Blog - Forming Community

By Mike Gross, Tyson Summer Community Intern

In my two years at Loyola University Chicago I have had many remarkable experiences however, the most impactful have been those in the service of others. Leading Loyola’s Swipe Out Hunger movement and Labre Homeless Outreach Ministry have oriented me to the basic needs so many do not have access to. This passion of mine made Beyond Hunger’s Summer Meals Internship position sponsored by the Tyson Summer Community Internship Program a perfect fit. Implementing a program that helps bolster disadvantaged youth to better learning, exercise and dietary habits over the summer, when structure is at a minimum, provides an invaluable service to these children.              

Summer has a critical impact on the growth and development of children, unfortunately during this time of year many children are at a higher risk of struggling. School provides safe childcare and for many children from low income families, free or discounted meals. Over the summer this financial responsibility is thrust onto families which may not be able to adequately handle it. A myriad of studies show that summer is a critical time when many children who are not supported with the right experiences can suffer, leaving them to fall behind even when school resumes. Without the structure and support provided by school, many of these children lack sufficient access to healthy food, mentally stimulating activities, and safe environments to be around their peers. 

My main responsibility as the Beyond Hunger Summer Meals Intern, was to oversee the operation of our Summer Meals Open Site. We hosted children 18 years and younger, offering free lunch, programming focused on promoting healthy life styles, and provided a safe space for children to be around one another.  Among our kids’ favorite activities were the summer reading program and book give away hosted by local libraries, cooking classes focused on teaching the importance of diet, and a steady supply of water balloons to stay cool during the hot Chicago summer.  We worked tirelessly this summer to provide hundreds of children the structure, safety, learning, and fun environment all of our youth should have.  I am proud to say we accomplished that goal.

Some of my favorite memories this summer have been hearing how much our kids have enjoyed the fresh produce offered at lunch and how many new friends they’ve made during the program, all without even realizing that they learned a lot during the journey! The chance to change the lives of young boys and girls for the better can make an impact for the rest of their lives.  This is a big commitment that our whole operating team takes very seriously.  I would like to thank Beyond Hunger, Tyson Foods, and Illinois Campus Compact for making this commitment as well, and I am confident that together we made a positive mark on many young boys and girls that just might last a lifetime.

This experience has illustrated to me the importance of community and that harnessing this can make any challenge possible to overcome. Our children may have been unaware of it but their participation and personal investment into this program is what allowed us to continue to reach and affect so many other families. I hope to carry this lesson with me as I set forth to combat inequalities in our world. My advice to future applicants is that the key to this position is forming community, and that the more they invest themselves in this, the more positive impact they will create.