Three Northwestern volunteers honored for city service

Alan Yu

The seventh annual Evanston Volunteer Recognition Reception, held last Wednesday at Norris University Center, honored 13 volunteers from NU, Evanston Township High School and the city community for their work as a part of National Volunteer Week.

SESP senior Rebecca Swan, Weinberg senior Alice Feng and SESP sophomore Camielle Taylor received recognition for their volunteerism.

Taylor said she was completely caught off guard when her supervisor told her late last year that she had been nominated for the award. She was interning at the Evanston Township High School communications department at the time.

“It was definitely an honor to receive the award,” Taylor said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting it.”

Lucile Krasnow, special assistant to community relations for NU, said the event started as an idea to partner with the other groups in Evanston to acknowledge the work of volunteers.

“There are just students giving thousands of hours of service, tremendous amounts of philanthropy through Dance Marathon and other wonderful organizations, giving back to the community in Evanston,” she said. “And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in the same way there are residents all over Evanston who are just such confident volunteers, that there’s no organization that overall thanked the volunteers for what they do.”

This event is also a collaboration between NU, the city and the high school to celebrate the efforts of many unsung individuals who work to benefit the community in Evanston, said Marybeth Schroeder, senior program officer at the Evanston Community Foundation and an organizer of the event.

“So it’s the opportunity that we, at least one day a year, have to say, ‘Thank you, we appreciate your effort, we understand that you make things happen here in this community,’ and also to think about how much that brings to volunteers themselves, that they get to learn and grow and explore new things by volunteering,” she said.

Swan has been involved with groups and initiatives such as the McGaw YMCA Project Pumpkin, an event bringing Evanston youth to trick or treat on campus; and IMPACT, a student group she helped start to provide leadership training for students at ETHS. But she said she sometimes feels she gets more out of the experience than the people she serves. While volunteering in Evanston is not the same as when she worked on a farm in Nicaragua one summer, she has come to understand two different sides of the Evanston community through her work at ETHS.

“It’s just such a diverse population because you have people that are the wealthiest of the wealthy and the poorest of the poor, and they come to this one school every day, ” Swan said. “Also, just learning about the immense number of organizations in Evanston, the Evanston Community Foundation, the number of churches and homeless shelters – it’s just a very progressive community and people are always working to do more to improve it.”

Swan said she hopes more can be done to connect the NU, Evanston and ETHS communities, especially when so many groups share similar visions. Taylor agreed that the city could only benefit from further collaboration with University volunteers.

“I think having Northwestern shapes Evanston in a big way,” she said. “I’m almost disappointed students go into (Chicago) before Evanston for volunteering opportunities.”

NU and Evanston both share a commitment to service, and this stands out to Andrea Bell, an AmeriCorps volunteer at the Center for Student Involvement at NU, even though she has only been here since August. NU encourages students to think of themselves as Evanston residents, and many Evanston nonprofit organizations cannot function without volunteers, she said.

“A lot of them have financial struggles and wouldn’t be able to stay open and run and provide the services they do without the work of volunteers, and NU students are a large part of that volunteer base,” Bell said.

Swan echoed that NU student volunteers contribute to the charitable spirit in Evanston.

“I think people at Northwestern genuinely want to use their skills and their intelligence to help others, whether it’s in the not-for-profit, it’s in volunteering or it’s in the for-profit,” Swan said. “They want to do what they love, and so for me it’s what volunteering is. It’s doing what I love.”

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