Reflections on a semester in the Windy City

Cailee Veenstra–Contributing Writer (Off Campus: Chicago Semester)

Greetings from Chicago! As this semester comes to a close, I thought it would be a great time to update the Dordt community on how I’ve spent my past four months in the Windy City.

I have had some incredible learning experiences through my internship in Chicago. Throughout the semester, I had the fortunate opportunity to intern at New Moms, Inc., a non-profit organization located in Austin, a neighborhood on the west side of the city. New Moms seeks to enable, empower and equip young mothers by expressing the love of God to them and their children. This organization expresses this love in a variety of ways – providing transitional housing for homeless mothers and their children, doula services to pregnant mothers and professional job training to mothers who are either pregnant or parenting. While I was able to dip my toes into all of these programs and services, the majority of my time was spent in the job training program.

The purpose of the job training program is to equip young women with transferrable skills that they can use to secure a permanent job. To learn these skills, the young women become employed at Bright Endeavors, a social enterprise that partners with New Moms, whose business involves the crafting of candles. Not only do Bright Endeavors’ candles smell amazing, but the company has had various opportunities to collaborate with other businesses all over the country in special projects. For one of those special projects, for instance, the young women make bath salts for The Little Market, a company owned and operated by Lauren Conrad. During my internship, then, Conrad herself visited the business, and I got to enjoy checking off “meet a celebrity” from my bucket list!

It was at Bright Endeavors where I really began to know the moms and hear their stories. What has continually amazed me while working at my internship is these women’s immutable strength. Even though their situations are less than ideal, they approach each day with integrity, determination and resilience for one reason – their kids. This strength, the kind I see in mothers who are my age (and often younger than me), is the kind of strength I desire to have.

While I am more than ready to return to Dordt, to see friends and to graduate (whaaaat?!… it’s fine; I’m fine…), I am sad to leave New Moms, Inc. This internship experience has been crucial to my future success as a social worker and has given me the confidence I need to begin my career.

Though I’m looking forward to returning to Dordt, I will forever treasure the memories made at New Moms, and I cont it a privilege to have worked with such inspiring individuals.


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