Immigration Service Day

On October 18, the community service council and other GSU students came together to take a bus trip to attend Wright Junior College in order to help legal residents become U.S. citizens. The volunteers arrived at GSU promptly at 7:00 a.m that Saturday morning. Although it was rather early, the volunteers were fully awake and arrived fully prepared to work.

The bus ride was about an hour long. Once we arrived at our destination, we gathered together to discuss with one of the hosts what to expect from the event. One of the hosts name was Marcelo and he passed out additional information in regards to the many ID cards that we will see. We also talked very frankly about the N-400 form, which is a form that each of the legal residents needed help to fill out.He also informed us that all the information that we received are all forms of legal documents that will be handled by lawyers as well. This information was needed so that nobody got overwhelmed.

Once everyone was assigned a table, that is when the event really started. On the table, there was white out tape,two laminated signs that read copies on one and questions on the other. Another hosts called legal residents over to the table in order to get assistance on their forms. Looking at all the volunteers faces, one can tell that each of them really enjoyed meeting so many different people.

Earth Day of Service

Eager volunteers, excited to begin their day of service

Eager volunteers, excited to begin their day of service

The Earth Day Service Project was created to protect the environment around Governors State University’s campus. Inspired by the Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve that lies just outside of GSU and our institution’s renewed commitment to sustainability, particularly through the adoption of a sustainability cohort for freshman in 2014, a number of students, faculty and staff took on the mission of removing waste from our campus. Volunteers arrived excited and energized at the prospect of working with like-minded individuals on a common goal.

Our day began with volunteers signing-in and gathering together in student commons for lunch. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of volunteers who had not originally signed up, but wanted to join us regardless. We were particularly gratified to have such a turn out when the weather was less than ideal as it had snowed the night before, and much of the ground we planned on cleaning was still covered with snow.

Volunteers were instructed on safety procedures, and what to expect on the grounds before we left campus. Our volunteers were then divided into groups of three, given gloves, 56- gallon trash bags and trash grabbers, and sent to their respective zones for the clean-up effort.

The day was one full trash bag after another being filled and carried to the dump trucks. Some of the bags were heavy, weighted because of the sheer density of heavier trash like glass bottles, car bumpers, and even PVC piping, and required two people to carry. Many objects that were found required a lot of labor to remove, such as hubcaps, engine parts, fence hinges, rusted buckets, tires, and pole wires. The group that went to the Field Station was able to pick up old abandoned laboratory experiments.

Students seemed more energized and motivated every time they picked up something interesting. Many participants stumbled upon the same question: “How did this even get here?” Analyzing how old the materials looked, it was suggested that these were left behind by residents from the past decade, who were more likely farmers.

The day ended with the three dump trucks filled with trash bags and large items picked up off the grounds. Our mission was accomplished, although it felt like there was a lot more that needed to be done. After the event volunteers were seemed to have a greater sense of responsibility towards their own surroundings, as well as a greater respect for nature. The volunteers agreed that it was a project that should be continuous around this and future years, as there will always be much more to do.


Truck 3 of 3 filled with trash

Truck 3 of 3 filled with trash

Truck 2 of 3 filled with trash

Truck 2 of 3 filled with trash

Truck 1 of 3 filled with trash

Truck 1 of 3 filled with trash

20140415_135758_resized 20140415_125456_resized 20140415_125450_resized 20140415_134619[1]

GSU’s First Alternative Spring Break!

GSU recently wrapped up its very first Alternative Spring Break trip. It was a pilot program designed to serve impoverished Chicago youth. It was also designed to determine the efficacy of creating future more expansive Alternative Spring Break programs. We are pleased to say, that as a result of the dedicated twenty students that accompanied us on this trip, it can be called a success on both fronts.

The Alternative Spring Break trip began at GSU at 11:30 AM on March 19th, 2014 students packed themselves excitedly into the bus ready for whatever the day might hold for them. Students were treated to juice boxes, water bottles, gummy bears, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a whole mess of other snacks that had been loaded onto the bus for their enjoyment.

Our first stop was World Vision Chicago in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. There we would serve from 1PM to 4PM. World Vision is one of the largest relief and development organizations in the world today. Our focus during this trip was assisting impoverished youth in neighborhoods in Chicago that do not often receive much relief or attention. WorldVision has a wonderful series of programs specifically related to children including the much lauded child sponsorship program. World Vision Chicago provides school supplies to teachers and students within the CPS network at little or no cost to them. We spent our service there helping with this program specifically. We were divided into teams, one team tore down temporary shelves and helped to reorganize and resupply their teacher supply area. Teachers come to the warehouse where they are presented with numerous school supplies in an area that looks very similar to an OfficeMax or Staples, they can then stock up for the semester or year. Our other team worked on restocking WorldVision’s mobile unit. WorldVision takes this mobile unit directly to various schools across the CPS network where teachers and students can take numerous school supplies such as binders, notebooks, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, etc.

After several hours of difficult work in the WorldVision warehouse we were all ready for a break. So, around 4:15 we hopped back on the bus and headed down the street to Austin’s famous MacArthur’s Soul Food Restaurant. There students were treated, courtesy of GSU to a full dinner buffet. We all were gratified with the skillful way the staff at MacArthur’s handled such a large group, and even had a separate area reserved for us. After some very delicious food, full and sleepy we got back on the bus and headed down south to visit the Greater Chicago Food Depository located in the Archer Heights neighborhood.

We started our service at the Greater Chicago Food Depository at 6 P.M. Several of our students were kind enough to bring several cans of food to this service site to donate before even beginning our service. The Greater Chicago Food Depository is the Chicago’s largest Food Bank, providing food to a network of over 650 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile programs, and children’s programs. The Food Depository receives their food items in incredibly large bulk quantities, it was up to volunteers like us to break down these bulk quantities and repackage the food for individual distribution. Governors State University’s Alternative Spring Break group was given the task of unloading several crates of bread, checking their expiration dates, assessing the quality of the bread, and then if they passed both levels of inspection boxing them up and sending them out to the various organizations within the Food Depository’s network. Over three hours of work our students managed to send over three hundred boxes of bread, totaling 5,000 pounds, to these organizations!

At 9PM we headed back on the bus to GSU. We were tired from an extremely long day, but pleased with all the great service we had done.

Our student volunteers came primarily from a Psychology and Social Work background, education was also well represented.

CCE&CS Proudly Welcomes a New VISTA!

The Governors State University Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service is proud to welcome it’s newest member, VISTA Rima Nimri. Rima joins us from Arab-American Family Services. We look forward to her time here and are excited for all the new programming and events Rima’s work will allow us to take on!

Here’s what Rima has to say about herself:

“My name is Rima Nimri. I graduated with a major in Communications at UIC. I love life, like really love life for the many things it has to offer and the many experiences that it gives me which is why I tend to believe that I will be living long unless I get into a car accident. Stress is not in my dictionary, never experienced it unless I am driving. If you are ever riding with me, assume that it might be your last day to live.

I decided to be on the mission of VISTA in giving to my community with my language skills. I speak Arabic, so I applied to Arab American Family Services. I wanted to expand on my experience and give more in my community so I requested to transfer to Governors State. After I complete my VISTA service I might be a VISTA again; I am going on a journey with life to where ever it takes me with its variety of options.”

The Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service welcomes our new member Rima Nimri.

The Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service welcomes our new member Rima Nimri.