UIC students give back during volunteer day

Day of Service Day, April 2024
Carter Ato, right, tends to flower beds at the Historic Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church during the April 5 day of service. (Photo by Martin Hernandez, University of Illinois Chicago)

Dozens of University of Illinois Chicago students helped celebrate the investiture of UIC Chancellor Marie Lynn Miranda by volunteering to garden, clean parks, paint and offer other assistance to the community as part of a day of service on April 5.

Anyone in the UIC community was invited to help out at one of several sites around Chicago for the volunteer day, part of a week of special events to mark Miranda’s official installment as the university’s 10th chancellor. Miranda volunteered alongside students, too, for the day of service.

Listen to story summary.

The day was intended for students, faculty and staff volunteers to build bridges with the community. During this service day, about 200 people volunteered with community and nonprofit partners.

Aubrey Hennig, a UIC College of Education junior, yanked weeds from the ground at the Maxwell Street Community Garden near UIC’s campus. While stuffing the overgrowth into a garbage bag, Hennig said that as she grew up, the act of volunteering was an essential value fostered in her family. Hennig and her sorority members decided to participate together because they consider community service an essential part of their college experience.

“Giving back to the community is just … very important to us,” Hennig said. “And, being part of Delta Phi Epsilon, volunteering is also very important.”

Day of Service Day, April 2024
More than 200 students, faculty and staff took part in the April 5 day of service, part of a week of events marking Chancellor Marie Lynn Miranda’s investiture. (Photo by Martin Hernandez, University of Illinois Chicago)

Connie Reyes, a senior in the UIC College of Business Administration, joined Hennig in weeding while preserving the crocus, daffodils and spring flowers that had begun to bloom in the community garden. Reyes applauded the chancellor for highlighting service to the community as part of her investiture week celebrations.

“We all live here in Chicago, and I want to make it look nice and help out. I’m here with my sorority, hoping to make a difference,” Reyes said. “I think it’s great that (Miranda is) also putting in the work and that she’s coming out to be with the students.”

Marsha Wyatt, executive director of the garden, said the garden in the Roosevelt Square neighborhood serves a diverse group of people, including many residents housed by the Chicago Housing Authority.

Day of Service Day, April 2024
Students, staff and faculty volunteered at the Historic Stone Temple Baptist Church and several other locations for the April 5 day of service. (Photo by Martin Hernandez, University of Illinois Chicago)

“UIC is the neighborhood,” Wyatt said. “To have (the students) here means they have a chance to be in nature and experience something different.”

Before students, faculty and staff were taken to their work assignments, Miranda met them at Student Center East and thanked the volunteers for giving their time and joining together to serve the community. She volunteered at three locations: SOS Children’s Villages, the Maxwell Community Garden and the Historic Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church.

“That, to me, is a marker of the kind of institution that UIC is, and it’s also a marker to me about not just who we are as a group, but that we choose to be with each other,” Miranda said.

Student Leadership & Civic Engagement was honored to have UIC Day of Service to be part of Investiture Week. UIC looks forward to more service days together as a campus. Rae Joyce Baguilat and Alexa Hunt coordinated with the seven community partner sites and leaders.

At the Historic Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church in the Lawndale neighborhood, Harshil Choudhary was wiping out the inside of a refrigerator. Choudhary, a criminology student at the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said his work will help him be a better lawyer, which is his goal. Helping allows the church leaders to focus on other responsibilities, he added.

“Since we are here, we have that opportunity to get it done, and the people who work here can get more official work done,” said Choudhary, a junior.

Yoel Paredes, a neuroscience student, said he wanted to lend a hand for the day of service. The freshman was helping Choudhary empty out and scrub the refrigerator.

“I’m just helping out, making sure I can do my part,” Paredes said.

Reshorna Fitzpatrick, executive pastor of the church, said UIC students have helped the church for the last five years and she looks forward to their assistance each year. She enjoys sharing the church’s history, including that it was founded in 1954 by J.M. Stone, a pastor who was a friend of Martin Luther King Jr. It was the first Chicago church in which King gave civil rights speeches in the 1960s.

Day of Service Day, April 2024
Chancellor Marie Lynn Miranda volunteered with others at the SOS Children’s Villages location on South Parnell Street on April 5. (Photo by Jenny Fontaine, University of Illinois Chicago)

“I get a chance to know them, and we get a chance to serve together and gather in our community,” Fitzpatrick said of the UIC students. “I love it. I’m excited because there are so many things that are happening today.”

Outside, Carter Ato, a sophomore in the UIC College of Education, pulled weeds and cleared flowerbeds on the church grounds.

“I like making sure I’m looking out for other people who might be looking out for me in a time of need. Being able to be there for other communities is something I really enjoy,” Ato said. “I also really like the act of knowing that I’m doing something that is going to benefit somebody else.”

Selena Jabaji, who is earning her master’s degree in urban higher education, finished cleaning the kitchen in the church and joined others outside. Jabaji said it was important that employees and students join together to help others on behalf of UIC.

“If we can find some time in our day to give back, why not?” Jabaji said. “Having (the chancellor) supporting all of this is amazing.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email