Q&A: NU Gives Back

Megan Patsavas

Before you rage, engage. The students behind NU Gives Back are using Northwestern’s long-standing tradition of dancing and debauchery at Dillo Day to promote their upcoming University-wide day of service on May 21 – the Saturday before the one you won’t remember.

The Current sat down the NU Gives Back co-founders David Chase (Weinberg sophomore), Katie Florez (SESP sophomore), Kevin Short (Medill sophomore) and Sam Lozoff (Weinberg junior) to talk about their hopes for the organization, as well as the work going into the group’s inaugural day of service. Below are excerpts:

Current: What can you tell me about NU Gives Back? How did it come about?

Florez: We were sitting in Unicorn in November, and David approached us with this idea to have a service day that would become kind of a tradition at school. We started researching a bunch of different universities and looking at how their service days drew in thousands of people and had become these giant traditions over the course of 10, 20 years and became one of those things that you absolutely had to do if you went to that school.

Current: What makes NU Gives Back different from other days of service?

Short: What is differentiating us is that we’re trying to work off the relationships we forged with these sites. We’re really hoping that students go back with these contacts, and they now feel empowered to have that contact and volunteer more in the future, so hopefully get the ball rolling for sustainable volunteering..

Current: What have you all been doing to prepare for the first NU Gives Back?

Lozoff: I would say the most important thing is recruiting people, getting people to actually come out on the day. So far, we’ve got a great response from the undergraduate community … The fact that other students see the potential in this has made this sort of come alive and made us really motivated to make it the best possible.

Current: So for students that sign up, what will May 21 be like?

Florez: They’re going to wake up and hopefully show up at 9 a.m. at Leverone and sign in, our keynote speaker will give his spiel … Then they’ll be volunteering from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. all over Evanston and Chicago – working with kids, working on environmental projects, working with the elderly … And then everyone should be back on campus by 2:30 p.m., and starting at 2 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. we’re going to have a barbeque out at the Lakefill.

Current: Why should students get involved with NU Gives Back?

Chase: I think one thing that this day can do is just open eyes to the issues, to the things that we can do for our community and the things that our community can do for us. Just by giving back, we can actually gain more than anything else.

Short: It’s just about extending Northwestern’s hand to the community, getting a hand back and moving forward.

Chase: The most important thing is just getting out there and really trying to experience Chicago and learning about where you live … There are so many amazing places, neighborhoods, that we just bypass in the four years that we’re here. Engaging is not necessarily always “I have to go do community service,” it’s just maybe taking the time to go to a community that is completely different from the one we live in.

Students, faculty, staff and alumni can register in groups or individually to spend their day of service at one of NU Gives Back’s many sites at www.NUGivesBack.com.