Spring Summer 07

The Core


Living Legacy

Doc of Ages

Tour de Force


Editor's Note

Vox Populi

Ocean's Informants

Transcripts: Leaping from the 18th Century to the 21st

Secret History

Big Shoulders, Helping Hand

C'est Si Bon Bon

Oxford and Upward

Go Ask Alumni

Beyond the Quads

big shoulders, helping hand

Bridget Wild's efforts to bring the Special Olympics to the Midway last autumn were just one highlight in four years of service to the city of Chicago.

For one day blessed with superb weather last fall, the Midway became a giant soccer match with dozens of six-on-six games played by athletes with developmental disabilities. Running the Special Olympics Soccer Tournament involved dozens of student and neighborhood volunteers. As the event's de facto chair, fourth year Bridget Wild had contacted the varsity coaches of Maroon sports and recruited entire teams to assist in the tourney. To name just two, the wrestling team set up traffic barriers, and the football team escorted athletes to and from their events.

Wild has also undertaken community service that is much less public. She held a Summer Links Internship during the summer of 2004 at the Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic. "To make the best decisions, sometimes judges need more information about the young people involved in a case," she explains. "I would interview children and their parents or guardians to learn what social resources they had previously received and who might have more insight into their situation. I got a real sense of how multifaceted and challenging problems often related to poverty can be. My cases ranged from victims of sexual assault to gang-related violence to someone who had set up a threatening Web site."

In seeking to attract other Chicago students to public service, Wild helped organize the Non-Profit and Philanthropy panel at this year's career fair for College juniors, Taking the Next Step. In 2006, she was awarded the President's Volunteer Service Award, a national recognition of her contributions.

The Davenport, Iowa native came to the University in 2003 and, with the exception of last summer, has lived in Chicago ever since.

"When I came here four years ago, it seemed many students tried to stay near campus, avoiding the surrounding community," Wild says. "I found, however, that Hyde Park becomes a very different place in the summer. Fifty-third Street bustles with activity, and students have a chance to meet and interact with neighbors who are easy to overlook during the sometimes frantic academic year.

"When I first began volunteering in Chicago, I was a Band-Aid person," says Wild. "I wanted to fix the symptoms. Following my Summer Links experience, I decided to become a public policy major and began to understand the complexity of the problems facing this and other cities. The space outside of this campus is a second classroom where the gap between theory and practice can be closed."

In her first year in the College, Wild was chosen to take part in Community Service Leadership Training Corps (CSLTC), which provided intensive leadership training and support so as to connect the College to the community through civic-minded service. "CSLTC began to teach us the ins and outs of all 77 neighborhoods in Chicago," says Wild. "To be at this University in this great city is a privilege. It is our obligation as students to at least be contributing members to the community we are sharing. This relationship as a good neighbor must be a two-way street of giving and taking. The College has a lot of resources and wants to help students engage with the city, but as a student you often have to want to do so and have to take the initiative yourself."

Wild notes that being affiliated with the University cuts two ways. "The University gives us a stamp of approval. People know that we come from a place with expertise and resources. On the other hand, we sometimes run into the attitude 'so, do you think you're better than me because you're from the University of Chicago?' In these situations a little bit of grace and a lot of patience goes a long way."

Does Bridget's future include Chicago? "Next year I plan to attend Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, eventually practicing nonprofit medicine." she reports; "Wherever I go after my education, my experiences with Chicago have shaped my life."

"For me, and for many other students," she concludes, "community service has been our way to be a good neighbor and to 'get it,' as a mentor once told me, on a whole new level. When I have to leave Chicago next year, it will be very hard because this is home now. I 'get' Chicago, and it 'gets' me."—Jeff Bradley