André Tse had never lived outside Hong Kong before starting at the University of Chicago last fall, so, after arriving on campus, Tse was eager to get immersed in their new city. By participating in University Community Service Center (UCSC) engagement programs, Tse got to explore different aspects of the community quickly. This summer they are deepening that local connection by taking part in a 10-week internship at nonprofit Teamwork Englewood through UCSC’s Summer Links program.
Summer Links pairs undergraduate students like Tse with internships at local community-based organizations and examines social issues impacting the city of Chicago. Tse’s work at Teamwork Englewood has largely focused on re-entry—supporting South Side residents who have criminal records or are adjusting to life after prison to secure jobs and other resources.
“This work is just very much what I naturally gravitate toward,” Tse said. “It makes me feel good to know I’m helping people and getting to know people. As a UChicago student, you’re limiting yourself if you don’t get to know the city and I think this is the best way you can get to know the city.”
Tse checks in with the organization’s clients, ensures contact information is up to date, and otherwise manages data and records to support Teamwork’s re-entry division. The workload mirrors the kind of responsibilities Tse’s supervisor, Ruthie Dworin, once tackled when she was a Summer Links intern herself. Dworin, who graduated from UChicago in 2021, has been working with Teamwork Englewood since the summer of 2019 and currently serves as a full-time case manager. Dworin says she feels lucky to have turned her Summer Links opportunity into a permanent role and for the way her own supervisors have invested in her professional development in the field along the way. Having Tse and other interns around to help handle the sometimes-daunting caseload, she says, is also valuable for everyone.
“Andre and some of our other interns have been really good about picking up skills really quickly and taking initiative and getting things done which makes our process run a lot smoother which means we can help people a lot more efficiently,” Dworin says.
For Tse, the chance to interact directly with local residents has been meaningful on multiple levels.
“That’s been a key part of feeling like I’m connected to Englewood and other South Side communities,” they said. “Especially in the context of doing re-entry work or criminal justice-adjacent work, I think it’s really important for UChicago students who are not from a big U.S. urban environment. Chicago is this political punching bag. There’s this idea that Chicago, especially the South Side, is a dangerous place and you should not explore it, you should not get to know it, and I think getting to work in this field and getting to see and directly talk to people who are labeled as a source of this problem is really important for breaking down those preconceived notions.”
As the new school year approaches, Tse is looking forward to serving as a guide for incoming first-years in UCSC’s Chicago Bound program—both so Tse can introduce new students to all Chicago has to offer and experience it all again personally. The program, along with Summer Links, and other civic engagement opportunities Tse has participated in, have been a sort of gateway, Tse says, and they have no plans to turn back.