people, I was able to develop better people skills and find something I liked doing. Knowing that I’m the youngest, it’s kind of hard to find a place to fit in, but once I’m settled into a good group situation, I know that I’m going to succeed and get the job done.

I have learned that you will not always be placed into a group you like, and being quite honest, it isn’t always the most fun thing to in the world. However, throughout mapping I’ve learned that some points in time I’m just going to have to be real with myself and grow a lot. My typical day of mapping could either be good or bad depending on my actions and reactions.

–Clifton Allen, 16, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation

One suggestion I would give to community leaders is to create access to healthy food for the people of the community. While walking I’ve noticed throughout my experience with the program that there is an abundance of fast food stores as well as corner stores throughout several neighborhoods in the community. Instead of allowing [more] corner stores to be created and established within the community, community leaders should instead create community farmers markets. By having quick and easy access to healthy food, the health of the community can thus be improved.

–Devonta Dickey, 17, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation

In this week’s blog posts, the UCSC interns share their thoughts on how the community organizations they are matched with this summer and the high school mappers they’ve been working with are helping to build sustainable communities. During the Friday workshop, the UCSC interns interviewed Orrin Williams, Executive Director of the Center for Urban Transformation. They also interviewed separately Sheelah Muhammad, Deputy Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network.

Mappers take a break with their field coordinator at the Nate King Cole Park in Chatham; photo taken by Claretian Field Coordinator  Vidal Angmiano from #mapscorps on Instagram.

Mappers take a break with Field Coordinator Claudia Giribaldi at the Nate King Cole Park in Chatham; photo taken by Claretian Field Coordinator Vidal Angmiano from #mapscorps on Instagram.

I believe that high school students are uniquely positioned to contribute to strengthening their communities’ infrastructures due to both their insights and skill sets. As young members of their home and school communities, they are able to bring a fresh perspective to the table, whether by creating an initiative or contributing to an existing program. High school students also tend to be very adept at utilizing technology and social media in creative ways, which are becoming more and more a part of a community’s infrastructure. The high school mappers, for example, are able to use technology and their knowledge of the communities to effectively collect data that plays a crucial role in strengthening infrastructure. Even beyond the data collection, I’ve loved hearing their ideas for and reflections on their communities during our daily discussions. I hope that through this experience, they realize the important role they play in building a sustainable community and that it inspires them to create and be a part of future initiatives.

                                                       - Kavya Minama Reddy, University of Chicago, Class of 2014

Of the various services that Claretian Associates–the community based organization my group has partnered with this summer–provides, we have only been exposed to a very limited number of them. One program they have offers free meals to members of the surrounding communities, who just have to walk in and have a meal. I have observed that this program assists mostly families with multiple children who likely have trouble sustaining a steady income and are greatly helped by the meals offered. While the program is a great idea and seemingly makes an impact, I wish the meals they serve were better. At this point they are given small boxed meals that vary in freshness and often don’t seem very nutritious. A program like this would better serve its community by being able to provide healthy, nutritious meals, while providing resources that can inform beneficiaries of the program of the foods that are healthy and where they can buy them.

                                                                    – Vidal Anguiano, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

This week has been particularly more difficult than the preceding because I have started to find myself both included and excluded by the communities that we have mapped. I understand the safety issues, but I can’t help but come back in my free time, checking out all of the corner stores and shopping plazas the South Side has to offer. I am looking for where I fit in; I am Chicagoan who has found a home that was never meant for me, at a university never meant for me. Despite my efforts, my students are quick to remind me that I am not “from” Chicago because I do not act as they do. I believe this notion is a defining feature of the larger community’s infrastructure, leading some to prosper while others degrade. After ignoring my protest and writing his name in wet cement, one of my students explained to me the logic behind vandalism in the neighborhood you live in. He pointed to some sense of ownership of the community and victimless nature of the crime as justification. Again, I got glimpse into the effect autonomy has on South Side youth. His explanation for his autograph was that it was expected of him. Simultaneously, I began to understand how racial and socioeconomic expectation precipitated into this cognitive dissonance. Earlier that day, he was asking why the community looked so terrible, but he refused to recycle as it is a “white people thing.”

This type of internalized oppression is not unique to my students, as I found myself saying that I would not eat bad, poorly prepared food because it seemed “uppity,” a belief deeply rooted in social and personal expectations. Through these interactions, my students have taught me that there is nothing greater one can contribute to a community than a new perspective and an open mind. I am beginning to challenge them more. I convinced some students to try some healthier options at a local café over the corner store, introducing them to unfamiliar foods. I received a comment card that said, “Tried healthy food today, I loved it!” I can’t make corner stores sell better food in a day nor can I make it cost-effective for my students to eat better, but I can show them that it has been better and it will be better because they deserve better.

“Englewood had the 2nd highest economic activity in the state.” – Orrin Williams, 64, reminiscing about his childhood

                                                                      - Cameron Okeke, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

In one of the most interesting Focus Fridays to date, this past week we learned about what it means to have a sustainable community. Sustainability, in this sense, includes many aspects of the community beyond ideas of energy efficiency and renewability. In our interview with Orrin Williams, my attention was drawn to the importance of aesthetics within the context of sustainability. Mr. Williams mentioned that the desolate appearance of parts of the South Side can act as a perpetual tool for oppression. Sustainable communities need to look like communities worth sustaining in order to be successful.

Centers for New Horizons plays a large role in building sustainable communities in the Bronzeville area by providing programs that assist families with housing and allowing elders to remain independent for as long as possible. When people have their own place to live, they can take pride in that place and the community in which they live. In addition, Centers offers programs for young people that involve planting community gardens, which fill empty lots and improve the aesthetics of the community, as well as provide fresh food. I feel that aesthetics is an important issue to discuss with my mappers, since some of them may not understand the importance of not littering and keeping the community at its aesthetic best.

                                                                    – Meaghan Lyons, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

Situated in South Chicago, Claretian Associates offers a wide variety of services to people of all ages in the far south and west neighborhoods of the city. Claretian’s programs range from youth initiatives to community development projects. One of the organization’s most successful resources consists of affordable housing opportunities for families and seniors in the South Chicago neighborhood. Claretian Associates owns and oversees management of 37 rental apartments for residents of South Chicago. In partnership with Interfaith Housing Development Corporation of Chicago, Claretian has been able to provide housing for at least 29 families–a truly amazing and honorable feat.

                                                                     – Christina Leon, University of Chicago, Class of 2016

The young people of MAPSCorps are integral in maintaining and improving their communities. They tend to see the problems facing their communities in a nonpolitical way, and they propose solutions with the goal of altruistically helping one another. An effort aimed to help a community should include young people who will share their vigor and creativity in problem-solving. As they finish high school and begin college, our mappers will carry the knowledge of what their communities need, which will make them an indispensable resource in the future. Hopefully their experience with MAPSCorps will make them aware of the valuable assets their communities offer, which they can use to implement the ideas they have today to meet the needs of the community tomorrow.

                                                                – Michael Andrade, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

In the past four weeks of mapping, I’ve watched the high school students I’ve worked with really begin to discover their communities. Many of the students, despite living in the Southeast Side for most of their lives, knew very little about how to get around prior to MAPSCorps. They drove everywhere, were unfamiliar with the public transit system, and considered everything outside of their block dangerous territory. MAPSCorps has helped them to feel much more comfortable with themselves and their neighborhoods, which I think is crucial to strengthening the infrastructure of a community. These students now have a better sense of what resources exist right around the corner, both negative (fast food restaurants) and positive (community-based organizations). They have a greater respect for the community as a whole, and no longer limit themselves to a few blocks around their houses. And they have the opportunity to pass on their knowledge and newfound awareness to the rest of their peers and neighbors. A community can’t really develop if its residents can’t bond with each other, but with the help of these high schoolers, perhaps the Southeast Side can come together.

                                                                – Lauren Springett, University of Chicago, Class of 2014

Center for New Horizons, the site my MAPSCorps team currently operates out of, makes a lot of interesting contributions to community development. Not only does the site provide affordable day care services for those parents of low-income families that have to work during the day, but it also provides education on child rearing. The site provides workforce development for the unemployed and aid for those struggling to find sustainable living arrangements. I believe services such as these promote healthy communities because parents are able to find work, feel comfortable that their families are being taken care of during work hours, and find housing that fits their economic needs. These are the fundamentals that build a thriving community, for it is through a strong workforce and housing sustainability that a community becomes safer and more economically prosperous.

                                                                              – Joe Archer, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

Mapping the South Side has been a multidimensional experience for many of the mappers. Each day brings its challenges and opportunities to our team. Exploring new community areas such as South Shore, Washington Park or Englewood has provided some of the students with an opportunity to further engage with their communities and, for others, it provides access to an entirely new neighborhood. Regardless of their preconceived ideas about an area, the students have been able to connect professionally and personally with members of the South Side. Learning to engage with the public in a respectful, professional manner has strengthened the connections between the high school students and their communities.

                                                                 – Katrina Nygaard, University of Chicago, Class of 2013

Last week, mappers at the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation shared their thoughts on how MAPSCorps provides individual and community benefits. Today, mappers from Centers for New Horizons and Claretian Associates offer their own views. Enjoy!

Mappers from Claretian Associates spent their morning walking through Avalon Park; photo courtesy of Field Coordinator Claudia Giribaldi at #mapscorps on Instagram.

Mappers from Claretian Associates spent their morning walking through Avalon Park; photo courtesy of Field Coordinator Claudia Giribaldi at #mapscorps on Instagram.

MAPSCorps has really had a great impact on my health. Walking everyday has really made me look at walking differently and increased my endurance. MAPSCorps can benefit everyone in my community by giving them the things they need and places to go, so they won’t have an excuse about why they can’t get something. I have learned that there are a lot of local places on the South Side that are unknown but benefiting my community.

- Amber Foster, 17, Centers for New Horizons

I believe that my African-American community will benefit from the MAPSCorps project, [including people of] all ages. And what I’ve noticed is that there are too many streets with abandoned or run-down black-owned businesses, and more fast food [restaurants], beauty supply and liquor stores. We need to change that, and places like Walgreens need to lower their health food prices.

- Arkier Burton, 18, Centers for New Horizons

Today and other previous mapping experiences have shown me how many assets in a community can go unnoticed, specifically home daycare centers. Many families may not even know that their children can be taken care of right around the corner. It’s great to be a part of raising awareness by collecting data.

- Amber Payne, 16, Claretian Associates

Some skills I’ve gained after mapping [include] a better sense of direction, knowing how to take public transportation, and knowing how to communicate with business leaders/owners about the purposes of the project.

- Laura Padilla, 18, Claretian Associates

So far while we’re walking for MAPSCorps the community is concerned about what we do, and some want their children to be involved in it as well. MAPSCorps has a positive influence on the community, and I’m sure [community members] appreciate the help [finding which] good businesses are close by so they won’t have to travel far.

- Camille Cotton, 16, Claretian Associates

Everything went great today. [Our field coordinator] Cameron is really inspiring and a renaissance man! I hope to meet another person similar to him. Thanks to him I’ve been attempting to change my eating habits.

- Anonymous, Centers for New Horizons

MAPSCorps has definitely changed my physical health. Before I started MAPSCorps, I was scared of the walking. But you know, it really isn’t that bad. Every time I walk I feel even better and I love it. This will definitely change how I am and I am so happy. That’s one good reason why I love this job.

- Dana Rhodes, 16, Claretian Associates

In this week’s blog postings, the UCSC interns share their thoughts on the leadership styles that they have demonstrated this summer. They also reflect on the topic of violence and its impact on the health and vitality of communities. 

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Field coordinators during a Friday meeting. Check out more MAPSCorps photos by searching #mapscorps on Instagram!

Earlier this summer, the field coordinators and the students had the chance to learn about and reflect upon the different leadership styles in a compass activity. At the time, I saw myself identifying with both the “south” (nurturer) and “east” (visionary) leadership styles. Over the past few weeks, however, I’ve been challenging myself to incorporate the other two styles of “north” (take-charge activist) and “west” (analyst) as I map with the students. In addition to looking at the big-picture nature of our work for a community and asking the students for their preferences and knowledge, I’ve also been trying to analyze situations and make quick decisions when needed out in the field — such as how to best map a street in a time crunch. While I think that my leadership style will continue to tend towards “southeast”, I’ve come to value incorporating the other leadership styles to adapt to the fast-paced and sometimes unpredictable experience that is mapping, and hope to continue this practice in my future endeavors.

- Kavya Minama Reddy, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

 When I first learned that I would be a part of MAPSCorps earlier this summer, I became excited in knowing that I would be able to practice and build upon my leadership skills. I often pay close attention to the way I lead and enjoy experimenting with leadership in different contexts. I have come to know the contexts where leadership comes more easily to me, but also have come to acknowledge those that are more difficult. This summer I’ve been leading in a context where I have found that balancing rapport and sternness in discipline with high school students as a leader is difficult. With the great attention I have given to this area of my experience in MAPSCorps, I hope to learn more from the reactions and responses those I’m leading have so that I can learn and adjust accordingly.

- Vidal Anguiano, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

I have never considered myself a “take charge” leader. I feel that, typically, I am much more analytical, listening to many points of view and not taking action until I know the situation. However, MAPSCorps has pushed me to be more aggressive in my leadership role, particularly when interacting with the high school students. Like me, my fellow field coordinators are fairly quiet and analytic, rather than dominant leaders. Our students have noticed this and understand that they can push us around a little more than we would like. Because of this, I have taken a more active role in setting clear expectations and reminding the students of those. While assuming this role has been a stretch for me, I feel that it has shown me the merits of having a balanced leadership style.

- Katrina Nygaard, University of Chicago, Class of 2013

Watching the work of Cure Violence, formerly known as CeaseFire, unfold in the documentary, “The Interrupters,” gave a lot of insight into how we, as a society, can begin to tackle the issue of urban violence. The organization’s approach to treat violence as though it were an actual disease is quite powerful in terms of perspective. It allows for a very systemic manner of treatment whose strategies mirror those of disease control. One of the reasons why this model is so successful is largely due to the fact that many members have deep ties with the community stemming from their own involvement with Chicago crime. By drawing on their credibility among violence propagators, Cure Violence advocates have a better understanding of how to infiltrate possibly lethal, ongoing conflicts in the area. I strongly believe their model of first stopping immediate transmittance of violence and then working on changing the mindset of those involved can impart positive change in mitigating the prominence of Chicago violence.

- Christina Leon, University of Chicago, Class of 2016

This week we worked through the difficult topic of gun violence as well as issues of privilege in Chicago’s social dynamic. It is incredibly hard to put in words the feelings after working with my students, who reluctantly refer to Chicago as Chiraq, Killinois. I have started to find myself feeling less and less at home on UChicago’s campus and more uncomfortable with the excessive luxuries afforded to me as a student and Hyde Park resident. For example, there are several more trash cans in predominately white neighborhoods than in non-white neighborhoods. The article about white-on-white crime points out that this narrative propagated by the media, that blacks commit a majority of crime on each other and–by fallacious extension–the majority of crime on whites, is poisoning our community.

The movie, The Interrupters, presents a side of Chicago that we all have heard of, but very rarely truly understand. A lot of students agree that education generally decreases violence, but the degree of violence occurring blocks away from our campus stems from a deeper culture of violence. Honestly, this movie moved me to tears, reminding me of the life from which my mother saved me. One of my colleagues spoke of the compartmentalization of gun violence as a part of UChicago culture. Though I could not agree more, I felt like the issue stemmed from a deeper misunderstanding of privilege. We found ourselves wondering if it were enough that we were aware of our advantages. Is there more we can do to dismantle this system of privilege that allows us to look at dead teenagers and children and say, “That’s sad” and continue masochistically worrying about our papers and projects? Does it matter why we help? Namely if we do social justice work out of a misguided sense of guilt, does it nullify the positive change we make? Regardless, I know that guilt has had no part in my choice to do MAPSCorps, I think I am continuing in the program largely because I love these students, not because I want to save them.

Quote of the Week: “He was my everything” – young lady, grieving over dead boyfriend in the documentary, The Interrupters

- Cameron Okeke, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

Mitigating violence in Chicago is a formidable task. Countless efforts are implemented only to be overwhelmed by the number of violent behaviors. However, from the readings that we have examined as well as the communities we have encountered, violence is a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself. In order to stop the propagation of violence, attention needs to be given to other areas affecting the Southside communities. MAPSCorps can serve to inform members of the community as well as anyone looking to help about resources that can aid in combating the problem.

- Michael Andrade, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

While mapping in the field with my high school coworkers, I find myself constantly asking questions about problems in the south side of Chicago. I ask them things like “Why do you think there’s so much violence here as opposed to elsewhere in America?” or “Why don’t you think anything can be done about the shootings?” Their answers are almost always the same: “That’s just the way it is.” As my fellow field coordinators and I discuss the murder rate in Chicago and watch films such as The Interrupters I find myself wondering where to begin with reducing violence in the south side. “That’s just the way it is” seems to be a mindset that has infected the nation, from the hopeless youth in Chicago to the distant suburban families who do all they can to ignore the epidemic of violence. I can’t pretend to have any sort of answers for this difficult issue, but it is certainly a topic I will continue to think about, discuss, and develop ideas on during my work with MAPSCorps.

-  Joe Archer, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

When we watched the film The Interrupters on Friday, I–like many of the other interns–was struck by how much of the violence on the South Side appeared to occur outside of gang-related tensions, which challenged my preconceived notions about the conflict. As I thought about the documentary over the weekend, I started to think about how the other ways in which I envisioned this cycle of violence were proven false by the film. After a bit of pondering, one of the biggest surprises for me is the active participation of women in these violent conflicts. Throughout The Interrupters, there are several scenes of women getting into fights to defend their honor or the honor of their families, sometimes with extremely brutal results (I believe the death of Derrion Albert occurred in a fight with female participation). The lead female Interrupter was a former gang member. And yet, when I went through the DNAinfo.com website on the faces of Chicago murders in 2013, the fatal victims of these violent conflicts were almost always male. The few females who were killed were usually innocent bystanders. So I wonder: if both women and men participate in and perpetuate the violence, why are men so much likelier to be killed?

- Lauren Springett, University of Chicago, Class of 2014

This week our Focus Friday centered on violence prevention and policy.  We watched the powerful documentary The Interrupters about members of the organization Cease Fire (now called Cure Violence) who attempt to break up conflicts before they become violent.  This film drove home the gravity of the comments such as “We can’t go down this street” or “You shouldn’t be around here unless you’re from around here” that the mappers have made repeatedly while out in the field.  Cure Violence looks at violence as a disease affecting Chicago.  I would argue that violence is instead a symptom of other diseases plaguing primarily the South and West sides of Chicago, such poverty and enormous health disparities.  While organizations like Cure Violence play an enormously important role in reducing conflicts, they serve as a final line of defense before violence.  I think that in order to fully address the issue of violence in our communities, we need to address the larger issues that lead to a culture of violence in the first place.

- Meaghan Lyons, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

For their third week with MAPSCorps, mappers were tasked with thinking about benefit: How have they benefited from the program so far? How do their communities benefit from the work they do with MAPSCorps? Students provided a variety of answers, offering a range of nuanced insights; read on to find out what they’re thinking about individual and community benefit.

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Photo of a mural at 69th & Jeffrey in South Shore courtesy of Emma Roberts, a MAPSCorps field coordinator.

In my experience with working with MAPSCorps I have learned a lot about the South Side and my very own community. I’ve noticed the abundance of liquor stores and fast food restaurants. In my opinion, the South Side is a fresh food desert. It seems like healthy foods are out of reach. On the contrary, I have seen many community centers in my [own] neighborhood. These are very beneficial to the community and they seem to be greatly appreciated. This reaction to these centers leads me to believe that if people living on the South Side were exposed to better stores, hospitals, etc, they would actually be eager to use them, which is I why I personally believe that MAPSCorps is such a great project.

- Meri-T Ua Brown, 16, GAGDC

MAPSCorps has improved my physical health in at least three ways. Firstly, the mapping experience forces me to walk more, which allows calories to be burned. Secondly, by mapping I learn more about healthy foods and enter more grocery stores, which allows me to eat more healthy things. Lastly, by mapping my legs have become stronger. I can walk [farther] distances outside of work and run a little faster. Overall, these are some of the ways my physical health has improved. Moving forward, I hope to improve other aspects of my health.

- Fred Goings, 16, GAGDC

My MAPSCorps experience has improved my physical health by encouraging me to live a healthy lifestyle. For example, all the walking we do gives me energy, which motivates me to walk outside of work. In addition, the TED talk we watched made me want to eat healthier.

- Saleema Muhammad, 17 , GAGDC

I’ve learned that our community has a positive and negative influence [on health]. We’ve mapped and seen a lot of unhealthy stores. I myself have mapped a variety of fast food restaurants, liquor stores,  and small convenience stores. The healthiest stores we’ve mapped have been fruit markets and large grocery stores. In our community we have more unhealthy places than healthy, and we need more gardens.

- Tamera Harris, 17, GAGDC

The way that MAPSCorps has improved my physical health is by making me eat breakfast every day, which allows me to have energy. Being in MAPSCorps has gotten me back to exercising [and] I have dropped weight during  this program. I feel calmer and more full of life compared to [how I felt] at first [in the program].

- Anthony Rushing, GAGDC

MAPSCorps is a program that consists of a lot of walking. My friends as well have myself have all improved our physical health to some degree because we are all walking strenuously. …  My diet has improved, because I am much more aware of the health problems that exist in Chicago. Because I am aware of the health problems that exist, I now compel myself to study the nutritional facts that are on the foods I typically eat. Apples, oranges, and salads are now incorporated in my diet much more often. Because of MAPSCorps, I am now aware of my diet and physical health.

- Devonta Dickey, 17, GAGDC

These past few weeks our high school mappers have been mapping various communities and getting to know about the different businesses on the South Side. This week, our mappers were asked to think about community assets, what assets are important for the community, and what assets they have seen the most or least. Below are some mappers’ reactions to what they have discovered so far about assets on the South Side.

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Mappers wait for the 28 bus at 79th and Stony Island; photo courtesy of claudiagiri85 at #mapscorps on Instagram.

What surprised me the most about mapping was the number of small, new businesses that are not accounted for [in our map app system]. Many [of these small businesses] are very helpful assets in the community that people should know about

–Amber Payne, 16, Claretian Associates

Throughout my mapping experience this week, I have come across many useful resources in my community that [prior to this MAPSCorps program] I would not have known about …  includ[ing] food drives that my aunt could go to when she needs groceries. Another source was the Zumba fitness center located on a commercial street [that] can help my mother and sister lose weight in a fun and interactive way. I can’t wait until next week when I find even more … resources that can help me

–Imani Newsome, 17, Claretian Associates

The field coordinators at my site are very personable and easy to talk to. Our best times occur when we’re out mapping and when we have down time. The field coordinators always make the best out of any situation

–Danielle Howard, 17, Centers for New Horizons

Living on the South Side, you notice a lot of businesses and other buildings, but never take the time to understand their purpose or what is missing from their surroundings. Mapping my own neighborhood has made me realize what [businesses and other buildings] are present in my community, such as: community centers, free health clinics, and churches that offer community programs. This project is something that should achieve greater recognition so that community members may know more about what assets are available to them. I enjoy telling people about what I found today and what is currently in the community or what is no longer there

–Lorianna Anderson, 17, Centers for New Horizons

So far the surprising [part] about MAPSCorps is the people I have met and how much distance is placed between individual buildings. When I applied to MAPSCorps I didn’t know what kinds of people I would be walking with; however, I am glad to have met them

 –Dana Rhodes, 16, Claretian Associates

I usually don’t notice what businesses are in my community. I always knew about the local corner store and gas stations, but working with MAPSCorps has taught me to be more aware of my surroundings and of the types of businesses in my community. I have told my friends and family about the places I have mapped. I also never knew how many little grocery stores were located on the South Side of Chicago

–Amber Foster, 17, Centers for New Horizons

Today I mapped places that my friends and I have visited. I used to remain in the Englewood area, Ashland, and in places I had already been to. I’ve told my friend about the gas station, restaurant, and many more places. Mapping a place you have been to or heard about is awesome because you get excited about placing it on the [MAPSCorps] website. I would also like to say that my friends and I have appreciated all the kind service these companies have provided

–Tamera Harris, 17, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation

What [has] surprised me with MAPSCorps is the amount of walking that we are required to do. If it’s extremely hot or cold we still go out and map. I was also surprised by how fun this MAPSCorps project is.

–Wilbur White, 16, Claretian Associates

In this week’s blog postings, the UCSC interns share their thoughts on their mapping work thus far. They read the Healthy Chicago Public Schools Agenda for Student Health and Wellness. Healthy CPS is an initiative of the City’s Healthy Chicago Public Health Agenda, which outlines strategies that CPS and its community partners commit to undertake. The UCSC interns met with Shayne Evans, director of the four campuses of the University of Chicago Charter School, who is also managing director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute. They also spoke with Laura Lane, executive director of the Woodlawn Health and Human Services Consortium. 

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Mappers out in the field near the Metra tracks at 93rd St in South Chicago; photo courtesy of claudiagiri85 at #mapscorps on Instagram

This week was our first week in the field with the mappers! I was very impressed by how seriously all of the young mappers took data collection and how dedicated they all were to making sure data was clean and detailed. Spending up to four hours out in the field each day with a different group of mappers also gave me the opportunity to get to know some of them better. As the mappers become more comfortable with me, fieldwork becomes more fun and the mappers also become more willing to share details of their day-to-day lives.  Some of their anecdotes drive home the reality of the health disparities that we have discussed. Some young people, for example, don’t feel safe walking outside around their homes, while others may have to walk miles to get to a full-sized grocery store. As I continue to have the honor of learning more about these young peoples’ lives, I become increasingly inspired by their dedication to the project and increasingly aware of the real use of MAPSCorps data in their lives.

                                                                    -Meaghan Lyons

University of Chicago, Class of 2015 

After talking to Shayne Evans and Laura Lane about the public school system and Chicago neighborhoods, I think I understand the real purpose of the MAPSCorps program. Previously, I could only imagine how important it was to map resources, making a positive roadmap for the residents, but this week has shown me that we can do much more than map Burger Kings. While visiting the Stephen Douglas Memorial (it is in Oakland; who knew?), I started to get an idea of how many undiscovered gems there are on the South Side and more importantly, what these gems do for the members of the community. These little pieces of history are what give us the drive to hope for a positive tomorrow, to make a positive tomorrow. Laura Lane got teary as she told us that the resource the Woodlawn community is most deficient in is hope. Shayne Evans, anger in his eyes, dropped some serious statistics about graduation rates of black males on us. I was inspired by Shayne’s idea of creating a creed for the students to recite that empowers them. Both of the interviewees were talking about the same problem, one by reversing years of systematic disenfranchisement and the other by unifying a broken community.  Knowing that our data can be used to sway people and unite communities in order to create a safe neighborhood for Shayne’s students makes me proud to call myself a mapper.

Quote of the Week: “They can only be what they can see.” -Laura Lane

-Cameron Okeke

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

This week we completed four days of mapping. A challenge that appeared frequently was the uncertainty of a case. Shut blinds, bolted doors, and old signs would make the high school students think that the case was gone. However, a phone call to the location or an inquiry to a community member corrected or confirmed their assumption. After a couple days the high school students became great at deciding amongst themselves the best course of action to determine an unsure case using each other as resources as well as other members of the community.

-Michael Andrade

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

    

I believe that of the nine strategies proposed by the Healthy CPS plan, the one that is likeliest to work is the sixth: preventing the transmission of communicable disease. The CPS plan largely focuses on achieving 90 percent immunization rates by October 15 of any particular school year by partnering with public health nurses and pharmacies to provide standardized vaccines and flu shots to the students. I think such a plan would be extremely likely to succeed because these challenges are not unique to CPS, and as such, have a fairly standardized response already (which the CPS plan utilizes). For example, students who do not get certain required vaccinations prior to entering school aren’t allowed to continue attending — a consequence severe enough to cause most students and their parents to be diligent about procuring the vaccines (especially if they’re readily available at the school). Vaccines are expensive, but costs can be subsidized. And flu shots are free. The biggest challenge to be overcome in this plan is ready access to the vaccinations, but as I said earlier, that’s nothing new. Public health officials know what they have to do to bring vaccinations and flu shots to disenfranchised populations.  Ultimately, I’m glad that some relatively easy steps are being taken to prevent against communicable diseases in the school system.

                                                     -Lauren Springett

                                                     University of Chicago, Class of 2014

         

This past week, I had the chance to learn more about the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC), the community-based organization that I am based at this summer. Although I had been learning through interactions with staff and interns at the site about the various programs that GAGDC offers, getting an in-depth overview of the organization and speaking with Norma Sanders, our site supervisor (who previously worked as a software consultant for 30 years) was both eye-opening and inspiring. I had the chance to learn about the variety of housing, business development, and educational initiatives offered by GAGDC, as well as gain an introduction to the communities the organization serves. Norma, who is GAGDC’s Smart Communities Program Manager, also spoke about the Smart Communities initiative, a pilot program in Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, and Englewood that received a federal stimulus grant to increase broadband access and technology resources and training for members of those communities. Not only has the pilot been successful so far, but it’s also won an American Planning Award and hopes to be implemented in other communities. Hearing about Norma’s work on this program, as well as its results was particularly inspiring for me because it depicted how an individual could use her unique background and experiences to create a thoughtful, comprehensive, and bold program that has a far-reaching impact on the community.

                        -Kavya Minama Reddy

University of Chicago, Class of 2014

             

 This was our first week out in the field mapping with the students. Unfortunately, it was also the hottest week of the summer thus far. Temperatures in 90s and humidity levels to match made this week particularly challenging for myself and the students. In order to avoid a dangerous heat exhaustion situation, we strategized as a team. The students and I looked at our assignments each morning before heading out and planned where to walk and at which times of the day, to maximize the effectiveness of breaks and time in the shade. For example, we saved office buildings with a lot of interior cases for later in the day. Taking the extra five minutes at the beginning of the day to plan out safe route made the heat bearable while still getting the work done.

                              -Katrina Nygaard

University of Chicago, Class of 2013

                       

When Laura Lane, Executive Director of the Woodlawn Health and Human Service Consortium, was asked what appears to be the biggest issue affecting the well-being of the Woodlawn community, she was unable to give an immediate response. After a few moments, she earnestly replied that, in her opinion, the absence of hope among Woodlawn’s youth population is one of the most troubling and heartbreaking of all. Lane said, “They (the youth) can only be what they see.” This frank articulation regarding the impact one’s environment can have on personal development greatly changed the way I now view my own position in MAPSCorps. Mentorship can be powerful not only in shifting the way students view their communities, but also in the way they view themselves and their own potential for success as well. In this sense, as an intern, I would like to help the students feel empowered about the skills they possess, including their ability to impart positive change through education.

                                           -Christina Leon

University of Chicago, Class of 2016

This past week marked the first period of actual mapping with the high school students. Because of the vast walking distances, I have found that there is a lot of time out in the field for casual conversation. One of the key topics that arises again and again is fears and anxieties about the college entry process. After a conversation with Shayne Evans, director of the University of Chicago Charter Schools, it has become clear that many students in the south side community feel as though college is not a priority or even a feasible option. Over the next few weeks, I hope to continue the conversations I am already having in hopes of deterring my high school coworkers from this line of thinking.

                                                -Joe Archer

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

                     

Of the many things I hoped to gain during my MAPSCorps internship, one thing I did not expect to gain was a renewed appreciation for the opportunity I have to study and learn in the UChicago community, an outstanding educational institution that I easily and all too often take for granted. I came to this realization when speaking with some of the high school students on the topic of college. Our conversations led me to realize how limited many of these students were with respect to their college options due to various factors. These factors include unpreparedness, lack of exposure, and lack of access to many of the necessary resources on the path to attending our nation’s top institutions. Even more disheartening is understanding that many of these factors are not inherent in these individuals, but rather a result of the limits they are born into, whether geographical, economic, or familial. To say that it is impossible for anyone to come out of the South Side of Chicago and attend one of our nation’s top institutions is of course false. However, it takes a lot of support and knowing where to find it in order for one to understand how to aim toward these institutions, much less know that they even exist as options for them. As I continue to reflect upon these things in the following weeks, I continue to bear in mind the ways that I can provide support to these students in places that I as a member of one of these institutions can provide. I hope I continue to be appreciative of the opportunity and support I have had, but also continue to think and act upon ways I am able to be a resource and provide support to the students we are working with, whatever place they currently find themselves in.

                                                  -Vidal Anguiano

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

                              

In this week’s blog postings, the UCSC interns share their thoughts on their first week of work with the high school students. They also reflect on the topic of food justice. They read materials about hunger in Chicago from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and they watched the TED talk “Ron Finley, A guerilla gardener in South Central LA.”

Mappers walk down Kimbark in Hyde Park during their first week of mapping; photo courtesy of knygaard13 at #mapscorps on Instagram.

Mappers walk down Kimbark in Hyde Park during their first week of mapping; photo courtesy of knygaard13 at #mapscorps on Instagram.

Mapping at Claretian Associates began this past Thursday, and it marked the first time any of us had the opportunity to see how our students would react to the various challenges of being in the field — a lot of walking, exhaustion, hunger/dehydration, and interactions with members of the community. Because the majority of the students had been very shy and quiet during training, I was under the impression that they would be reluctant to speak up when we had to talk to businesses over the phone, give brief summaries of our activities, or handle interested community members. In fact, the two high school students that I was directly observing showed poise and maturity from the get-go, and represented MAPSCorps extremely professionally. In retrospect, I suppose I had conflated being reluctant to speak up in front of a large group with being reluctant to speak up in general. I personally had a harder time learning to speak professionally to a small number of adults than I did a large audience, but both of my students appear to be the opposite. It’s definitely something to think about when we consider how we teach public speaking to the students. We should probably give them more credit!

-Lauren Springett

University of Chicago, Class of 2014

The prevalence of food insecurity in the United States is an issue that is only visible when educated on the subject. Being a supreme power in the world, some in our country probably believe that the only people that go hungry are those from nations abroad. Astonishingly, food insecurity greatly plagues our urban centers and the factors contributing to this issue are vast. One factor that I think contributes to this lack of access to food is the lack of economic incentive to provide certain types of food in some areas. It may be the case that over the years, certain types of food are stripped from a certain area and over a period of time become replaced by another. Another slew of factors that may contribute to this is just urban development in general. While there are indeed parts of large cities that are secure, it may be the case that the problems were directly addressed in those areas sooner. This is probably due to a stronger local economy, or just a greater incentive to provide certain foods in those places. The bottom line is that we need to educate everyone on the benefits and importance of healthy foods, so that the incentive to provide and purchase these foods exists in order to maintain and sustain steady sources of foods that are lacking.

                                                                    - Vidal Anguiano

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

We began mapping with the high school students on Thursday. My perspective shifted  about the reception we would receive from members of the community. Initially, I expected a distrustful curiosity to dominate the perception of community members to our neon MAPSCorps shirts and smart phones to upload the data. However, I was pleasantly surprised to interact with optimistic and helpful community members. Their initial suspicion quickly turned to helpful advice or useful questions regarding MAPSCorps. Moving forward, the students and I will consider the curious community members as assets to our efforts.

     – Michael Andrade

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

As we reflected on the topic of food insecurity this week, we had the chance to watch a TED talk given by Ron Finley about guerilla gardening and his work with LA Green Grounds. Although he had several important messages over the course of his talk, I was especially struck by the emphasis he placed on empowering individuals through investment in a cause that helped their communities. Getting children involved in gardening not only encouraged them to develop healthy eating habits, but also gave them a firsthand look at the direct impact they can have on their communities. This simple, yet powerful lesson is one that I want to use everyday in my work with the high school students, as we begin mapping and meeting community members and they start to see the project in action. I hope through our discussions to encourage the students to view this internship as more than a job, by helping them to discover the individual impact they each have on this particular initiative, and in turn, the roles that they hope to play in contributing to the health of their communities.

                                                       – Kavya Minama Reddy

University of Chicago, Class of 2014

This week, we met the mappers to begin training them on the nuances of mapping and to discuss relevant health topics. When we were discussing personal health and access to healthy foods, one mapper astutely pointed out that, while Walgreens on the North Side and downtown tend to offer options for fresh fruits and vegetables, those on the South and West Sides generally do not. This observation connects directly to the idea of food deserts and food insecurity that we discussed on Friday. Of the many ways to address these issues, I found one of the most compelling to be the idea of community gardens, which are kept up by volunteers and can be harvested by anyone in the community. This is a renewable resource that makes people more invested in their own communities and also provides cheap access to healthy food. One challenge with community gardens, however, is how to create a culture in which gardening is cool, so that people will buy into the idea. Indeed, culture is at the root of many of the health-related issues on the South Side and I think it will be important to remember that and always think within the necessary context.

- Meaghan Lyons

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

After a week of preparing training for the high school students, we were finally able to interact with them. A major component of our program, and part of the daily work routine, is a STEM mentoring session in which the field coordinators lead a discussion about certain STEM related topics in small groups. This week, we focused on health and wellness. In these sessions I became aware of the many struggles with health the students had faced, from lack of healthy food options, to dangerous public parks, to teen pregnancies. Despite these obstacles, the students all expressed a deep concern in improving their own physical and mental health. I found the tenacity exhibited by the students enlightening and inspiring.

                                                                 - Katrina Nygaard

University of Chicago, Class of 2013

Over the past week, working with the high school students at Centers for New Horizons has given me an eye-opening perspective on the problems in South Side Chicago. I was surprised at just how candid these bright youth were being from the very beginning of our time with them. They have shared stories of stressful home lives, the dangers of their communities, and a lack of healthy food options in their neighborhoods. Listening to their stories has led me to reconsider my own career path as I find myself longing to do more for underprivileged communities such as the South Side of Chicago. While I was already excited about my MAPSCorps experience, this past week has really demonstrated the importance of the mentoring portion of my work.

                                                                              – Joe Archer

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

Ron Finley’s TED talk on urban gardening and its multifaceted potential for improving urban spaces was perhaps most moving in its ability to demonstrate the power of agency. Gardening helps instill a notion of self-sustainability. People have the ability to create their own access to good food that is high in nutritional value. The newfound agency that comes from growing one’s own food imparts responsibility, confidence, and self-respect on the grower. People who respect and believe in themselves are more likely to respect and believe in the people around them. Therefore, if we, as MAPsCorps interns, can offer students a chance to embrace a sense of agency in mapping the assets in their community, they will be more likely to sustain and propagate the goals of the project to their friends and family. MAPSCorps will signify something so much more profound and personal than if they carried out their tasks simply because we told them to, and not because it stemmed from somewhere inside themselves. In essence, personal agency can help shape the community.

                                          - Christina Leon

University of Chicago, Class of 2016

Last Monday the mappers began their training with an all-day orientation event, where youth and their family members met the field coordinators, heard a few MAPSCorps staff speak, and got a general overview of the program. One thing they learned about was our new STEM programming, which includes weekly reflections on their MAPSCorps experiences. On their first Thursday, mappers were encouraged to think about their expectations and goals regarding MAPSCorps and STEM learning. Below are some of our mappers’ responses.

Check in each week to read more of what our mappers have to say about their MAPSCorps experiences!

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MAPSCorps Orientation Day

Since I’m going to go away for college, this job not only provides some cash for the airfare, but also some type of connection with the University of Chicago, which I was heavily considering as a college option. I remain interested in the University’s projects … and hope that after my first year of college at Stanford I can come back and participate in the CAMP [Chicago Academic Medicine Program] Pipeline Program with the Pritzker School of Medicine for the summer. Hopefully… my application [will be] heavily considered because of my demonstrated interests in health and the city of Chicago through my two summers of MAPSCorps involvement.

-Laura Padilla, 18, Claretian Associates

 

 

I hope to learn more about what resources are available in the South Side communities. Also I want to help inform others about the resources in their communities.

-Cashmere Turner, 18, Claretian Associates

 

 

I hope to gain work experience from this program while also building my resume, [to] better qualify me for [future] jobs. During the program, I hope to learn more about South Side Chicago. I also would like to gain more people-skills.

-Amber Payne, 16, Claretian Associates

 

 

Being in MAPSCorps, I want to learn from my experience how to communicate with others more, and to be able to learn more places and resources in my community.  I want to learn from the college students how life in college is, and how to have a job, get good grades and still have fun. I believe MAPSCorps will prepare me for college because I will [learn to] be able to communicate with others more and not be scared to ask for help.

-Michael Jones, 17, Centers for New Horizons

 

 

I hope to gain more information about jobs in STEM fields, as well as experience working in STEM fields. I feel that MAPSCorps will give me an understanding of how I can use the things that I know in college or a future career.

-Gerard Gueringer, 17, Washington Park Consortium

 

 

My goal is to lose weight, keep eating healthy, and to get more connections.

-Xavier Gaines, 19, Centers for New Horizons

 

 

I hope to learn more about taxonomy, [and] I want to know more about the businesses my community has to offer. I want to learn how to prioritize in college, and what I should do to maintain a healthy and successful college life. MAPSCorps is preparing me for college by teaching me how to be persistent and how to successfully work at a job. I want to study neuroscience in college.

-Rakeiaa Fortner, 17, Washington Park Consortium

 

 

I hope I learn how to communicate in a professional workplace. Also I want to be more comfortable working with a team during my MAPSCorps experience. The Field Coordinators could describe to me their own college experiences, which [would] provide for me the do’s and don’ts for … my years of college. I like football and [when I go to college I] want to major in sports management.

-Michael Johnson, 16, Washington Park Consortium

 

 

This whole week went by very well. I’m very excited to be here and very happy! I know I’m going to learn a lot [about] STEM and my [community] areas!

-Catherine Jones, 16, Centers for New Horizons

 

 

I hope to gain great responsibility skills and organization skills from MAPSCorps. Those are things I need to work on. I want to know how to manage social time and academic time. What’s better: night classes or day classes? Both? I think [getting] consistent, clean data and working with a team and a [smart] phone will probably help me in my quest for the biotechnology/bio-sciences research and development career [that I want to have].

-Kayla Powell, 17, Washington Park Consortium

 

 

During the MAPSCorps experience I hope to gain personal growth in my health and [to work on] not being so lazy.

-Sierra Whisenton, 16, Claretian Associates

 

 

I expect to gain many connections, … develop partnerships with MAPSCorps, and maybe get a full-time job. I want to meet new people [and] develop better talking skills and science skills.

-Jason McMillon, 17, Centers for New Horizons

 

 

I personally travel throughout the city a lot, and I’ve lived in various communities. I say all the time …  that I wish [certain things] were in my community and what I would like to see, but I [might not]  be aware that [some of those things are] there. MAPSCorps would open my eyes to unknown, valuable assets in the community that could … be useful to both myself and others. MAPSCorps not only introduces me to new people—makes my network stronger and bigger—but it’s a good service to myself and my community. Although college seems so far away, [I know] it’s closer than I believe. Being exposed to college students makes the experience seem less scary. When I get to college I can be more knowledgeable [with] information that I’ve gained from my field coordinators.

-Lorianna Anderson, 17, Centers for New Horizons

For Week 2’s Focus Friday, the 9 UCSC MAPSCorps interns met with Lisa Butler, graduate student at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and Case Manager at the Living Room Café, a nonprofit in Woodlawn. The students also met with Argie Johnson, former CPS (Chicago Public Schools) Superintendent from 1993-1995 and deputy chancellor for instruction in New York City.

In addition, the interns went to one of the two restaurants (“Inspiration Kitchens” in Garfield Park) operated by the nonprofit Inspiration Corporation. Trainees and graduates of their food service training program prepare and serve contemporary American cuisine. According to their website, “Inspiration Kitchens has helped hundreds of individuals gain the skills they need to find employment and exit homelessness and poverty.”

In this week’s blog postings, the interns share their thoughts about how social conditions, such as employment and education, determine the health services that are available and impact an individual’s mental well-being.

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The UCSC interns with Lisa Butler (third from the right), graduate student at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and Case Manager at the Living Room Café, a nonprofit in Woodlawn.

 During my second week with the MAPSCorps program, we investigated the effect mental health has on the health of the community. Prior to reading several articles by the CDC and Congress Blog, I was unaware of the degree to which mental illness and disorders have affected students around the nation, especially on the South Side of Chicago. With ADHD, ADD, and depression on the rise, it becomes clear that mental health affects the community as behavioral problems escalate, such as school shootings, homelessness, and increased incarceration.
During our mental health discussions, we came to an impasse, hitting the same roadblock many educators and policy makers have been struggling to overcome. How does one prevent mental illness? Though far from an absolute answer, we came to a consensus that there needs to be an increase in awareness of mental illness in order to remove the stigma attached to treatment. Before any of this can be done, we are going to need a more complete understanding of the nature of mental illness both socially and biologically. Analyzing the mental health of students and community members created a new dimension to my idea of public health, because unlike physical health, the symptoms are subjective and easily overlooked. Solving this type of crisis will take advances in neuroscience as well as a more comprehensive look into the effects one’s mental state can have on the community at large.

- Cameron Okeke

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

 

 

In our discussion on mental health this past Friday, we had the chance to talk about possible preventative measures, such as training educators and community members on the signs of behavioral disorders. This measure seems particularly relevant, as one of the articles described a study in which almost three-quarters of students who received a mental health diagnosis by middle school displayed warning signs many years earlier. I think that greater awareness in the community would definitely lead to increased referrals for students (and individuals overall), and would perhaps also provide a more open environment for individuals to share their mental health concerns.
However, I’m not sure that providing a referral to a service is a fully sufficient preventative measure, especially if it does not provide adequate follow-up, easy access, or consideration of individual and cultural circumstances and preferences. For example, Lisa Butler, a case worker at Inspiration Corporation, talked about how she has seen group therapy (rather than individual therapy) lead to a more comfortable and productive experience in the African-American individuals she has worked with. A more comprehensive preventative measure, then, might provide access to a variety of innovative services, instead of simply to a single mental health service.

- Kavya Minama Reddy

University of Chicago, Class of 2014

 

 

Despite having lived in and around Chicago for quite some time now, I had never heard of the nonprofit Inspiration Corporation or their work. This past week, I was moved by the many things they were doing to assist the homeless in need, not only for a meal or a shower, but for training, assistance, and personal investment from people that care. One service that I learned they offered that astounded me the most was the culinary instruction and the Inspiration Kitchen. I have come to realize that the stability of a job and a flow of income is something that is very out of reach for a homeless person, especially those with a tainted record. The Inspiration Kitchens enable them to receive training and to learn the trade of working in a restaurant kitchen. Not only do they learn how to cook, but they also get the support of the organization when going out to look for a job. This support could be a step in the right direction and a way out for people that are often forced out of their homes due to financial reason. I look forward to keeping up with their organization and seeing what they do in the future.

- Vidal Anguiano

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

 

 

Inspiration Corporation works to combat homelessness and poverty by providing resources to this population, which include employment training/placement, social/support services, and housing assistance. A key element of the organization’s mission statement is to build an atmosphere of dignity and respect for its clientele. The services provided coupled with such an empowering environment afford people the opportunity to take pride in themselves and their abilities, which in turn helps to build up the community. Inspiration Corporation is constantly expanding and serves about 3,000 individuals per year, indicating that their commitment to making services accessible to those stricken by poverty and homelessness is only becoming more and more successful.

- Christina Leon

University of Chicago, Class of 2016

 

 

For all that the recent tragedies at Sandy Hook and in Aurora in the past year have raised questions about mental health issues and their prevention in the U.S., last Friday’s meeting with Ms. Lisa Butler and Ms. Argie Johnson highlighted just how little we understand what it means to be mentally healthy. In our interviews with the two women, they addressed some very complex issues, including people clinging to incorrect diagnoses as shields and others unable to find treatment because their issues don’t have a clinical diagnosis. They challenged us to determine what we thought of as innate biological mental health issues, and asked us to try to separate those from issues brought about by unhealthy coping strategies and the pressures of our current social system. I couldn’t, which I believe is really the root of the problem when it comes to discussing preventive measures for mental well-being. Not only do we not know what causes mental illness with any degree of certainty, we are not in agreement as to what we are defining. So how can we hope for effective prevention at this stage in our understanding? I don’t think we can, though I don’t think that precludes our trying. Doing nothing certainly hasn’t helped so far.

- Lauren Springett

University of Chicago, Class of 2014

 

 

After speaking with Lisa Butler, the work that the Inspiration Corporation is doing for the community has become apparent to me. The institution works not to prevent homelessness, but to provide resources for the community’s homeless to get back into the workforce and find affordable living spaces. Because it depends so heavily on economic factors, ending homelessness is not a realistic task for an institution such as this. Instead, the Inspiration Corporation provides culinary training so that their clients can attain specialized jobs, a space for them to use technology, and many other resources to help those already affected by the problem. To some, this may seem as though it is not attacking the root of the problem, but the role of a social service organization is to help those in need, not to change governmental and economic policy.

- Joseph Archer

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

 

 

Mental health plays an integral role in the well-being of a community. Visible ailments in a community, like violence and homelessness, as well as personal ailments, like obesity and high-blood pressure, could be attributed to underlying mental health disorders. However, it is difficult to blame mental health because we do not fully understand it, and there is an unfortunate stigma in seeking help for it, as Ms. Butler explained. In the schools, more awareness of the mental health issues facing communities could help students understand the importance of mental health in addition to physical health. Over the summer, apart from discussing healthy life choices, I hope to discuss mental health with our high school students. More specifically, I want to understand how they interpret mental health and what it would mean to be mentally healthy in their communities.

- Michael Andrade

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

 

 

This week, we headed to the Inspiration Kitchens in East Garfield Park, one of many Inspiration Corporation’s programs. The kitchen serves as a multifunctional space where local members of the community who have struggled to get work can receive job training while serving up delicious food to their community. While these workers have often had unfortunate pasts, as convicted criminals or victims of homelessness and poverty, the Inspiration Kitchen provides a venue in which these citizens can reconnect with their community and provide them with a delicious dining experience. At the Inspiration Kitchen, all members of the community work to support each other and create an environment in which the resources of all members are valued.

- Katrina Nygaard

University of Chicago, Class of 2013

 

 

This week we delved a bit further into community health by learning about the impact of mental health on the community. This is a complex issue in that mental health problems are much less visible and much more stigmatized in the community than are physical health problems. We discussed the ways in which other problems such as drug abuse can crop up as symptoms of underlying mental unhealthiness. Last week, we talked about how everyone, especially young people, needs an environment that is both physically and psychologically safe in order to flourish. A community that lacks mental health resources may create a space that is psychologically unsafe for the people in need of them, although this lack of safety might not be readily apparent. I believe that it will be vital to keep this week’s discussions in mind moving forward in the summer.

- Meaghan Lyons

University of Chicago, Class of 2015

Eight undergraduates and a recent graduate from the University of Chicago are working with MAPSCorps this summer through an internship with the University Community Service Center (UCSC).  Over the next eight weeks, the students will reflect on their MAPSCorps internship experience and provide insights into how their perspectives are shifting and broadening.

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This first week of MAPSCorps training improved my knowledge of community health immensely.  Learning about the asset-based approach to mapping the South Side, in which every built establishment is considered a health asset until proven otherwise, makes our mapping project seem much more tangible and beneficial.  The idea that the South Side already has a sufficient number of health resources for its communities, and that those resources simply need to be better understood and mobilized, was something I had never considered before.  I find this asset-based approach to health to be empowering for South Side communities, and I look forward to taking part in the mapping of these assets this summer.  Learning so much in a single week has also tipped me off to how much knowledge I still lack about community health, which makes me excited for the rest of the summer.

-Meaghan Lyons, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

Training thus far has led me to alter my perception on the importance of mapping the assets available in the South Side of Chicago.  I am both inspired and awed by the versatility of the data we will collect.  Doctors, researchers, but most importantly, members of the community will have access to the data in an accessible format.  My deeper understanding of the purpose of the data will be essential in convincing our high-school students of the value of their efforts in their own communities.  While our job is to map all the assets available in our respective neighborhoods throughout the South Side, it is critical to keep in mind the broader impact of our work.

-Michael Andrade, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

This past week, we conducted our first field surveys, documenting businesses on 55th Street in Hyde Park.  One particularly fantastic site — and the highlight of the day for me was Chaturanga Holistic Fitness.  This yoga studio is located on the third floor of the Deco Arts Building on 55th and Lake Park.  Removed from the bustling street, it is a serene and tranquil annex.  The afternoon sun danced on the polished mahogany floors and casts shadows on the rich colored walls.  The studio is starting a new program, Chaturanga Seeds, which provides free yoga instruction to local Washington Park residents at sites across the neighborhood.  These classes will bring Chaturanga out into the community and provide residents an opportunity to engage and build connections.

-Katrina Nygaard, University of Chicago, Class of 2013

During my first week of the MAPSCorps internship, I came to understand the importance of asset mapping as it effects not only innovation and progress, but how it effects every member of the community.  During my training, I gained a better understanding of Hyde Park as a community than in my first two years as an undergraduate.  Meeting business owners and discovering new places not only enrich my life, but I have been given the privilege of sharing my findings with the community.  I had always wondered why we needed to map resources.  Dr. Lindau reminded us that in order to know what we are missing, we must first know what we have.  Throughout the summer, I will continue to carry the idea of community taught during training as I lead high school students in the service of our communities and the rediscovery of ourselves as members.

-Cameron Okeke, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

One of the most meaningful insights I gained this past week during training was about the notion of health, and what that means in the context of a community overall.  For example, on paper, it was difficult to comprehend how taking note of a local liquor store could contribute to addressing issues of health disparity in the area.  It was not until Mark Ohrtman’s presentation about the goals and logistics of the MAPSCorps project, along with Dr. Lindau’s perspective on the Urban Health Initiative as a whole, that my preconceived picture of what traditional and effective healthcare looked like began to break down.  It is not the role of field coordinators to decide what type of businesses are considered assets to the community, in part because resources can be multifaceted in their ability to positively affect the mental/emotional/physical well-being of community members.  The presence of static definitions of resources in fact limit their potential beneficial impact.  Dr. Lindau mentioned how a local barber shop also offered HIV/AIDS screening to its clients.  Moreover, it is evident that no assumptions should be made in terms of classifying “model” healthcare.  Broadening the scope of its definition to include many determinants of health, such as cultural, socioeconomic, or religious ones, can offer different and possibly just as effective manners of improving health.

-Christina Leon, University of Chicago, Class of 2016

Personally, the most inspiring portion of this first week of training was the interview with Dr. Stacy Lindau.  Before speaking with Dr. Lindau, I felt as though I had a somewhat limited view of the importance of this mapping for the community.  It wasn’t until Dr. Lindau explained how this information was going to be used by the hospital for actual patient referrals to improve the wellbeing of my surrounding community that a sort of pride began to swell inside of me.  I now realize just how important it is for this information to be both accurate and detailed.  If I do not work to the best of my ability, then community members may not be able to find the care they need that hospitals on the South Side recommend for them.  I will not forget this in the next seven weeks.

-Joe Archer, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

While we covered a lot of ground this first week, I was particularly inspired by the parts of our training focusing on engaging with and mentoring high school youth.  Although I came in with an idea of the qualities of a good mentor, it was really helpful to learn about positive youth development and the variety of challenges facing high schoolers on the South Side, as well as to hear from last year’s UCSC MAPSCorps interns about their mentoring experiences. I also enjoyed learning about the different leadership styles because it gave me a concrete way of recognizing leadership attributes, which I hope we can encourage in the students.  I know that these aspects of training week will be invaluable for working with the high school students this summer, and I’m looking forward to meeting them next week!

-Kavya Minama Reddy, University of Chicago, Class of 2014

Last Friday, the MAPSCorps interns were given the opportunity to meet with Dr. Stacy Lindau, a doctor with the UChicago Medical Center who is also the director of the South Side Health and Vitality Studies (which MAPSCorps is a branch of).  During our meeting, Dr. Lindau emphasized the tangible impact that our data collection would have on community members’ healthcare treatment: if doctors could redirect patients to community health centers capable of treating them effectively, everyone involved would be significantly better off.  This meeting marked the first time I felt I understood the real-life consequences of our work — the importance of gathering clean data and the benefits it would bring to so many people.   Although we’d had an entire week of training by that point, nothing else had driven home to me why our work was important the way that meeting Dr. Lindau did.  It was timely, and incredibly inspirational.

-Lauren Springett, University of Chicago, Class of 2014

My first week with MAPSCorps is best characterized as time spent contextualizing the work we will be doing.  I began to see how this work, both the data collection aspect and the high school mentoring aspect, is embodied in the first word of the acronym MAPSCorps; meaningful.  I’m excited by the emphasis and priority given to nurturing the high school school students we will be working with.  I look forward to working with and empowering these young individuals this summer and seeing the impact it can have on them beyond the program.

-Vidal Anguiano, University of Chicago, Class of 2015

Over the past few weeks, we have been following the experience of the undergrads with MAPSCorps.  This week, we have reflections from some of the MAPSCorps high school students sharing what they’ve gained from the experience and how their work this summer has shaped their perspectives about the community.

Walking through different neighborhoods and streets opened my eyes and gave me the chance to see places I had never seen before.  Because of MAPSCorps, I have gotten the chance to visit neighborhoods like New City, North Kenwood, and other places I had never experienced.

- Ramon James, Senior, Urban Prep

From MAPSCorps, I’ve developed multiple new skills and gained a lot of knowledge.  I have improved my communication and public speaking skills.  My field coordinators and supervisors have helped me map efficiently, but they have also given me some insight into college.  This information has actually been helpful for me.  They have helped me understand the college admissions process and that college is not a place to play.

- Brandon Jones, Senior, Urban Prep

As I enter college as a freshman, there are many key things I’ve learned this summer, including how to branch out, network, and be more responsible.  Those skills are the most important to me as I move into a new environment.  I will need to network.  In today’s society, who you know might sometimes be more important than what you know.  To create this network, I will have to move outside of my comfort zone.  This summer, I learned how to do this by talking to people I wasn’t familiar with.  I also learned how to be more responsible, being prompt and working with integrity.  My experience in MAPSCorps gave me the confidence I will need in my college career.

- Laquisha Pryor, Freshman, Grand Valley State University

While we were mapping, I realized there were people in the community that really cared about what we were doing.  This made a strong and positive impression on me.  Once I realized their interests were with us, I knew that our jobs were beneficial to both the community and to me.  I personally learned that I can work hard to get any job done and succeed.  During my experience with MAPSCorps, the help and encouragement I gave to my co-workers helped us get through every day in a fun and collective manner.  The people I worked with is what I enjoyed most of all about this job.  In regard to the community, I learned that resource mapping helps keep the community organized, and also make the data in the communities easy to access.  Finally, I learned that health plays an important role in the community and that any job can be accomplished if you put in enough effort.

- Terrence Smith, Junior, North Lawndale College Prep

I’m proud that I did MAPSCorps for the first time ever and really enjoyed it, especially meeting new people.  Moreover, I was able to help the communities I already knew by entering resources into a database that could be used to benefit our health.  I learned that the people in my community do not always pay attention to their health.  Through MAPSCorps, we are giving them information on health-conscious options in their communities.  I am most proud of contributing my time to MAPSCorps by helping the people in the community.

- Jozanna Dunbar, Senior, Wendell Phillips

Through mapping, I learned how to be independent and responsible.  For example, I showed my independence by getting a summer job, doing the work it required of me, and making my own money.  I showed responsibility by going to work daily, getting to work on time, and saving money.

- Xavier Gaines, Senior, Wendell Phillips

I had a ton of fun through the South Side Health and Vitality Studies.  I’ve met new people and had new experiences.  I enjoyed mapping the communities that I lived in when I was a kid, such as Bronzeville and Hyde Park.  It feels good to be part of an organization like MAPSCorps because we are helping the community find resources.  Overall, I have enjoyed my summer working with SSHVS and I hope to return next summer in order to help even more.

- Joseph Anthony Jones, Senior, Urban Prep Academy

I gained new skills and knowledge through MAPSCorps this summer.   I have become more independent and hard-working.  Walking every  day and seeing health in different communities has made me more aware of myself and my own skills.  Moreover, it has made me aware of others.  I have learned that hidden in these areas there are many resources that people need.

- Naijir Miles, Senior, Perspectives High School of Technology

I’ve seen that the different communities that I’ve visited weren’t what I thought they were.  My thoughts changed from negative to positive through my mapping.  I feel proud for helping my community with health issues — I enjoyed this.  I will continue to inform people about the program knowing that with every discussion and every flier I give out, I will make a difference.  Personally, I have also learned that I can do more than what I thought I could.  For example, walking in humid 103 degree weather, knowing my asthma is severe, I went through the day feeling great while losing weight!.

- Kya Williams, Junior, U of C Woodlawn Charter School

 

One thing I learned was how to talk to complete strangers without any difficulty.  I don’t think I’d have learned this anywhere else.  On the first day, when I stepped into the room and saw that I was the only half-Asian person in the room, I thought that would set me apart.  I thought that people would dislike how different I was from them.  But the conversations my peers and I had were actually similar in a way to the ones at my school!  I realized I wasn’t all that different.

- Cameron Harter, Junior, U of C Lab School

 

I experienced the spirit and soul of the community.  I am now willing to give back to them in many ways. Economically, the community is shaky, yet they still live life as optimists – filled with hope and faith.  This MAPSCorps experience inspired me to see things through a different lens and try my best to understand these different views.

- Priscilla Agbeo, Junior, U of C Woodlawn Charter High School

The ten MAPSCorps interns have been able to learn first hand about developing community-university relationships through their field experience this summer.  This week, the interns reflect on how these experiences have shaped their career plans and explore these issues more broadly after talking with with Sonya Malunda, Senior Associate Vice President of Community and Civic Engagement for the University, and Caesarei Marsh, Case Manager at Inspiration Corporation’s Living Room Café.

Health really does affect and is affected by all aspects of life.  Without adequate grocery stores, children don’t have the nutritious meals that allow them to think clearly and perform their best in school.  Without positive after-school activities, children are at risk of developing unhealthy habits that put their futures and lives at risk.  MAPSCorps has broadened my understanding of community health and influenced my career plans in urban education.  I have learned that schools can provide much more than just a quality education, because the role they play in youth development and meeting a community’s unique needs can be so critical.  As we move forward we should ask: how can we leverage assets like schools and maximize their benefit in communities?  Attempting to answer questions like this will be my next step in trying to make a change, in trying to make a difference.

- Anum Qadir, Class of ‘14

 

While I have always wanted to pursue a career in medicine, MAPSCorps has significantly impacted my future goals.  My experiences with MAPSCorps have shaped my desire to pursue a career in academic medicine so I could be an innovative researcher, teacher, and clinician.  Having helped map over 15,000 resources in about 20 communities on the South Side of Chicago, I realize that “underserved” or “underprivileged” communities have a lot to contribute to the improvement of their own health.  In urban environments like the South Side, it is important to utilize these resources in establishing a community-engaged, asset-based approach to community health.  It is crucial to rely on the communities themselves because it is a sustainable way of improving the delivery of medicine in these communities.  I hope to eventually utilize my experiences with this internship in a similar line of research as a medical professional.

- Muhammad Shareef, Class of ‘13

 

One important thing I gathered from my MAPSCorps experience is that when connecting with community members, how others perceive your intent can matter more than your actions.  Meaningful communication may be more effective in strengthening university/community relations than financial support alone.  In fact, I strongly believe that if university representatives show up to some of the workforce development classes, cooking demonstrations, and health fairs that community organizations hold, this will be received more favorably than if the University sent flyers to community members highlighting their financial contributions to such organizations.  I believe that if community members see that “Ms. Smith” from the Urban Health Initiative is personally invested in their fitness, they will have stronger, more positive associations with the University of Chicago, and they may be more inclined to trust the University.

- Huiting Xu, Class of ‘13

 

Sonya Malunda shares her passion for the communities surrounding the University.

 

This past week’s Focus Friday topic was on university/community relations.  We had the opportunity to speak with Sonya Malunda, the Senior Associate Vice President for Community Engagement
for the University.  She shared some interesting insights to the challenges of communication between the University and surrounding communities.  After speaking with her, the University’s “face” became difficult for me to aggregate.  I felt guilty for categorizing the University so mindlessly as being poorly supportive to its community.  Rather, once you meet one genuine face behind the University it becomes more apparent that the University is not just a self-serving machine; the “University” is the product of so many individuals, thoughts, and intentions.  By the same token, through work in the field I have learned that the South Side is home to a range of individuals. Once you see a face it becomes more difficult to demonize an organization or community, because you can no longer rely on negative stereotypes.  Good intentions can be held by both parties but the illusion of bad intentions can still be perceived by both. What resonates with me after reflecting on this past week and the summer as a whole?  Only until we consider that there is good are we able to find it.

- Stephanie Short, Class of ‘13

 

Throughout the summer, I have realized how complex the relationship between the University of Chicago and the larger South Side is.  I had initially believed that community members associated the University of Chicago overall with a very negative connotation.  However, this summer and, especially this past week through our interview with Sonya Malunda, taught me that the truth is more complex.  Even though there are those who have a not-so-positive view of UChicago, it is evident that there are many who see the University in a positive light.  As a result of this summer, I have learned not to come to immediate conclusions in any situation without seeing many sides of the equation.  If I don’t see the alternative perspectives, I will have a very skewed approach not just to that particular situation, but of the world in general.

- Ayesha Crockett, Class of ‘13

 

Caesarei Marsh, Case Manager at Inspiration Corporation’s Living Room Café, brings his inspiring story to the interns.

 

Last Friday, I learned about the difficulty involved in being both a community member and a university representative.  While speaking to Sonya Malunda, I asked about the controversy regarding the trauma center.  The answer I got surprised me.  I expected her to defend the University full stop, but instead she said that as a community member she saw the need for services like a trauma center, and that as a community member it was hard for her to defend the University.  She then went on to explain what the University’s position was on the issue, and why the trauma center would not be the best investment for university resources.  Her ability to simultaneously critique and defend the University was impressive, and demonstrated exactly how to handle a situation when the university we are part of and the community we live in are at odds with one another.

- Max Smith, Class of ‘15

 

Our Focus Friday sessions have opened my eyes to the role organizations play in influencing and developing their communities.  In the past two weeks, we focused on the University of Chicago’s relations with its surrounding communities.  As a freshman, you learn about the negative reputation the University carries with some outside of Hyde Park, because of past actions that served to distance it from these communities.  Although the University has taken steps to transform these relationships, its positive impact continues to be upstaged by the past.  To further improve these relations, the University must keep students informed about the positive initiatives it takes to strengthen South Side communities – the students then become vehicles for spreading this information.  By changing the opinion of its own students, the University will increase student involvement in community programs and will have more leverage when faced with controversy.

- Ammon Owens, Class of ‘13

 

When I applied for MAPSCorps, I was asked how being in the program would help my future plans.  I said I wanted to learn how to be involved in community health without going to medical school.  My time with MAPSCorps has given me several answers, especially during our Focus Fridays.  We met with Marcus Murray, Executive Director of the Project Brotherhood Clinic who is working on a Masters of Public Health and Dr. Ramona James, the Health and Wellness Director of Centers for New Horizons who has a Masters in Social Work and a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership.  These community leaders work on health issues, and they have shown me ways I can contribute to community health without an MD.  I am not sure what advanced degree I would like to pursue, but I have some great starting points now.

- Mehnaaz Chowdhury, Class of ‘13

 

Mr. Marsh highlights some of the art created by youth at Living Room Café, with Café guests hard at work on their job search on the computers.

 

MAPSCorps has confirmed my interest in working in psychology with youth.  In conversations with my high school students, we discussed issues like handling peer pressure and relationships.  We also talked about the college process and decision-making around career choices.  I was able to provide a different perspective, which helped them problem solve effectively.  This summer has taught me to appreciate the importance of a mentor and confidante who you can speak to openly.  More importantly, I have realized how much I enjoy being in that position.  I have always thought that schools should have mandatory classes on anger management, stress relief or conflict resolution.  I would like to go into the field of psychology and incorporate this idea into more schools, urban schools especially.

- Janaya Gripper, Class of ‘13

 

One thing that I learned with the high school mappers was how to be adventurous and go outside our comfort zones.  Upon arriving at the field headquarters on the first day of work, the students were very clearly segregated, on one side were the black students and the other side Hispanic students.  They came from completely different neighborhoods and predominantly from two different high schools: Bowen and George Washington.  I later learned that the majority of the students had not stepped foot out of their respective communities.  My initial thought was: who doesn’t leave their own neighborhood?  How closed-minded could they be?  What I realized later was that I was just as guilty if not more than my students were.  I had literally not stepped out of Hyde Park once during my entire freshman year outside of the occasional jaunt downtown.  I had been missing out on the vast array of resources near my front door for almost a year, just because they were in a different neighborhood. Now that we have collectively learned what is around us, my students and I can take full advantage of a world of opportunities and assets we didn’t even know existed before.

Matt Vecchitto, Class of ‘15

 

The welcoming entrance at the Living Room Café on 64th Street in Woodlawn.

As the end of mapping work with the high school students nears, the ten MAPSCorps interns share some stories from the field, including interactions with community members, observations on the CTA, and recommendations for improving the success of MAPSCorps.

 

The MAPSCorps field team from the University of Chicago Woodlawn Charter School.

 

As we map more communities, we have moved farther away from our meeting site, which means more time spent on the CTA.  I don’t mind the extended bus rides because they provide a break from the heat. The buses provide more than just a respite, they are a snapshot of the community.  You can get a good idea of the demographics of the community just by riding on a commercial street.  If you listen carefully, you can hear about community events.  Sometimes the buses provide a public forum where the bold declare their opinions about the modern world.  My time with MAPSCorps taught me that CTA does more than just get you from here to there, it’s a way to connect with the community.

- Mehnaaz Chowdhury, Class of ‘13

 

On Thursday, we were passing out flyers about MAPSCorps.  It was hot, so there weren’t a lot of people out.  However, we crossed paths with an older woman picking up litter off the street.  Hearing about from us the purpose of MAPSCorps, she invited us into a nearby church to meet her pastor.  We asked her to pass on a flyer so that we could keep mapping, but she was very persistent.  The pastor turned out to be a great resource.  Because the pastor is like a community liaison, putting flyers in her hands was the smartest move we could’ve made.  The future success of SouthSideHealth.org can be significantly strengthened from the strong connections and passion of our communities’ pastors.

- Janaya Gripper, Class of ‘13

 

Centers for New Horizon’s 2012 MAPSCorps team.

 

One encounters such a variety of people while riding the CTA on the South Side.  The mom trying to keep track of her two children, the uniformed young man falling asleep after a long shift, the elderly man for whom someone gives up their seat, the rambunctious teenager playing music through his cell phone speakers, the churchgoer preaching to passengers whether they wish to listen or not, and, of course, the MAPSCorps team in brightly colored shirts that no one can miss.  The chance encounters these people have provide opportunities to share resources.  We saw an older woman give information on her daycare business to a younger mother of two, for which the mother appeared quite grateful.  I hope our work and SouthSideHealth.org help increase the chances of exchanging resources and turn coincidences like this into everyday occurrences.

- Anum Qadir, Class of ‘14

 

Walking in Back of the Yards this past week, a man turned to me and said, “Here to sightsee, eh?”  I sensed disdain in his voice, and I wanted badly to explain why I was there.  I didn’t get the chance because he walked away too quickly.  If I had a second chance, I would tell him, “I’m sorry if you feel we are disrespecting your community.  I know we can’t capture its history and vibrancy with some data points on a map.  We are simply trying to make it easier for residents to find the nearest salon or grocery store.  At the end of the day, we realize what we create is just a snapshot of what is out here.”  I can’t predict how he would have reacted, but I’d like to think that a little sincerity can go a long way. 

- Huiting Xu, Class of ‘13

 

The high school students and I learn a lot from community members while mapping.  We encountered someone who had some rather helpful feedback about how we could make the website more accessible.  He suggested including other languages beyond the English and Spanish versions, considering the diverse communities on the South Side.  While talking to him, we learned that in East Side alone that there are considerable Eastern European and Caribbean populations.  Thus, it could be helpful to have the site in multiple languages to account for the different cultures that the South Side represents.  As a mapper, I feel it is important for me to present the good ideas from community members that might improve the project and give them a chance to make their voices heard.

- Ayesha Crockett, Class of ‘13

 

The MAPSCorps team from the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation.

 

While walking through Englewood one of my mappers knocked on the door of a storefront church.  From across the street I saw an elderly woman open the door, give my student a hug, and beckon her inside. This student lived not too far away from where we were walking so I figured that my student must have known the women or attended the church.  After a few minutes I crossed the street to check on my mapper.  Inside the church, she was surrounded by a group of older women praying over her.  After five minutes my student emerged, I asked her if she knew them women.  It turned out that she didn’t know these women or attend the church.  I was a little bit worried, but my student was laughing and had found the whole experience amusing.  Even though she did not know the women, she wasn’t nervous or frightened.

- Max Smith, Class of ‘15

 

On Thursday, I was riding a really packed bus after mapping Stony Island in Avalon Park.  Trying to carve out a spot for myself, I was struck by the courtesy which I see every time I ride the CTA.  It feels like second nature to put the elderly and family first – people are really concerned about helping out others. I admire the community established on the bus even if it only lasts the length of the ride.  How can we replicate this in the larger South Side community?

- Ammon Owens, Class of ‘13

 

Alliance of the Southeast’s MAPSCorps 2012 field team.

 

On Thursday, one of my students said, “Talk to strangers. How would you ever make new friends if you don’t ever talk to strangers?”  I thought this was incredibly applicable to our work out in the field.  When you’re in a new neighborhood, it is quite easy to just curl up in your shy shell.  I have found that if you are friendly and outgoing with those who around you, you are much more welcome.  A simple “Hi, how are you doing?” is greatly appreciated on the South Side, and “Good afternoon ma’am” is never frowned upon.  I hope to truly take to heart my student’s advice and “talk to strangers.”

- Matt Vecchitto, Class of ‘15

 

About three weeks ago, when the consecutive days of 100 degree weather hit Chicago, one of my students dropped behind the group to purchase a bottle of water from a street vendor.  He paid $1, took his chilled bottle of Ice Mountain, and began walking away.  The man then called out to the rest of us and, when we didn’t realize and immediately respond, asked why we had ignored him.  I retracted my steps and said hello.  He replied by saying “Assalamualaikum” (Peace be with you [a Muslim greeting]).  I was surprised because I am Muslim, my students were confused because none of them are, and I responded with the appropriate reply, “Walaikumassalaam.”  Next, the man asked us if we also wanted water and, when one of my students said he did not have money, scorned us explaining that he had not asked us to purchase the water – instead, he proceeded to hand us all our own bottles.  Nothing could have been better on that hot summer day. 

- Muhammad Shareef, Class of ‘13

Part of being a leader is knowing when to step up and when to step back.  The ten MAPSCorps interns got a taste of that this week as they helped the high school mappers prepare presentations for the July SSHVS Large Group meeting.  They also met with Dr. Stacy Lindau, Principal Investigator for the South Side Health and Vitality Studies (SSHVS),  Meghan McNamara, Executive Director of the Alliance of the Southeast (ASE), and Tom Shepherd, Board Member of the Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF). 

Participants at the July SSHVS Large Group meeting listen to Dr. Lindau and eagerly await the presentations by the high school mappers.

When our high school mappers learned that they would have to give a presentation to UHI, Survey Lab, and community partners, many of them were not too thrilled about the idea.  I had assumed we would really need to push our high school mappers to do a good job.  However, once they narrowed down the topics to present, they put together a lot of substantive information on their own.  I learned that their self-motivation allows them to rise to the occasion and put their best foot forward even if they don’t seem excited initially about a challenge.  Self-motivation will be an invaluable skill as many of them pursue college careers.  I am extremely proud of our high school mappers and the presentation that they gave about their MAPSCorps program experience.

- Anum Qadir, Class of ‘14

The team from Centers for New Horizons energize the room with some skits about what they have experienced in the field.

One key lesson that I learned from the high school mappers during their presentations last Wednesday is to not underestimate my own ability to impact others.  After the students made one insightful comment after another, I realized that most of them think of MAPSCorps as much more than a summer job.  How I engage with my students will contribute strongly to what they take away from this opportunity.  As field coordinators, we have the ability to empower and motivate our students to be more organized, dedicated, prudent, articulate, and confident individuals.  We can challenge them to think critically about college and to find ways to give back to their communities.  They can really use this experience as a stepping stone for their academic and professional careers.  In the end, what each student learns will mostly be the result of their own curiosity and commitment, but as field coordinators we can help the students reflect upon their experiences, make connections, and apply new skills to future endeavors.

- Huiting Xu, Class of ‘13

 

An attentive audience listens as mappers present.

The high school students showed in their presentations how seriously they take their jobs. Through what they presented, it was apparent that they didn’t see MAPSCorps as just a summer job, but as a potentially life-altering experience.  They discussed the impact that we as field coordinators had on their lives; this was humbling and heart-warming.  I am extremely proud of the students’ presentations and happy to say that I, along with my co-workers, have been able to serve as both a positive role model and resource to the mappers.

- Ayesha Crockett, Class of ‘13

The mapping team from Alliance of the Southeast (ASE) round out the presentations, sharing about the skills they’ve developed through their summer experience.

Watching the high school students I have been working with give their presentations was very cool.  It was great to see how they had valued their summer MAPSCorps experience.  Walking the neighborhood day-by-day and block-by-block with the students, it is easy to lose perspective.  Student complaints about walking in the hot sun can make it seem like they don’t care or like their experience.  It was good to see that at the end of the day the students appreciate the work we are doing together.

- Max Smith, Class of ‘15

Students explain the MAPSCorps’ “Impact on Our Future.”

Last Wednesday, the high school students did an excellent job of presenting the MAPSCorps project to a group of community leaders and researchers.  I was struck by the depth of the reflections that the students shared on stage.  We, as UCSC interns, played a role in facilitating the preparation for the presentations.  However, to ensure that the students were genuine and creative, we had to take a step back as coaches.  We gave them a platform and the students flourished without us restricting them.  A big part of leadership is knowing when to step in and knowing when to step back.

- Ammon Owens, Class of ‘13

 

Dr. Stacy Lindau, Principal Investigator for SSHVS, explains the roots of her passion for community health and social justice.

During the Wednesday presentation meeting at the Biological Sciences Learning Center, we saw an extremely diverse group all sit in one room driven by a common passion: to improve urban health in Chicago.  It’s moving to know that so many people with so many different backgrounds are taking an active role in the MAPSCorps project.  In our meeting later that day, Dr. Stacy Lindau was deeply inspiring.  She was so genuine in expressing the motivation for her work and the project.  She expressed that, regardless of career choice, you should always be true to yourself.  Although we do see violence and poverty in some areas on the South Side, we have mapped over 15,000 assets in this territory.  Dr. Lindau stressed the importance of leveraging these assets to create an excellent model of urban health.  She exemplifies a “fullness to fullness approach” (thanks, Paul Schmitz, CEO of Public Allies) which will be a key factor in the success of this project over the coming years.

- Stephanie Short, Class of ‘13

ASE Executive Director Meghan McNamara (right) leans into a question from MAPSCorps intern Stephanie Short (2nd from left).

Meeting Meghan McNamara of the Alliance of the Southeast (ASE) has helped me understand community organizations from a new perspective: their initial establishment.  Two and a half years ago, ASE didn’t even exist.  ASE was established in February 2010 by the Alianza Leadership Institute to bring broad-based community organizing to the Southeast side – one of the city’s few regions without a permanent, multi-issue community organizing initiative.  As its Executive Director, Ms. McNamara was hired on the basis of her previous experience with community organizations and organizing campaigns in Washington, DC.  From our conversations, I learned that Ms. McNamara has been limited in her initiatives by her funding sources and due to the relatively recent establishment of the organization.  Nonetheless, she has been effective and resourceful in community organizing as evidenced by her anti-violence efforts on the Southeast side.

- Muhammad Shareef, Class of ‘13

The team working with students from ASE (l to r: Ammon Owens, Ayesha Crockett, ASE ED Meghan McNamara, Mehnaaz Chowdury, and Matt Vecchitto).

Looking at a map, the Hegewisch community is ideal:  multiple green spaces, lakes, ponds, and rivers.  Bird-watchers see magnificent birds such as the American bald eagle.  A reporter at a local newspaper wrote a story about the impending destruction of the Hegewisch Marsh due to the construction of a police shooting range that would cater to testing automatic weapons as well as stronger arms.  While touring the area with a member of the Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF), she was able to obtain pictures of the eagle, its mate, and the nest they built in the park.  Since this was the eagle’s home, it was not worth the trouble for the police to get a permit that allowed disruption of the nest.  Tom Shepherd, Board Member of SETF, said that this bird helped save a natural area from destruction.  How might other natural areas be preserved that does not hinge on such contingent circumstances?  How can community assets such as parks and green spaces be mapped to represent their importance to the community?

- Janaya Gripper, Class of ‘13

Chowing down at La Cocula in South Chicago (l to r: Muhammad Shareef, Matt Vecchitto, Max Smith, UCSC’s David Hays, Janaya Gripper, Ayesha Crockett, Stephanie Short, Anum Qadir, Mehnaaz Chowdury, and Ammon Owens).

From mapping and from our readings, I learned that Southeast Chicago has a difficult time balancing the environment with industry.  In the past, heavy industry provided many jobs and helped to shape the area, but after the factories went out of business, landfills became more prevalent in the area.  The Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF) recently won a battle by getting a bill passed to stop the construction of new landfills in the area.  However, they are met with challenges when it comes to the construction of coal gasification plants that come with the allure of many jobs which are needed in the current economy.  Even though the environment is the highest priority for groups like SETF, they understand that jobs are desperately needed.  They hope to resolve the issue by working with local scientists to bring green jobs to the area and I hope that they succeed.  The Southeast side has beautiful marshland that should be protected while the area grows economically.

- Mehnaaz Chowdury, Class of ‘13

In the community of Hegewisch at the Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF).

We read a quote by civil rights activist Ella Baker: “My theory is, strong people don’t need strong leaders.”  I completely disagree with this statement.  People need leaders, especially strong people.  When you have strong individuals without leadership, a myriad of contrasting ideas and desires arise leading inevitably to conflict. Tying this back to the idea of asset-based community development, we need strong leaders in our community.  We need people who can stand in front of the people and have a voice of reason and a voice of command that emphasize the assets we truly have in urban neighborhoods.  We need strong individuals to make the hard decisions that lead organizations toward a healthier future.  My theory is strong people need even stronger leaders.

- Matt Vecchitto, Class of ‘15

SETF Board Member Tom Shepherd shares his passion for improving the natural environment on the Southeast Side.

 

Week 4: Exploring the Food Environment and Learning from Youth

In Week 4, the ten undergradute MAPSCorps 2012 interns share what they’ve learned about the food environment in the communities in which they have been working and the inspiration they have drawn from the youth.  They spent some time talking with Ramona James, Director of Health and Wellness at the Centers for New Horizons, and Todd Barnett, Director of Family & Community Engagement at Donoghue Elementary to learn more about community food and youth programs.

Ramona James of Centers for New Horizons (CNH) shares her experience working on health and wellness in Grand Boulevard.

Sometimes mapping communities doesn’t tell the whole story.  Through our interview with Ramona James, Director of Health and Wellness at Centers for New Horizons, we learned that CNH offers free karate, aerobics, and yoga classes. These assets are not fully captured while mapping. This week I realized that mapping is in place to give the broader strokes of community assets, but more resources can be found if you can take the time to research the programs and services that various organizations provide.

- Ammon Owens, Class of ‘13

Ramona James and MAPSCorps Interns Muhammad Shareef and Huiting Xu show their CNH pride.

I want to share some of the light-hearted and fun moments I have with the high school mappers I work with. Once we “fought a dragon!” It was a big dragonfly that we had to combat as it perched comfortably on my back. On one occasion, we spent time “marvelling at a field of honey bees” before being chased away by two quarrelsome bees. And on the best days, especially hot days, we “discover tiny bits of heaven” in the form of water droplets springing from sprinklers. At the end of the day, my high school student mappers reflect on these occurrences with laughter. They remind me to appreciate those short moments in life that are too easy to forget.

- Janaya Gripper, Class of ‘13

 

MAPSCorps Interns visited Urban Education Institute’s Donoghue Charter School.

It is easy to tell others, “Try eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and less fried food.” But how easy is it for individuals to follow this advice when driving to the nearest grocery store is not an option and the sandwich joint down the street offers fries for a dollar? Having spent three weeks walking in a food desert, I can say that fast food becomes ten times as attractive when there is nothing comparable in terms of accessibility and cost. That is why I am grateful for organizations such as Centers for New Horizons, where dedicated staff provide cooking guides based on the needs and concerns of community members. They have shown me that if we ‘prescribe’ nutrition with the same level of care and specificity that we prescribe medicine, we can help individuals make the most of their time and money and achieve healthier lifestyles even with limited resources in the community.   

- Huiting Xu, Class of ‘13

 

Our host Todd Barnett kicks off the tour of Donoghue’s campus.

We focused heavily on nutrition this past week, in particular, the presence of food deserts on the South Side. While mapping with the high school students these past few weeks, I’ve realized the severity of this problem. There are very few grocery stores in comparison to fast food restaurants or convenience stores. However, I am inspired by the many people who are working to improve the state of nutrition in such neighborhoods by increasing the number of healthy options.

- Ayesha Crockett, Class of ‘13

Colorful bulletin boards bring Donoghue’s performance data to life.

On his entrance to our meeting, I felt an immediate connection with Todd Barnett, Director of Family & Community Engagement at Donoghue Elementary. In my introduction, I mentioned my home (Kenosha, WI) and he immediately shared that he was from Milwaukee. In the small banter that followed, I felt a link to my fellow Wisconsinite.  I have always been interested in being a high school teacher and soccer coach in the hope that I could have a profound impact on my students’ lives.  Listening to Mr. Barnett’s administrative role was quite inspiring. The broader impact he is making, not just in the classroom, was cool to hear. The programs Donoghue offers (after-school sports, extended hours and Saturday school, family involvement, etc.) will inform my desire to become a high school teacher.  I hope to get in back in touch with him to pursue opportunities between Donoghue and the University of Chicago’s soccer program.

- Matt Vecchitto, Class of ‘15

 

Engaging reminders of students’ weekly schedule brightens the hallway.

Working with the high school students, I’ve been impressed by their ability to connect so easily with people they haven’t met before. Living in the same community serves as a bond between even complete strangers, an unspoken connection. Once, my mappers and I were out in the field and one of the young men opened the door of a business to help a woman carrying a big box. The woman thanked him and began asking questions about After School Matters, as he was wearing the ASM t-shirt that day. Their conversation seemed so natural and cordial. This connectedness between community members is a valuable asset and can serve as a foundation for strong social health.

- Stephanie Short, Class of ‘13

 

To help the Donoghue school community stay healthy, students get two gym classes per week and choose from several sports teams.

Throughout our mapping, I’ve noticed that when it comes to food our students often seek out the more abundant and cheaper options—anywhere from the giant heap of fries for $1.25 to the bags of “Flamin’ Hots” filled with cheese and peppers. Hence, I was surprised when Ramona James, Director of Health and Wellness at Centers for New Horizons (CNH, where I do my mapping), told us of their efforts to counter these eating habits. In fact, I didn’t realize that CNH even had a Health and Wellness Initiative until Friday. The group’s conversation with Dr. James revealed a lot of great information about CNH’s programming in addressing the challenge that unhealthy food simply tastes better and is often more convenient than healthy food. Helping move things in the right direction, CNH offers programs like Swap Out (trade-ins of unhealthy foods with healthy foods) and free balanced breakfasts and lunches. They’ve even begun to work with two stores to implement healthier options in lieu of current “junk food inventories”.

- Muhammad Shareef, Class of ‘13

 

Students stay fit in daily recess on Donoghue’s playground and equipment.

My high school mappers really put life into perspective for me. As 16-18year-olds, they have faced more life challenges than I could imagine in my own lifetime, from losing friends to facing violence and even threats to their lives. Their sense of resiliency is quite admirable. I am inspired by their ability to keep their heads up and not succumb to negative influences. The day-to-day challenges in my own life seem like a drop in the ocean. The next mid-term exam I stress about may not be so stressful anymore. 

- Anum Qadir, Class of ‘14

 

Murals provide a colorful background for a MAPSCorps group photo. (Left to right: Muhammad Shareef, Matt Vecchitto, Mehnaaz Chowdhury, Huiting Xu, Max Smith, Stephanie Short, Ayesha Crockett, Janaya Gripper, Ammon Owens, and Anum Qadir)

Meeting with Ramona James, Director of Health and Wellness at Centers for New Horizons, proved fascinating. Dr. James told us about a whole host of programs that CNH sponsors to help improve the health and wellness of the community. I found one program that she mentioned particularly interesting. In local elementary schools, students are able to trade their unhealthy snacks that they brought from home for healthy alternatives. This program communicates respect to the students. Instead of assuming that students wouldn’t make healthy choices on their own, it allows the students the freedom to make good choices. The swap program empowers students to make autonomous choices about their own health.

- Max Smith, Class of ‘15

 

MAPSCorps Interns share suggestions for improving the MapApp (the mobile phone app they use to collect data in the field) with Information Technology Services interns working on improving the app.

This past Friday, we interviewed two community leaders working to improve nutrition and recreation in South Side communities. Both agreed that nutritious meals are important first steps towards improving performance in schools. However, this can be difficult for students since grocery stores with fresh produce are not very common in the South Side. I’ve noticed while mapping that corner stores and restaurants with unhealthy food are quite common. Ramona James, Director of Health and Wellness at the Center for New Horizons, is working with corner groceries to start selling healthy alternatives. Todd Barnett, Director of Family and Community Partnership at Donaghue Elementary, is working on getting healthier meals at his school. Hopefully, their efforts will become more widespread in the years to come.

- Mehnaaz Chowdhury, Class of ‘13

Week 3: Drivers of Community Development

In Week 3, the ten undergraduate MAPSCorps 2012 interns spent some time in the Auburn Gresham community visiting with Carols Nelson, Executive Director of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GADC), and Kim Lymore, Associate Minister at St. Sabina.  The interns share their thoughts on community leadership, the role of different organizations in community development, and helping others learn more about available community resources.

Carlos Nelson, Executive Director of GADC (Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation), shares his perspective on community development with MAPSCorps Interns.

Visiting the Auburn Gresham neighborhood this past Friday really opened my eyes to the importance of involving community members in neighborhood development. The dedication that many individuals have to the neighborhood makes a vivid impression on community residents. People are invested in seeing improvement in their community and, thus, take the necessary steps to effect change. The close-knit environment further supports progress, as people hold each other accountable to implement these changes. To say the least, the visit to Auburn Gresham was both inspirational and empowering.

- Ayesha Crockett, Class of ‘13

 

Carlos Nelson, Executive Director of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GADC), is a man who works to lead from the ground up. Although head of an organization with a $2.5 million budget, Mr. Nelson still finds time in his day to greet people who walk through the GADC’s doors.  UCSC MAPSCorps Interns met with Mr. Nelson on Friday. Within a minute of hearing him speak, I had picked up on his genuine love for and connection with Auburn Gresham.  He told us, “I have not worked a day in ten years,” followed closely by, “I can still see my house when I look out the window [of this room].” I believe that his ability to form meaningful connections with the community members is what builds trust between the GADC and the community, what strengthens the organization’s ability to voice the concerns of the people, and what drives Mr. Nelson to be the leader that he is.

- Huiting Xu, Class of ‘13

MAPSCorps Interns chow down on mustard-fried catfish, mac-n-cheese, and other soul food goodies at BJ’s Market & Bakery on 79th and Racine. Left to Right: Ammon Owens, Janaya Gripper, Huiting Xu, Stephanie Short, Ayesha Crockett, Max Smith, Matt Vecchitto, Muhammad Shareef, and Anum Qadir.

On one particularly hot day, we were flyering in South Shore to spread the word about southsidehealth.org. There were not many people outside. We came upon an older woman. She was picking up litter and putting it into a little cart. We offered her a flyer. She thought the project was so great that we should talk to her pastor. She took us into an air-conditioned church where the pastor gladly filled our empty water bottles and offered us apples. In short order, we got a brief history of the church and the programs they currently offer. These include an after-school program, a summer program, and free meals for youth. What a fantastic discovery!

- Janaya Gripper, Class of ‘13

 

Community development in Washington Park and Woodlawn may have a different meaning than in other neighborhoods. Where boarded up windows and vacant blocks are the norm, finding resources can be difficult. Although long-term plans may include more business and residential development, focusing on current assets can create more immediate solutions. By informing community residents of the resources available to them right in their own neighborhood, I hope they will be able to lead healthier lives.

- Anum Qadir, Class of ‘14

Associate Minster Kimberly Lymore kicks off our tour of St. Sabina’s extensive social service and community development programs.

Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GADC) and the Faith Community of St. Sabina approaches to community development were quite different than what I have seen at some other community organizations. Many organizations are dedicated to supporting their community by providing resources for the individual members. Through our conversations with Carlos Nelson (GADC), I realized that the GADC and St. Sabina community development approach is broader, encompassing the physical development of the community. Carlos Nelson’s focus on “comprehensive community development” extends GADC’s role as a focal point for community resources to a center dedicated towards the creation of a new Metra stop on 79th street. Associate Minister Kim Lymore (St. Sabina) said that the church was heavily involved in bringing a Walgreens and a BJ’s Market restaurant on the same block as the senior resident home they established. This community development model helps GADC and St. Sabina impact whole communities rather than smaller subsets of community members.

- Muhammad Shareef, Class of ‘13

 

I spent this past spring quarter studying in Paris. Whenever I tell anyone that I was in Paris, they always want to know about the churches. People ask about Notre Dame, Saint Chapelle, and a multitude of other famous churches. But if you really want to see a lot of interesting churches, I would suggest you go to Auburn Gresham. Auburn Gresham has an amazingly wide variety of churches, from massive old Catholic churches to storefront churches only open on Sunday. I even saw a church that doubles as hair salon (as I mentioned last week). If you love seeing different houses of worship and have never been to Auburn Gresham, I can tell you that there are more churches in Auburn Gresham than there are in Paris.

- Max Smith, Class of ‘15

 

Helping people find work in a tough economy – the job board is just one of the services at St. Sabina’s Employment Resource Center.

This week’s Friday session was particularly interesting, especially because we had a chance to speak with the GADC’s leader Carlos Nelson. He was very approachable and our conversation was very fluid.  What was particularly interesting to me was Mr. Nelson’s willingness to give up a high-paying career as an engineer to work full-time for a nonprofit. His amiability and open-door policy to the GADC was inspiring for me.  I hope to emulate this attitude as I develop as a leader.

- Matt Vecchitto, Class of ‘15

 

Cultural identity is the most important asset in the East Side community. You can see the presence of the large Hispanic population in many of the businesses, especially the restaurants. From my previous experience as a health educator teaching South Side high school students about nutrition, I learned that it can be difficult to eat healthy when there are many fast food restaurants nearby. Freshly prepared Hispanic cuisine is a healthier option than the fast food restaurants that dominate in many other communities. The few fast food options available in East Side are on its edges. For people’s health, having restaurants that serve healthy food is extremely important.

- Mehnaaz Chowdhury, Class of ‘13

A colorful chalk mural at The Ark, St. Sabina’s community center which houses nearly 20 programs and services for Auburn-Gresham’s youth.

Growing up in L.A., the Catholic Church seemed somewhat distant from black communities. Learning about the role St. Sabina plays in Auburn Gresham has changed my perception of what the church can do. St. Sabina has a myriad of programs, giving people access to not only spiritual wellness but also housing, technology, physical fitness, and many other resources. Working with MAPSCorps has really opened my eyes to how churches can advance their communities.

- Ammon Owens, Class of ‘13

The most fulfilling aspect of our first Friday session was meeting with Carlos Nelson, the Executive Director of the GADC. What I found interesting was that life ultimately brought him to his current line of work; he hadn’t planned being involved in community development. He really showed us that the improvements in the community can only be made possible by collaboration of community members, leaders and the government. He likes to say “I haven’t worked a day in 10 years.” This stuck with me because it truly seemed like he has maintained his spirit. I look forward to meeting more community leaders; it gives rich context for the communities in which we are working.

- Stephanie Short, Class of ‘13

MAPSCorps Interns take in the bustling corner at 79th Street and Racine. Visible in the background are St. Sabina Senior Housing, the bell tower for the parish, and BJ’s Market and Bakery’s green and white awning.

Week 2: Uncovering Community Assets and Finding the Leader Within

The ten undergraduate MAPSCorps 2012 interns share their thoughts on Week 2 including finding common ground with the high school students, learning more about the communities they’re working in, and developing leadership skills.

After working with our high school mappers this week, I learned that I am more than just a mentor to them. I am as much a mentee of the high school students. When we’re in the field, the high school mappers have home field advantage, knowing where restaurants are for a break from the heat and what bus will take us back to the Survey Lab. The MAPSCorps project isn’t just about what some University folks can do in their surrounding neighborhoods, but how we can work together to improve health and vitality in our communities. I’m looking forward to working as a team to create long-lasting, positive effects on our communities.

- Anum Qadir, Class of ‘14

 

While mapping Auburn-Gresham, the students and I were walking south down Racine. I noticed that there were 6 or 7 churches within two blocks. Some churches were big, others quite small. As we walked on, I commented on the large number of churches that were on the street. One student said that the whole neighborhood is made up of churches, hair salons, and liquor stores. A little while later, I saw a store named “Gospel Curls;” the slogan on their sign read “It’s not just a hair salon, it’s a ministry.”  We had found a hair salon that was also a church! 

- Max Smith, Class of ‘15

 

This week, we were mapping a commercial block in South Shore and needed to break for lunch. We found a couple of nearby restaurants on Google, but we discovered that they were out of business. After three more blocks, we came upon two restaurants, a liquor store, and a smaller convenience store. So for lunch we had the option between burgers, Chinese food, or snacks from the corner store. None had great air conditioning, but we were thankful nonetheless to get out of the 100 degree heat. From that very hot 15 minutes walking in search of lunch, I have an understanding of how fortunate I have been. In such heat, it would be difficult for older residents to cross three blocks for food. Similarly, children must travel further. I took for granted that I grew up near many resources, like the pizza restaurant, ice cream stand, and large convenience store that were conveniently located only 9 houses down from my house.  

- Janaya Gripper, Class of ‘13

 

The most memorable people I’ve met over the past two weeks are the Center for New Horizons high school student mappers I am working with. Even though I am serving as a field coordinator and mentor, I have worked with the students to create an atmosphere that is just as fun as it is productive. In fact, this sentiment was mirrored in the responses of our students when we asked them to share what stood out most, either positive or negative, about their first week. In some ways, my relationship with the students reminds me of my relationship with my own 16-year-old brother: a relationship balancing personal respect and brotherly friendship. I am inspired to reach out to them as a resource for the program, their daily interactions, and even their upcoming college applications.

- Muhammad Shareef, Class of ‘13

 

During my first week of mapping, I learned that my range of interests is much broader and more diverse than I thought. Each high school student that I work with is unique. I was worried that I would not be able to relate to them in terms of hobbies or interests. But after talking to the students, I realized that I actually am interested in a wide array of subjects. Even if I do not have much background knowledge on the subject, I am still eager to learn more. I hope that this exchange of ideas will continue for the rest of the summer.

 - Mehnaaz Chowdhury, Class of ‘13

 

The first week of mapping was an experience for all of us. The thing that stuck out the most to me was how the public interacted with us while mapping the community. I was surprised that many community members are very receptive to the project. Many even asked about SouthSideHealth.org in order to learn more. I look forward to even more interactions with the public as we continue to map the South Side.

 - Stephanie Short, Class of ‘13

 

Interacting with the high school students this past week, I’ve realized how much I have learned and matured during my years at the University of Chicago. As the students prepare for the next phase of their lives, I reminisce on that monumental time in my own life and all the emotions that I went through as I prepared for my first real taste of independence. Even though there is only a small age gap between us, I have been able to provide the students with what I hope is useful advice and information. I’m very excited for the remainder of the summer because it will definitely be a time of growth for not only the students, but for myself as well.

 - Ayesha Crockett, Class of ‘13

 

I was surprised by how many similarities the high school mappers and I share. I went into it thinking that I was going to be completely different from them, but we actually share a lot of the same values, goals, tastes, and passions. The career dream that one of the students told me really stuck out to me. He dreams of conducting an orchestra that mixes modern style music with older instruments like violins, cellos, flutes, pianos, violas, and trumpets. It surprised me at first that he would have such a lofty dream, then I realized I had similarly lofty goals. Through this recognition, I found some interesting common ground. I wish this student the best in his pursuit of conducting, and continue to be impressed with such clarity of vision.  

 - Matt Vecchitto, Class of ‘15

 

I want to start off by saying we have great high school students at the Alliance of the Southeast (ASE). Working with the high school mappers, I realize that sometimes you do not have to try so hard to be a leader. I learned that you can be a leader simply working alongside people rather than attempting to control a situation that does not necessarily call for it.

 - Ammon Owens, Class of ‘13

 

On Thursday, while out mapping in 102 degree weather, I happened across a snow cone stand. At first, I was simply delighted to crunch blue raspberry flavored ice between my molars. After the initial excitement subsided, I began taking notice of the man who was working in the unbearable heat.  He was gingerly scooping ice and pumping a too generous amount of syrup into a white cup for me.  I realized that despite having learned how to categorize stores, restaurants, churches, and schools using a sophisticated taxonomy, I had not given any consideration to the abundance of human resources present within each community. I felt a mixture of pride and humility as I handed my dollar bill to the man.  He reminded me that a community is not simply defined by its storefronts, church spires, and picket fences, but also by the dignity, strength, and resourcefulness of its people.

- Huiting Xu, Class of ‘13

Meet the University Community Service Center MAPSCorps Interns!

Ten undergraduates from the University of Chicago are working with MAPSCorps this summer through an internship with the University Community Service Center supported through a grant from the Women’s Board of the University of Chicago.  Over the next few months, you will get a glimpse of what it’s like to be on the MAPSCorps team as these students write some reflections about their experience and how it is shaping their perspectives and ongoing learning.  Below is a little background on each of the students and their thoughts on their first week. 

Mehnaaz Chowdhury (Class of 2013) is originally from Glendale, CA and is currently double-majoring in biological sciences and French language and literature. As an educator with Peer Health Exchange, Mehnaaz has taught health workshops for students from many South Side high schools.  Through MAPSCorps, she hopes to learn about other ways she can help improve community health, while showing South Side youth that they are capable of making a bigger impact on their community.

Week 1 Reflection:  During our training this past week, we read similar quotations from Paul Schmitz, CEO of Public Allies and First Lady Michelle Obama. Both challenged us to look at others as if they are “half-full glasses” with many assets available, not “half-empty glasses” that need our help. The quotations really shifted my view of South Side communities and helped me understand the MAPSCorps program. Our project is especially important since it gives community members an extensive list of the assets at their disposal.

Ayesha Crockett (Class of 2013) is originally from Cincinnati, OH and majoring in biological sciences.  Ayesha is excited to help high school students map essential resources for South Side community members.  She is conducting a study on how social media can improve treatment and management of neonatal diabetes.  Ayesha hopes her project will give insight into how the medical community can connect with patients through technology and improve the lives of those with rare diseases.

Week 1 Reflection: This past week taught me the importance of breaking up monotony to inspire learning. In order to optimize learning by the high school mappers we are working with, all of us have to be engaged and find the value in what we are learning. It is essential to check in with the mappers to make sure that they continue to absorb essential information. Incorporating activities that will shake up the routine helps to move the training along - even make it enjoyable. I will definitely utilize all that I’ve learned during my first week to train the high school student mappers this week!

Janaya Gripper (Class of 2013) is originally from Detroit, MI and is majoring in human development.  Janaya intends to pursue a career in public health or education research.  Her main interests are in improving the community through initiatives that affect the welfare of youth and their families.  This summer, Janaya aims to have a better understanding of the community, while learning how to develop her skills toward increasing resources at the local level. 

Week 1 Reflection: Beginning this internship, I knew I’d meet some nice people but I didn’t expect to make so many friends so quickly. Being introduced to the other college students that make up the UCSC cohort, I cannot imagine a better group. It is racially, culturally, and ideologically diverse; it is made up of individuals who appreciate difference. The ten of us, collectively, have a wealth of knowledge to provide that we are ready to share with high school student mappers as well as each other. This summer, I will be inspired by the potential of our group to provide insight on the importance of diversity and to encourage curiosity and acceptance among everyone involved in MAPSCorps.

Ammon Owens (Class of 2013) is majoring in political science.  Ammon is from South Central Los Angeles and has a passion for making efforts to bridge the socioeconomic gaps between wealthy areas and those that have fewer resources.  As a mentor and tutor through the Neighborhood Schools Program, he seeks to work with youth because he feels that he can empathize and be a positive role model.

Week 1 Reflection: The highlight of the week for me was learning the essence of my role as a MAPSCorps intern. I realized that not only do I have a responsibility to the community, but also to the high school student mappers I’ll be working with. This past week, I was trained on how to effectively lead as well as the underlying logic behind leadership. It gave me a foundation to assume and activate my role as a MAPSCorps Field Coordinator.

Anum Qadir (Class of 2014) is originally from Anchorage, AK and is a public policy major.  After working with community members through the Chicago Policy Research Team, Anum has developed an interest in issues facing inner-city communities, like those relating to health and social services.  She hopes MAPSCorps will increase her understanding of how to build a stronger relationship between the University and its neighbors on the South Side.

Week 1 Reflection: Working in the field was the highlight of my week. Our first week was full of information, PowerPoints and handouts, from how to interact with community members to a detailed taxonomy of different community resources and businesses. The first day of field work was disorienting, as if I had been dropped off in an unknown territory. By our second day, I knew the ins and outs. Strangers no longer seemed so strange and what would have otherwise forever remained unfamiliar suddenly became familiar.

Muhammad Shareef (Class of 2013) is originally from Skokie, IL and is a biological sciences major.  As a mentor and tutor, Muhammad has always been able to connect with students and motivate them to realize their goals.  As someone who loves research work, he wishes to use his skill set to serve as an innovator in medicine.  Muhammad believes MAPSCorps will help increase his understanding of healthcare disparities on the South Side of Chicago.

Week 1 Reflection: I had a picture in my head from watching a documentary in my college orientation week that South Side communities frown upon the University of Chicago for “taking over.” However, three times in two days, people recognized the University emblem on our shirts and encouraged us to continue the great work the University is doing to improve the community. Just two days of field work has changed my approach from one in which I would have to carefully explain and repair the University’s relationship with the community to one in which I can promote the MAPSCorps project to receptive ears.

Stephanie Short (Class of 2013) is originally from Edwardsville, IL and is majoring in psychology.  Stephanie was a volunteer and production team member for the All Stars Project of Chicago, a health educator for high school freshmen on Chicago’s south and west sides, and a tutor for young men enrolled at the Urban Prep Englewood Campus.  She looks forward to the opportunity to do community outreach and research this summer.

Week 1 Reflection: Every project must be sustained by fuel and passion. The training week gave me both, providing the tools to tackle the summer with strength and desire. The first day we received information about the health disparities in Chicago. We looked at maps that indicated the frequency of health conditions as they occur in the various neighborhoods of Chicago. The prevalence of these conditions in Chicago’s South Side is startling. This resonated with me and will continue to throughout the project, as I play a part in the larger goal to make Chicago an example of great urban health.

Max Smith (Class of 2015) has lived his entire life on the South Side and has always been interested in the challenges that face his community.  He looks forward to resource mapping in order to make day-to-day life easier for the people he grew up with.  He hopes to help students develop and learn valuable science skills while improving their communities.

Week 1 Reflection: During our training we spent a lot of time talking about leadership. At first, I didn’t buy into much of what was being said. But, over the course of the week, I learned about all sorts of different leadership styles. I thought that many of the activities we did about leadership were kind of silly. Upon reflection, they turned out to be useful and interesting – and now I am planning on incorporating what I learned in those activities as I work with the high school mappers this summer.

Matthew Vecchitto (Class of 2015) is originally from Pleasant Prairie, WI.  As an economics major, Matthew hopes his MAPSCorps experience will help him better understand how money flows in and out of socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods and how to create more equitable and efficient ways of dealing with issues ranging from healthcare to education.

Week 1 Reflection: There were many highlights of the week, but one that sticks out is a special restaurant I found in Woodlawn - Sicily’s Pizza. I found this place on my first day mapping – and from that point on, my only thought was that pizza. It possessed my mind from the time I woke until I rested my head on my pillow. Finally, Friday night, I visited Sicily’s. It was good pizza at an unbeatable price; I am hooked. I hadn’t given Woodlawn a thought when it came to dining. Walking through these neighborhoods, I have found out that there are many great resources available which need to be taken better advantage of.

Huiting Xu (Class of 2013) is originally from XuZhou, China and is a biological sciences major.  Huiting is excited to learn about mapping, to investigate the South Side with a team of high school mappers, and to explore the meaning of community.  As part of the MAPSCorps team, she will directly impact the same population as in her previous work as a help desk volunteer with Health Leads.

Week 1 Reflection: In this week’s training, we received a great introduction to Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD).  I was delighted to learn about such a positive and refreshing approach to improving health. The asset-based model challenges researchers, medical practitioners, and other collaborators to identify and leverage strengths already present within communities. I believe this approach is extremely useful because it helps one identify potential where others may only detect problems. In the next seven weeks, I hope to learn more about the applications of ABCD. I also look forward to contributing to the University of Chicago’s Urban Health Initiative as a MAPSCorps Field Coordinator.

MAPSCorps 2012 Kicks Off!

MAPSCorps 2012 is in full swing, with over 60 students working with us to conduct a census of every business and organization in communities on the South Side of Chicago.  We have over 50 high school students working with MAPSCorps this summer, including a few returning students.  These students are working with MAPSCorps through partnerships with After School Matters, Alliance of the Southeast, Centers for New Horizons, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, and the Urban Education Institute’s Woodlawn Charter School.  Rounding out the MAPSCorps field teams are 16 college students, including 10 undergraduate interns with the University Community Service Center who have been given opportunities to work with MAPSCorps through a grant from the Women’s Board of the University of Chicago.  Be on the lookout for the MAPSCorps teams in bright blue, green, and orange t-shirts who will be covering every block in almost 20 communities over the next few months!

Two High School Students Recount Summer Experience Mapping Bronzeville

This summer, two high school students, Brandon Jones and Dantrell Rhone, worked with the Center for New Horizons to collect non-residential business and organization information in Bronzeville, a historic South Side neighborhood.  Read about their experiences “mapping” Bronzeville:

Dantrell Rhone

This summer, I worked with Centers for New Horizons for research mapping. The mapping was for the University Of Chicago and their website [www.sshvs.org] to provide South Side residents information on what businesses exist in different South Side communities to make it easier for them to go to stores without traveling too far, or going in a bad neighborhood. What I like most about the job was that I saw a lot of places that could be helpful for the people in the communities. Some of the places I saw were grocery stores, clothing stores, and also a little store for household materials. The last reason I like the job is because it will help me in the long run. The program helped me because it developed my confidence to be able to talk to other people for the first time without being shy.

Brandon Jones

This summer, I worked with Centers for New Horizons. I was a part of the research mapping with the University of Chicago. I learned way more about the community and the businesses within them.  I was unaware that there were so many businesses in the community. I feel that this job will help many people by making it more convenient for the people in the community so they are
aware instead of traveling farther distances, and that is why I enjoy it so much. After having this job, I am now eager to see what types of businesses are in my community and I know it will be easy because the information is on the website given to us. I liked that the co-workers and the boss had great communication. Also, they were there when a problem was at hand. I would not mind doing this job again.  I just would prefer another community because there’s nothing better than exploring your city.

2011 Summer Mapper: Dekiya Fuliweily

Dekiya Fuliweily

Hey! My name is Dekiya Fuliweily.  My experience with the Asset Census Project has been fun, challenging, and educational.  I’ve learned that there are different organizations besides retail stores, grocery stores, and restaurants.  The people in the communities are helpful at times and willing to give information to us.  You meet all sorts of professional people.  This job helped me to know that there is more out there besides what is in your neighborhood.

This experience taught me that we don’t have many grocery stores to get fresh food, fruits or vegetables.   I believe that’s the reason why people are obese; the grocery stores are so far and cost so much that they go to fast food restaurants because it is close and cheaper.  I enjoyed my experience because it taught me to eat healthier, exercise, and that we have more fast food restaurants than clinics or pharmacies.

2011 Summer Mapper: Lachita Foster

Lachita Foster

Hi. My name is Lachita Foster.  I’m 16 years old and I attend Perspectives Leadership Academy (PLA).  This school year, I will be a 11th grader.  My experience with mapping has been fun.  I have learned that we have to trust each other while on the job.  I also learned that on the job it is important to follow the rules and pay attention.  It has taught me that in life there are different types of people that you have to face.  I believe that trust plays a major part because if you were to pass out, they are there to help you.  My work experience with Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, After School Matters, and the University of Chicago has been positive.  This job has kept me out of so much trouble and prevented me from doing crazy things.  This job was fun, hot, and tiring.  The reason why I felt it was hot is because the weather was 95 degrees and we had to walk from point A to point B.  I felt it was tiring because I had to wake myself up at 6:10 AM just to start my day off well at work.

2011 Summer Mapper: Tamara Ennis

Tamara Ennis

My name is Tamara Ennis.  I attend Perspectives Leadership Academy.  I am 17 years old.  This school year, I will be a senior.  During these two weeks, my experience with the Asset Census Project has been hot, interesting, and fun.  I have learned a lot about new businesses, liquor stores, and churches in my community. When I first started mapping, it was a little hard at first, but it became easier once I got the hang of it.  I also learned that a lot of businesses were opened and closed.

Participating in this Asset Census Project has taught me a lot about communicating effectively with business owners and it also taught me to demonstrate perseverance when I go outside in the heat to get information from the business owner.  This project has been a wonderful journey and I would love to do it again.

2011 Summer Mapper: Gene Boglin

Gene Boglin

My name is Gene Boglin.  I am sixteen years old.  This year, I will be a senior at Saint Rita High School.  My experience so far with the Asset Census Project has been very interesting.  So far, throughout the community, the people that I have met have been very nice to me.  When they heard about what we are doing in the program, they were open to giving us as much information as we needed or could get from them.  It also has been interesting to find new organizations throughout the community and to find out which organizations closed down.  There are so many churches in the neighborhood; there are at least 1 or 2 on each block.

The smartphones were very difficult to use the first time I started.  The screen was difficult to type on because it was pushing a different button than what I wanted. Now, since I’ve been using it more often, I got the hang of it.  The walking has been great exercise for me.  It is a good way for me to stay in shape and get ready for cross-country.  This project has been great for me to practice my communication skills by talking to people in the community.  This program has been a great experience and has helped me get used to the business world.

2011 Summer Mapper: Trevora Jasper

Trevora Jasper

My name is Trevora Jasper.  I am 19 years old.  I just graduated from Chicago Vocational High School (CVS).  This fall, I will be a freshman at either Chicago State University or Joliet Junior College.  My experience this summer with mapping was fun, interesting, hot, and tiring, but I enjoyed the summer job.  What I liked about my job was working with the new smartphones and meeting new people as a worker.  I can say this job has helped me with my communication skills.  The people were very friendly to my friend and me.  I also learned that there were a lot of churches on each block and that they don’t pay taxes.

2011 Summer Mapper: Alma Bush

Alma Bush

My name is Alma Bush and I am 17 years old.  This year, I will be a senior at Perspectives Calumet High School of Technology.  My experience working with the University of Chicago Asset Census Project was hot, tiring and fun. (I did not really like the weather.) I enjoyed walking because I like walking and I enjoyed working with my peers.  My peers were friendly and they were fun to work with.

This experience has helped me with my speaking and social skills.  I enjoyed speaking to the people in the communities.  Walking through the communities, I learned there were a lot of churches.  I also found out that churches do not pay taxes.  I feel like churches should pay taxes although they are only open one day a week.  All the churches in the communities are just a waste of space.  I think the churches should at least do something for the communities during the week–like open youth programs or food pantries.

2011 Summer Mapper: Daries Stanford

Daries Stanford

My name is Daries Stanford and I am 17 years old.  I attend Morgan Park High School.  This upcoming school year, I will be a junior.  I would like to inform you of my experience with the Asset Census Project.

My experience while working with the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, After School Matters, and the University of Chicago has been wonderful.  As a “mapper,” I traveled through the communities of Auburn Gresham, Englewood, and West Englewood mapping the businesses, organizations, churches, and many other places that provide services for these three communities.  I felt this job was most helpful in helping me with my communication skills.  During the experience, we took a lot a pictures and met new people.  I had the chance to meet Dr. Eric Whitaker from the University of Chicago.  I also had the chance to attend two very important meetings at the University of Chicago.  Bill Healy, a journalist, took pictures and followed me around so he could get a hands-on experience as a “mapper.”  My experience is yet to be done!

2011 Summer Mapper: Shakera Helm

Shakera Helm

My name is Shakera Helm and this is my first year working with the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation.  My experience with mapping is pretty complicated because putting the businesses’ information in the smartphones is hard.  Finding some of the places are hard and trying to decide if they are still open or not was also difficult.  Mapping is fun because you get to learn about different businesses in the communities and learn how to use the smartphones.  Mapping is great because we are helping others in the communities learn more about their local businesses.

Another thing I like about this job so far is that I haven’t ran into any rude people while collecting data.  This job is helping with my working and communication skills because I have problems speaking to people I don’t know because I am shy.  I really like this job and I will continue to work hard and make my superiors proud of me so I can prove to them that my hard working skills will improve each day as I work here.  My experience with Bill Healy was fun.  For example, he took pictures of us resource mapping on 63rd Street.  He also asked us questions about the corporation and what we liked about it.  We walked around putting different businesses’ information into smartphones, and even let Bill try it out once.  He asked what I wanted to major in once in college and I told him journalism.  He gave me a few pointers about it and also let me see his camera to take pictures of all the businesses.

2011 Summer Mapper: Franchesca Collins

Franchesca Collins

My name is Franchesca Collins and this is my first year working with the University of Chicago, After School Matters and the Greater Auburn Gresham Development programs.  This year, my experience was a great one.  The people were very helpful and taught me lots of new things like people skills and working skills.  By this being my first job, I was glad I had signed up.

So far, my mapping is a great thing to help communities not only Englewood, West Englewood, and Auburn Gresham, but others as well.  Lots of people are intrigued to follow what the program is about and what we’re doing, and it’s fun to tell them that basically this job is put your information in a smart phone so others in the community could access it quicker.

Dr. Doriane Miller Receives Distinguished Community Service & Advocacy Award

Congratulations to Dr. Doriane Miller, Director of the Center for Community Health & Vitality, for receiving the 2011 Distinguished Community Service & Advocacy Award.  She was honored on Monday, June 13th, 2011 at the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine (DCAM) building for her outstanding achievements at the University of Chicago and the South Side of Chicago.  Dr. Miller, congratulations again and job well done!

Low-Cost Broadband for Low-Income Students of CPS Families

Newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Comcast to offer low-cost broadband for low-income students of CPS families.  Read more about it:

http://www.suntimes.com/search/5693127-418/low-income-chicago-students-to-get-low-cost-broadband.html

May 14th, 2011: An Invaluable DOSAR Experience

Saturday, May 14th, 2011 was a cold, rainy day, but the weather did not suppress the infectious positive energy that permeated the 19 South Side neighborhood organization sites.  “It was refreshing and fun,” recalls Natalie Watson, “volunteering my time to a larger effort.”  Natalie Watson, SSHVS research professional, worked hand-in-hand with University of Chicago volunteers and community members at Madison Elementary School planting and landscaping the school premise.   As she reflects on her experience, she remembers two distinct things that made her time “enjoyable and memorable”: 

“As I was helping to put mulch on the ground, a young male starts to tell his classmates, ‘We have to put this mulch down right!  We have to make sure that our garden looks the best!’ It was humbling to see a young child telling his classmates to take pride in beautifying their school.  Also, there was a young girl who proudly told me that she was from Englewood.  I was happy to see the girl take pride in her neighborhood, her community. Sometimes we are afraid to take pride in who we are and where we are from because of outside perceptions. Englewood has so much to offer and she represents that.”

She loved her experience and is eager to volunteer her time at Madison Elementary School next year.  She wants to see more children and parents volunteer their time to improve community health and wellness on the South Side. 

To Natalie and the many individuals who volunteered for DOSAR last Saturday, please share your memorable experiences with us on Facebook, Twitter and/or our blog.  Thank you to all the amazing volunteers who made DOSAR a huge success.  We look forward to seeing you–and a few more people–in 2012!

9th Annual Day of Service & Reflection (DOSAR)

Roll up your sleeves.  Pull your hair back.  On Saturday, May 14th, 2011, the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) will hosts its 9th annual Day of Service & Reflection.  Unlike previous years, this year’s event will be aligned with Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s city-wide service day to celebrate the value of community service in Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods.  From 7:15 AM-12:00 PM, UCMC employees, faculty, students and fellow Chicagoans will team up to offer their time planting, cleaning, and painting at 19 South Side neighborhood sites.  If you have participated in DOSAR before, you know the transformative effect that community service has on those you serve.  Sign up today!  Call 1-800-378-9675 to register yourself, your family and your friends.  Visit www.chicagotogether.com for more specific event details.  Registered participants will receive a T-shirt, food and a free concert ticket in Grant Park afterwards.  We encourage all DOSAR participants to post their pictures and/or leave their comments, thoughts, reflections, and impressions about their experience on our post.  We look forward to  seeing you on Saturday, May 14th!

Happy Mother’s Day

SSHVS wishes all mothers a happy, fun-filled, stress-free Mother’s Day! Think about yourself (and not us) for, at least, one day. Leave all the dirty clothes, unwashed dishes, 700 daily details and night time bedstories to us. Bathe in the praise, glory, love, and appreciation that you so richly deserve! Thank you.

Chicago Health & Aging Services Exchange Vision: Alleviating the “Pain” in South Side Healthcare Market

 

Did you miss our 2nd Chicago Health & Aging Services Exchange Advisory Board meeting on Thursday, April 21st, 2011?  An article was written for the SSHVS April 2011 newsletter to summarize the salient meeting notes.  Here it is for those who did not read it, or want to leave a comment here about it: 

The vision:  to improve health on Chicago’s South Side.  The challenge: how do you best match people in a geographically resource scarce area like the South Side of Chicago to available health services? 
 
On April 21st, SSHVS hosted its 2nd Advisory Board meeting for the Chicago Health and Aging Services Exchange (the Exchange) at the University of Chicago Medical Center to resume discussions about the development and sustainability of this National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded project.  Physicians, researchers, funders, and community members listened to physician/client barriers inside healthcare systems, identified demand in South Side healthcare market, highlighted consumer and service provider behavior, and illustrated to prospective funders and philanthropists how the Exchange can be a tool in which the continuity of care can be facilitated. 
 
The idea is to develop an online “marketplace” where clients can identify their health needs (say, dental, vision, mental and reproductive health); get matched with local health and human service organizations, and make an appointment with a dentist, optometrist, psychologist and gynecologist all on one website.  This online marketplace would utilize community place-based asset data collected from the Asset Census Mapping Project (see Southsidehealth.org) as a basis for building this comprehensive, up-to-date health technology infrastructure to understand health and human service needs and utilization on the South Side. 
 
Fortunately, the Exchange project does not have to re-invent the wheel.  Two guest presenters, Erica Spatz, co-founder of Project ACCESS and Vanessa Askot, MSW, MBA, executive director of HealthLeads Chicago, discussed how their respective projects work to provide healthcare, specifically sub-speciality care, in resource poor urban areas. 
 
Started in 1996, Project ACCESS engages physicians who provide sub-specialty care to “donate” appointment slots to see uninsured patients in the New Haven, CT area.  New Haven shares similarities with the South Side of Chicago, being predominately a community of color with a high prevalence of poverty and limited access to quality health care. 
 
Askot provided an overview of HealthLeads, dubbed “the Teach for America for health volunteers.”  “HealthLeads,” she said, “envisions a health care system where 100% of clinics are serving, screening, and referring a substantial low-income patient population to required resources, “such as food, utilities, housing, employment, and public benefits–not just healthcare.” 
 
The main question posed to meeting participants was “How can the Exchange create value for prospective customers and health and human service providers to make it sustainable?”  As Linda Darragh, director of Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at Booth School of Business, suggested, “sustainability comes from willing participation” from everyone.  Eric Whitaker, MD, MPH, co-principal investigator of the Exchange, believes that the success of the Exchange will be measured in party by “leveraging political, financial, and intellectual capital at the University of Chicago concurrently with South Side community partnership” to reduce physician-patient barriers to quality health care and, ultimately, improve community health and vitality on the South Side. 
 
The next Exchange Advisory Board meeting is targeted for fall 2011.  For more information, contact Pleasant Radford, Jr. at pradford@babies.bsd.uchicago.edu

Live Life Before You Give Life

Last night, more than 200 people attended the Center for Community Health (CCHV) and Institute for Translational Medicine (ITM) Community Grand Rounds discussing STDs and adolescent pregnancy at Englewood’s Urban Prep Academy. A six-person panel–two physicians, two single parents and two HIV+ advocates–moderated the discussion which highlighted such topics as abortion, condom use, STIs, pregnancy, HIV transmission and young parenting. Launched in October 2010 through ITM and Clinical and Science Translational Awards (CTSA) funding, the goal of these community events is to take the research to the community to improve health and vitality on the South Side of Chicago. Since its inception, community participation and event attendance has steadily increased due to the popularity and relevance of event topics. Future workshops will discuss diabetes, obesity and heart disease (March 2011); older adult health issues and concerns (April 2011) asthma and respiratory health issues (May 2011). If you have not attended a community grand round, please consider attending one. Extensive and sustained community input and participation from you is highly important to achieving SSHVS’ goal of making Chicago’s South Side the healthiest urban area by 2025. Thanks to those who attended last night’s event and we look forward to seeing you next month. More event information to follow shortly…

Call for GOURD Applications!!

Why is the closest bus stop 10 blocks away from my house? Why did the local police precinct close? Why did CPS close my neighborhood school? Why can’t I find the answer to my questions? Well, SSHVS has inaugurated the GOURD award. Gifts of Useable Research Data, this unique award seeks to answer your burning community questions through existing research data. The purpose of the GOURD award is to inspire people to use research to answer community questions to improve health and vitality on the South Side of Chicago. So, visit http://www.sshvs.org/gourd.asp to learn more about how you can apply for this award. Remember: the deadline is Friday, April 15, 2011! Good luck!

Asset-Based Approaches to Urban Health

Dr. Stacy Lindau, principal investigator of SSHVS, was today’s guest speaker at the Maclean Center Seminar Series. Her seminar “Asset-based Approaches to Urban Health” highlighted current SSHVS work; the strengths and its implications for the South Side of Chicago. How do we leverage existing community assets to improve health outcomes on the South Side of Chicago? What will the health of the South Side of Chicago be in 2025? What role does the University of Chicago play as richest financial asset on the South Side of Chicago? Who determines the quality of community assets? Is number of community assets inversely or similarly related with improved community health? The University of Chicago and the South Side of Chicago continue to delve into these perplexing questions, seeking answers through novel, interdisciplinary efforts and translating research into efficient, relevant and sustainable action. How is progress measured and defined? In short, by you! Your virtual involvement through our blog, Twitter (@sshvs), and/or Facebook (South Side Health and Vitality Studies) or your physical attendance at one of our four working group meetings (Community Engagement, Epidemiology, Resource Mapping and Ethics) will be SSHVS’ metric to determine if the goal to improve health on the South Side of Chicago is fully realized!

If you missed Dr. Lindau’s talk, or want to share the video with friends, visit ethics.bsd.uchicago.edu, click “Links”, then select “Videos”. Videos will be posted 1-2 weeks after the talk (between February 16-23, 2011). Meanwhile, view earlier video seminars or attend next week’s seminar: “Addressing the Social Determinants of Health in Racial and Ethnic Minority and Poor Communities through Community-based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR). The guest speaker is Aida L. Giachello, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago. The seminar location is: The University of Chicago Medical Center, Room H-103

Is Violence a Public Health Issue?

What are the lifetime costs to change our daily lives to avoid walking in dangerous neighborhoods, living in conflictive environments, commuting through gang-infested areas or attending underperforming schools on the South Side of Chicago? While the costs are highly individualized and variable, we can agree that these costs are dramatic in comparison to other areas of Chicago and, more generally, low-income urban areas across the US. Yesterday, Harry Pollack, guest speaker for the 2010-2011 Maclean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics Health Disparities Seminar Series (http://medicine.uchicago.edu/centers/ethics/documents/SeminarSeriesBrochure20102011.pdf), stated that violence–in addition to HIV, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases–must be considered a health disparity, a serious public health threat. Like health disparities, it disproportionately compromises public safety and life expectancy; threatens individuals and communities from achieving optimal health wellness and vitality and impedes local residents from utilizing local community resources for community health. Yet, what action steps must politicians, public health officials, schools, businesses and community residents take to address this “health disparity”? Will a concerted effort be sufficient to reduce community violence? How will the newly elected Chicago mayor address city violence? Innovative approaches and sustainable solutions are crucial to prevent violence in our communities everywhere.

FDA Requires All Food Be Traced

New FDA law requires that all food be quickly traced from whom they received it and to who it will be sent: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/23/AR2011012302238.html

Englewood clinic to receive $50,000 from UHI

http://news.uchicago.edu/news.php?asset_id=2219

Five Guys, New Tenant in Hyde Park

Read http://fiftythird.uchicago.edu/blog/2011/01/17/five-guys-restaurant-heads-53rd-street for more information about Five Guys moving into the Hyde Park neighborhood

Happy New Year

The South Side Health and Vitality Studies (SSHVS) wish all its blog followers a happy New Year! We apologize for the extended ‘off-line’ blogging hiatus.  We are eager to resume blogging and engage our followers in an interactive way.  For our new blog followers interested in learning more about SSHVS, please click on the ‘About the Studies’ tab or visit www.southsidehealth.org or www.sshvs.org for more project information.  

To those who wonder why they should follow our blog, here are five reasons:

  1. As a community resident, you want to either sustain or improve your community’s health
  2. You seek a venue to translate your questions, blog comments, ideas and/or research into tangible solutions for you and your community
  3. You want to see what services and resources exist in your community
  4. You desire to create or cultivate relationships within your personal network with diverse individuals and corporations
  5. You want to enrich your knowledge about the rich history on the South Side of Chicago.

Whatever your personal or professional interests may be, following this blog will allow all that and more.  SSHVS wants to be a national prototype on what a healthy community looks like: one where concerns and needs are voiced, heard and resolved fast!  Still, to fully realize this goal, we need your input (you are 50% of the equation); SSHVS accounts for the other 50% of the equation.  Therefore, tell your friends, family members (and dogs, too–they live in our communities, right?!)  to follow this blog.  We welcome your (constructive) comments and feedback to ensure that our virtual community will be healthy, vibrant and safe.  Thanks!!

We are tweeting!

  • Mayor Emanuel says we have a responsibility that no human life in our city goes to waste. #LGC 1 month ago
  • "Dancing prepared me for the discipline of public life." Mayor Emanuel #LGC Leadership Greater Chicago 1 month ago
  • #Sting at #Steppenwolf "there's no economics without community." See #The Last Ship 1 month ago
  • MAPSCorps youth succeed because of the assets in our communities rather than in spite of the deficits 1 month ago
  • It's time for local communities to gain access to the health care economy. 2 months ago
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