Summer service


In a half-refurbished building at 6100 South Blackstone Avenue, intern Sofia Narvaez-Gete, ’07, separates good bicycles from bad at Blackstone Bicycle Works, which plans to reopen this month after a fire devastated the site in 2001. Once the shop opens, Narvaez-Gete, who’s also designing a curriculum, will help teach kids age 8 through 18 business, math, and language skills as they learn how to fix bikes. Working 25 hours at the shop earns each youth a bike.

She got this internship through Summer Links, a program the University Community Service Center (UCSC) runs matching undergrads and grad students with community organizations for the summer. The Office of the Dean of the College provides a $4,000 stipend on behalf of the cash-strapped organizations.

While Narvaez-Gete researches business-education models for children and adjusts brakes and spokes on donated bicycles, other Summer Links interns work on refugee resettlement at World Relief and the Heartland Alliance or help out behind the scenes of Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic and Stroger Hospital. “We have internships all over the world. We could benefit from some in our community,” says David Hays, assistant director of UCSC. “You don’t need to go to India to learn about poverty.”

After ten years, Summer Links has placed 300 volunteers in the 11-week program, working more than 3,000 hours. Over the years, Hays says, he’s seen relations between the community and the University improve. The internship opened Narvaez-Gete’s eyes to the development going on in Woodlawn, from Blackstone Bicycle Works to a renovated 1920s ballroom at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. “I’ve seen that there are people who are trying to bring the community forward.”

Jenny Fisher, ’07

Photo: Intern Sofia Narvaez-Gete fixes bikes and teaches kids at Blackstone Bicycle Works.

Photo by Dan Dry

July 26, 2006