Network Summer Service in Chicago, IL

Each summer provides opportunities for students to recharge and explore their interests. As part of the Sacred Heart Network, Stone Ridge students are able to participate in Summer Service Projects that bring together students from across the Network to examine various social justice issues. Rooted in the criteria of Goal III, Summer Service Projects are “immersive learning experiences that promote the inherent dignity of all humans and deepen students’ understanding of service to others,” (rscj.org). Several Stone Ridge participants this year are reporting on their experiences engaging in critical analysis and enacting their civic responsibility through direct service in their selected project. Our third story in this series is written by Cora Cherilus ’28, who attended the Committed to Creation program at Sacred Heart Schools, in Chicago, Illinois.

Committed to Creation 

By Cora Cherilus

Describe what the trip was about and why you chose it? The purpose of this trip was to better understand our impact on both our natural and man-made environment. We wanted to figure out and find simple solutions to some of our biggest problems such as decreasing food insecurity and waste, while also thinking about what is being wasted and giving people who are insecure about food the right food as well. I decided to be part of this project because I wanted to be apart of the solution.

What did you learn during the trip? During the trip, we learned about the large quantity of people who struggle to find items to eat daily. Some of those people live in what are called food deserts. Food deserts are places where little to no produce is available. Grocery stores missing fresh fruits and vegetables and small markets with more processed foods are common in these areas. Other times, people do not have enough money to pay for healthier or fresh foods. This causes them to resort to eating foods worse for their bodies because it's a lesser expense. We also learned about the amount of waste produced from food, clothing, and so-called trash. Many foods are thrown away once spotted with an imperfection, lots of clothes are trashed because they have quickly started to wear down after being newly bought from fast fashion companies, and “trash” is being tossed in the garbage without a second look to see if it could be recycled or repurposed. All of these things combine to add to the overflowing waste already compiling.

What takeaways did you have that were unexpected? I had several takeaways that were unexpected. One of these was that it doesn’t take long to make good friends. We were only there for a week, and yet every one of my partners in the project said that it felt like we had been sisters our whole lives! I would never have expected to have friendships made that quickly. Another thing I took from this experience was how many people struggle to put food on the table every day. I've always known that some people have a harder time feeding themselves or their families, but that number in my head grew to a more realistic size after that trip. There, we saw so many people in need of help that weren’t always getting it, so we tried our best to be of service. And even in the situations where some were receiving help from either the government or their relatives, it wasn’t always enough to make the hard days easier. 

How will you incorporate what you learned? Now that I am back home, I am attempting to create a more sustainable lifestyle for myself and my family. I have tried to recycle anything I can, think about what I am throwing away to see if it can be repurposed or reused, and have utilized my backyard garden’s produce instead of buying so much at the store. These are just some of the methods that I am currently using but I may find more in the future!