¡VIVA! visits Chicago

Teresa Hardison

Over Spring Term Reading Period, the student-run organization ¡VIVA! took their thir annual trip to Chicago to volunteer. ¡VIVA! is an organization dedicated to promoting Hispanic awareness for not only the members of the group, but also for the Lawrence and Appleton communities.
In efforts to continue the educational aspect of ¡VIVA!, our Chicago trip was organized to not only give our time to those in-need, but also to learn something new about the everyday life of someone outside of the middle-class. This year, ¡VIVA! revisited the place we volunteered last year, Humboldt Park — a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood — in hopes of creating another memorable experience.
In conjunction with Alejandro Molina, 10 VIVA members volunteered at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, an essential charter high school that provides opportunities for students to gain their high school diplomas and achieve something beyond what their current circumstances allow them.
Beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 9, our members were split into various tasks involving these charter school students. Some members heard and critiqued mock presentations presented by the seniors while others ran a statistical analysis on surveys based off of gentrification. Some helped with the weekly local newsletter that discussed current events within the neighborhood and still more of us were designated to sit in on a weekly meeting where high school students vented about their problems at home and school.
During these various tasks, our ¡VIVA! members learned a lot about others’ lives. Taking part of the support system discussion, I listened to the personal lives of high school students dealing with many things. Some students vented about not getting affection at home and having to seek affection elsewhere, including in members of the charter school. One female student had been sick in the hospital for weeks and worried that others would spread rumors that she was pregnant. And still others were considering dropping out of school because of the discouraging words from teachers in the schools outside of the charter school. Other ¡VIVA! members heard from high school students who are worrying about being transgender and running away given their families lack of support.
Furthermore, some Lawrentians learned that some community members have to deal with not knowing where they are going to live in the future. Various companies are threatening to raise the price of their land to push current residents out of their homes through gentrification. This would lead to a complete loss of history and culture that has contributed to the personality of not only Humboldt Park, but the city of Chicago as well.
All of these issues that we take for granted and rarely consider as a whole are being thought about and dealt with by people younger than us on a daily basis. During our lunch, we shared and reflected our experiences. Sophomore Gustavo Guimaraes commented that he was, “fascinated by the work they do at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. Playing with those kids showed me that an individual can change for good when he/she is given another chance.”
Many “outsiders” have assumed that membership for ¡VIVA! requires either a Latino ethnicity or a Spanish language proficiency — which is definitely not the case! ¡VIVA! in Spanish essentially means “to live” and living your life, and ¡VIVA! only requires that people are enthusiastic to learn and help grow in their outlooks on life. In essence, I encourage all organizations to branch out of the Lawrence community while working together towards some goal. Rarely can giving to another person not have a great outcome, so go out there and have fun with one another while making difference!