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Nonprofit dividends

In its second year, the University Community Service Centerís ten-week Summer Links program had 30 students working in nonprofit and community-service organizations across Chicago. The College Report asked six students about their Summer Links experiences: Myesha Banks, í99, the Chicago Womenís AIDS project; Geoff Ching, í99, the U of Cís Office of Special Programs; Intesar Hussain, í01, the Museum of Science and Industry; Anne Newman, í01, Childrenís Memorial Hospital; Samara Ruth Potter, í01, the Erikson Institute; and Kristen Praner, í99, the Chicago Botanic Gardens.

What was the most rewarding aspect?

Myesha Banks: Working with the HIV-positive clients was the best aspect of the summer. It wasnít a sad situation. I worked with the children mostly, but the women were really upbeat, positive, and ambitious, and it rubbed off on me.

Samara Ruth Potter: The best part of my work was the opportunity to create an evaluation system of a set of interviews of young boys housed in a Baltimore correctional facility. The study attempted to look at the different adaptive strategies boys use to function in their environments.

What did you find most frustrating?

Intesar Hussain: Nonprofit organizations are severely underfunded. You have a lot of great ideas, but you donít have the money with which to do them. In the museum, we had space limitations. There was one lab we were working with that did not have a sink. The voice of the not-for-profit is growing fainter, and we need to start speaking up for the voice.

Kristen Praner: The knowledge that I was working under a ten-week time constraint was definitely frustrating; however, I was able to stay on at my job at the Gardens for an additional four weeks as an independent contractor.

Anne Newman: Besides adjusting to the environment at the hospital, and knowing that any plan I made for the day probably wouldnít go as planned due to all the medical involvements kids had, the most frustrating aspect was seeing kids at their low points, when they were too sick to work with me, when they had been there so long and had started to lose their spirit.

What did you learn?

Intesar Hussain: I remembered that when I was young, I had a science teacher who actively engaged me in hands-on science. Too often, people struggle and make it, but then turn their backs on the members of the community. People donít realize how important it is to help those who are going through the experiences that you once went through.

Geoff Ching: Working as a swimming instructor, educational aide, and tutor, along with talking to other Summer Links interns, I learned that there are a lot of people in this world who will never be mentioned as one of the Fortune 500 and will never know what itís like to earn a six-figure salary. But the people I came into contact with this summer convinced me that the kind of work they do is the kind of work I want to do too.óP.J.A.

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