Hello! My name is Kendra Schiess, and I am a senior social work major at Indiana Wesleyan University. I am currently from Burke, Virginia, but my dad’s career in the Air Force has taken us all across the United States throughout my childhood. That constant moving is part of why an adventurous semester in Chicago sounded so appealing to me! I am spending my semester working at a foster care agency here in Chicago called SOS Children’s Villages. This agency is unique in that they employ full time foster parents that live in a community designed for foster children to remain in care with their siblings. In my placement, I primarily work with the case management workers, and I have enjoyed getting to see the interworking of the foster care system.
Before moving to Chicago, I hadn’t really been in the city since I was a child. When I was in second grade, my family and I came to Chicago on vacation. There are only a couple clear memories I have from that trip. One was visiting the American Girl Store, and the other was walking into a giant hotel, staring up at the very tall ceiling and feeling very, very small. Beyond that, the clearest memory I have of that trip was all the people. I remember the hustle and bustle of the city, the crowds, and the distinct feeling that I never wanted to stay there long term. My sister was in awe of this fast lifestyle and confidently proclaimed that the city was the place for her. I was sure of the exact opposite.
Flash forward about 14 years, and here I am living in the very city that seemed far too much for me at the age of seven. I’m now in my final semester of undergrad, and a lot has changed since that first trip to Chicago. I’m still not a huge fan of the crowds, but I have a fierce passion for the people within them. My passion for helping people is what pushed me to study social work, and my desire for adventure is what brought me to this city where I am now putting that knowledge into practice.
I have been at my field placement for a couple weeks now. The stories I continue to hear break my heart, but also strengthen my resolve to enter into this profession that guides my purpose so well. This city is filled with stories, even beyond the agencies that we are all placed at. It holds memories of tragedies once endured, crime and stereotypes that persist, and the people that exist all around it. There are so many false images that people have of this beautiful city. They watch the news and think we’re all walking around in fear and suffering. And yet, I walk these streets every day, ride on the bus and the train with people who have lived here all their lives, and I see so much life to be had. There is a heart here that cannot be adequately portrayed through the news. There is passion, talent, and life that cannot be seen through statistics. Regardless of the busy crowds and hectic public transportation, I came to this city to see life and light among darkness, a testament to the people I want to help and the people that are helping me. Only a few weeks in, and I can already see that I have much to learn from this city, and most importantly from the people who thrive within it.