April 2015 Archives

Interview: Hannah Amundsen

Interview with Hannah Amundsen. April 17, 2015.

EFH: Hannah, thank you for being with me today. Congratulations on winning the Duel Richardson Four Year Service Award! Can you tell me about what you’ve been doing with NSP this whole time?

HA: I started off with NSP freshman year, fall quarter. It was the first thing I did here, really. I’ve been working at the same site ever since then. I work at Gary Comer Youth Center, which is a comprehensive service center for youth in South Shore. I work specifically in a program called Study Buddies, which is 3rd to 8th grade students. I’m helping them with whatever they might need, whether it’s math or a personal problem they’re having, hanging out after school, keeping them somewhat on task, getting things done. That’s been a consistent part of my college experience here.


EFH: What has it been like to be at Gary Comer Youth Center for four years? That’s pretty unique for an NSP student. What’s changed and what’s stayed the same?

HA: It’s really special for me and I hope for the kids as well. I had a small cohort that started with me as fifth graders that are now eighth graders, and are graduating from middle school, just as I was a freshman when I started with them, and I’m now graduating from college. I’ve been seeing them grow up through these past four years and really getting to know them much better. Now they’re getting into selective enrollment schools and coming and telling me about it. It’s incredible just to see their growth, along with my own at the same time.

EFH: Are there any particular stories that stick out in your mind when you reflect on your time there?

HA: Yeah, I mean, there are so many! I have one student, her name is Faith. She is one of those fifth graders that started off with me and she would come in very consistently. She’s a very hard worker and she just makes sure that she’s in every time I’m there. She’ll email with me, she sends me pictures from her homecoming dance. We’re always in touch, so she’s just been a really special part of the whole experience. All of my students have been, but she’s one case.

EFH: I know that you’re also a public policy major specializing in education. Are you doing anything else in education on campus?

HA: Most things I do on campus involve education in some way. So whether that’s extracurriculars or internships, pretty much everything in my college experience has been somewhat tied to education. My sophomore year, a friend and I started a group called Block 58, which does education research and policy work on campus and in the community. Then I’ve also had internships with the Urban Education Lab and the Noble Network of Charter Schools. So everything is tied together.

EFH: That’s amazing. How has the other education work you’ve been doing been influenced by and how has it influenced your tutoring at Gary Comer?

HA: I think I’ve seen it kind of from all three sides at this point. Learning, research and policy, which is really cool. In my current position at the Urban Ed Labs, I’m seeing all these different interventions and justice work for students and community. I’ve done it from the policy perspective at the Noble Network, so seeing the political wrangling that goes on behind the scenes in the education scene in Chicago. Having that hands-on experience at Gary Comer Youth Center, just working with students, has been so crucial to the whole process.

EFH: And graduation’s coming up! What’s next?

HA: I will be moving to Washington, D.C. in June. I’m working at Hanover Research, doing education research, which is not a surprise to anyone! I’m not sure if it’ll be K-12 or higher ed research yet, but I’ll know soon.

EFH: Good luck and thank you so much! 


Hannah Amundsen is a fourth year in the College, majoring in public policy. She has been tutoring at Gary Comer Youth Center since October 2011.

Emily Fortune Hancock is the operations manager at the University of Chicago. 

Interview: Ben Nickerson

Interview with Ben Nickerson. April 17, 2015.







EFH: Ben, thank you so much for joining me today! To get started, please introduce yourself.

BN: I’m a fourth year economics major in the college. I’ve done NSP for four years now and have worked at a variety of sites and really enjoyed my time here. In addition to NSP, I’ve also run cross country and track for a few years and studied abroad last year in Barcelona.

EFH: Okay, cool. And how did you originally get involved with NSP?

BN:  I joined NSP after a day of service during orientation week. I attended an event at Till Elementary School where we helped clean up a garden across the street and I really enjoyed working with the principal and getting to know some of the parents and students. I asked how I could get involved and he directed me to the Neighborhood Schools Program.  I found myself two weeks later in one of their classrooms.

EFH: You’re also of this year’s Duel Richardson Award recipients, which means that you’ve worked with NSP every year that you’ve been at the University of Chicago. I know that you’ve had a wealth of experiences; can you tell me about the different schools that you’ve worked at?

BN: As I mentioned, I began at Till Elementary School, working in a first grade classroom, teaching a variety of subjects—math, reading. I really liked teaching them the sounds of the letters; that was always a fun activity. After two years of that, I worked at UC Woodlawn, with juniors and seniors in the high school math classes, pulling out students on different days, leading lessons on different days. Most recently, I’ve been at Bret Harte, working with sixth and seventh grade students in math.

EFH: Can you share some of your most memorable stories from the classroom?

BN: Just recently at Bret Harte, I was working with a group of students on simple interest and I asked them what they wanted to save up for. Then we tried to figure out how many years at what rate they would have to save for in order to receive these. The list of items ranged from cars to sneakers to Xbox games to sporting equipment, so it’s a really fun activity to just hear about all their varied interests and goals.

EFH: And then in addition to your work in the schools, you’re part of the NSP Leadership Corps. Can you tell me what that is and what your role has been there?

BN: The Leadership Corps began during my second year as a trial to get more students involved with some of the programming and leadership at NSP. It’s been a really good experience for me to see how the Leadership Corps has grown over the past three years to where now it’s a self-sustaining body that hosts workshop events each quarter, helps plan NSP week, conducts interviews, and leads some of the orientation sessions. I really look forward to seeing where it goes in the next three years.

EFH: Are there any Leadership Corps events coming up soon before the end of the year?

BN: NSP week! May 11-15. Leadership Corps is really taking that on and planning a lot of fun events that we really hope to build a strong sense of community and say thank you to all of the NSPers over the year.

EFH: Great! So, you’ve been here for four years, you’re about to graduate and go out into the world. What do you walk away with from your experience at NSP and what would you want to tell other students who are either involved now or looking to become involved?

BN: My initial reaction is to say thank you for the opportunity to work with NSP. I’m really grateful for the chance to have worked in three different schools with a variety of different students. I’ve learned a lot about myself, gained a lot of public speaking skills, and learned to think on my feet in front of groups of students. I think for other students, I’d really encourage them to take advantage of all the opportunities that NSP has to offer - get to know the van drivers, get to know the other NSP staff, and become involved as much as you desire. 


Ben Nickerson is a fourth year in the College, majoring in economics. During his four years with NSP, he's tutored at Till Elementary, UC Woodlawn, and Bret Harte Elementary. He's also a founding member of the Leadership Corps and a member of NSP's student staff. 

Emily Fortune Hancock is the operations manager at the Neighborhood Schools Program. 

Interview: Lily Wangler

Interview with Lily Wangler. April 14, 2015.









EFH: And here we go! Lily, thank you for coming today. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

LW: I am a first year in the College, planning on majoring in environmental studies. I come from the suburbs of Chicago, and I got involved in NSP at Shoesmith, when I saw ads around campus.  I’ve been working at Shoesmith since January.

EFH: Cool. And then can you tell me about the school itself?

LW: Shoesmith is about five blocks north of the NSP office and a little bit east, too. It’s right by Obama’s house! It’s a really good school; it’s always encouraging the power of education and encouraging kids to seek further opportunities. I really like it there.

EFH: What do you do there?

LW: I teach literacy skills to kindergarteners, first graders, and fourth graders.

EFH: And what’s your favorite group to work with?

LW: I love working with the kindergarteners because they are so enthusiastic about everything.

EFH: Have you discovered any differences between working with kindergarten and fourth grade?

LW: Fourth graders are a little harder to inspire, but it’s also more obvious when they overcome a hurdle because their hurdles are so much greater and take so much more explaining. But both have an excellent reward!

EFH: What has been your favorite moment at Shoesmith, so far?

LW: My very favorite moment. You’re not supposed to play favorites, but I really this kindergartener. His name is Avis. There were several weeks where I was trying to explain that if you have two vowels next to each other, you only hear the first one. So I kept saying, “When two vowels go a-walking, the first one does the talking.”  I spent weeks re-iterating this, and then one day we were trying to sound something out, and I said, “When two vowels go a’walking…,” and Avis goes, “The first one does the talking!!” and says whatever the word is, and I was so excited in that moment. It was just awesome.

EFH: I can imagine that’s really fun. And then you’re not only working in the classroom. You’ve also been doing a special project at Shoesmith. What is it, how did you get involved, what’s going on now?

LW: On Tuesdays at Shoesmith, I work in the main office. One day they had me setting out all these books on tables and I didn’t really understand why. And, as I was setting them out, I was being swarmed with the students of Shoesmith. They were picking the books up and walking away and I didn’t know what was going on, so I was like, “Where are you going with that? I’m trying to set this up!” And the principal came out and explained that they don’t have a library so they set out books for the kids to take home and bring back, or keep for themselves if they really enjoy them. The teachers have been going out of their way to try and collect books. So I asked her if I could start a book drive for Shoesmith, and she said yes! We actually paired forces because the students at Shoesmith are also doing, a book drive for the homeless people at a shelter just down the street. The students are doing a book and journal drive to encourage reading and writing in adulthood. This has been going on for about a month now.

EFH: What have you collected so far?

LW: So far, I have over 500 books - probably more near 600 because it’s been a little while since I’ve counted - and about a hundred dollars actually for buying new books.

EFH: Wow, that’s really impressive. So how much longer is the book drive going and how can people donate to it?

LW: The book drive ends on May 8th. Students at UChicago can bring books into the NSP office. I’ll collect them and bring them down to the school later.

To find out more and to donate to Lily's book drive at Shoesmith, click here

Lily Wangler is a first year in the College, majoring in environmental studies. She has been working at Shoesmith since January 2015.

Emily Fortune Hancock is the operations manager at the Neighborhood Schools Program. 

Interview: Jade Goodwin-Carter

Interview with Jade Goodwin-Carter. April 8, 2015.

EFH: Good morning, Jade! Thanks for coming. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

JGC: I am a fourth year at the University of Chicago, studying gender and sexuality. I have been working with NSP at The Ancona School, a Montessori school in the neighborhood, for about four years now.

EFH: How did you originally get involved with NSP?

JGC: When I came to the University of Chicago, it was very important that I was employed somewhere. I had worked with students in my high school and had some experience tutoring. I sought out a few friends who were employed, one of whom was employed with NSP, and I got an interview with Brandi. It was immediately just a wonderful fit and I’ve been here ever since.

EFH: So, you’ve been at The Ancona School since you first started. Can you tell me about the school?

JGC: The Ancona School is a Montessori School in the Kenwood area. It was described to me as a “hippie school” - a creative, artsy school - which is very much true. The focus in the Montessori education system is very much on the individual student, so class sizes tend to small. It’s a very student learning driven place, in that the students have a lot of power over how they are taught and classroom control, which is really wonderful. The students all refer to their teachers by their first names, which definitely took some getting used to. Overall it’s a very familiar, communal space.

EFH: That sounds pretty neat. And you’ve been working on a special project this past year, the Diversity Symposium.

JGC: The second year that I worked with Ancona, my advisor, Bill Singerman, started a diversity symposium. This is the third year that they’ll be doing it. I was not involved the first year that it was established, but in the second year, the focus was on religious diversity, and I was tangentially related to how that worked. The focus was on Muslim students; I did a lot of paperwork for Bill and got to see how it was set up and the behind-the-scenes organization of the symposium.

In between that year and this year, I worked for the summer school at Ancona. There was a student named Carly who was gender non-conforming and was experiencing some issues with other students surrounding bullying. I noticed that the teachers did not really know how to handle that particular situation because it was very sensitive and they weren’t very familiar with methods of mediating it. When ideas for the next diversity symposium came around, I was speaking with Bill, and I mentioned that maybe we should do a gender focus to educate educators about how to mediate gender nonconformity in their classroom in a way that emphasizes that it is a safe space for all students. He really liked that idea. I am studying gender and sexuality, and so he sought me out as a resource to help him organize the event. For the past year, we have been working on getting various organizations within the greater Chicago area, including About Face Theatre and the Center on Halsted, to help us organize and participate in this event.

EFH: What has it been like for you to merge this academic interest in a real world situation?

JGC: It’s been absolutely fulfilling. I don’t think that any other experience has shown me so tangibly how my education can have real world consequences and can affect me after graduation. I do intend to continue working with Ancona after I graduate. Education has always been something that’s very important to me, especially as I’ve gained experience in the sector through NSP. And, of course, gender and sexuality has always been something that’s been very important to me. I feel that changing greater ideas within the social community and within the nation really, really depends on starting at a young age. Teaching tolerance and teaching acceptance in the classroom is incredibly important. We often think of the classroom as a place to learn how to function in society on maybe a technical level - I know how to do math, I know how to do my taxes, I can be a member of society. But it’s also a place to learn how to just sort of be a member of a community and how to socialize with other people. I think that the best way to teach and to build a loving community is to teach it in the classroom.

EFH: This is obviously a really exciting project that other NSPers may be interested in getting involved in. Is there a space for that, and what should they do?

JGC: Yes, if NSPers would like to attend the event for free, you can volunteer. Volunteering would probably require 15 to 20 minutes of work every three or so hours, just after each presentation. But beyond that you would be able to attend the event for free, and lunch and coffee would be provided for you.

The event is on the 18th of April, from 8am to 3pm, so if you would like to buy a student ticket, you can register online.

EFH: Jade, thank you so much and good luck the symposium!

JGC: Thank you!

For more information about the Diversity Symposium and to purchase a ticket, click here. If you are interested in volunteering, please email Emily at efhancock@uchicago.edu and she’ll put you in touch with Jade.

Jade is a fourth-year in the College, majoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies. She has been working at The Ancona School since January 2012. 

Emily Fortune Hancock is the operations manager at the Neighborhood Schools Program. 

Interview: Nauff Zakaria (Part 2)

Interview with Nauff Zakaria, Part 2 – 3/9/2015 (Read Part 1)

SR: You mentioned that the tight-knit community at Hales. This year’s been tough; one of the students passed away, due to asthma?

NZ: He suffered an asthma attack. 10th grade student. Because the campus is so small,  the classes are divided by grade, and the 10th graders have most of their classes together, with the exception of Wednesdays being their elective days. But, the majority of the week, all of their classes are together. So, for a member of the Hales community to be gone – it’s evident. You walk through those hallways and you know somebody is missing. They walk into every classroom, and they see that desk, and it’s like, “that’s where Chris sat.” But, on the flip side of that, as sad and tragic as the loss was, to see the kids – you know, you always hear the refrain “kids are resilient, kids are resilient, they bounce back”. But to actually see that put into action,  stopping to sign Chris’s memorial on top of his locker, you see them acknowledge a member of our community has been lost.  I think a big part of the healing process and the resiliency came from the support that this school has for their basketball team, which is doing phenomenally. One of the ways we can honor Chris is by showing him how awesome Hales is because he was part of this Hales family. That’s been awesome to see. It’s been tragic and it’s been sad, but even the day of the funeral – the funeral was on 95th and Laramie, which is kind of far from the Hales campus and a lot of our kids, because this is not a CPS school, they don’t have the school buses that go. They take the CTA, the public bus. But the school provided a bus to meet at Hales to take the kids to the funeral and to bring them back from the funeral to Hales. Because we know the kids can get to Hales. And so if they can get to Hales, we’ll get them to the funeral. And they were there, they showed up at 9 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday – it was a 10 o’clock funeral – they were there to be at that funeral for Chris. 

SR: So, people have banded around the basketball team. How is the basketball team doing? Do you have any role in it?

NZ: Go Hales! Not at all, other than a fan and a spectator. I get there early to get my seat! My site coordinator put it best, I think. He said the fans and the students get very invested in the games. I was, like, "nail on the head, yes!" We get invested. It is very passionate. Some schools in Chicago have enrollments of  a thousand kids. Our school has a hundred kids. We’re small, but we are ranked, and our team is good. We’re just a good team and we win. Winning rocks! I know there are certain Friday nights when I should probably stay at home and read. I should probably stay at home and study, but I’m going to the Hales game because it’s going to be a great game . We’ve even been on Comcast onDemand. We’ve been televised! Yes, it’s that good.

SR: That’s fantastic. 

NZ: It's legit. 

Nauff Zakaria is a first year graduate student in the Divinity School. She has been working at Hales Franciscan High School since November 2014. 

Shaz Rasul is the director of the Neighborhood Schools Program.