A Common Goal Drives Two Loyola Students to Give Back to Chicago Public Schools
Loyola University Chicago’s Gentile Center was filled with Christmas spirit on December 2nd, thanks to two Loyola students, Nic Herrmann and Alex Boesch.
The two Juniors planned the second annual Christmas on Campus festivities, inviting enthusiastic children from three Chicago Public Schools to celebrate Christmas with a variety of holiday themed activities, performances, and food.
The inspiration to bring Christmas on Campus to Loyola stemmed from their participation in Christmas on Campus at their high school, De Smet Jesuit High School, in St. Louis, Missouri.
A teacher brought the event from the University of Dayton, where it has been celebrated for almost 50 years, inviting about 100 kids from an intercity St. Louis parish, St. Matt’s, to their high school. The children attending were able to experience a Christmas wonderland including presents and a visit from Santa in the school hallways and classrooms.
The duo’s goal was to bring a similar Christmas wonderland to kids who are underprivileged in Chicago, and may not have the means or opportunity to celebrate Christmas elsewhere.
Alex Boesch, a 20-year-old Psychology major, said, “ It [Christmas on Campus] has always been touching for me, but I knew that coming into college I wanted to make a difference, and take something that I loved and bring it to a new group of people. ”
Boesch can even remember a specific moment where he felt a calling to bring Christmas on Campus to Loyola. The summer before his freshman year at Loyola University Chicago, he was standing in the Pacific Ocean while volunteering in a village in Nicaragua.
“When I looked down, I was wearing a bracelet that one of my [Nicaraguan] buddies had made for me. I said to myself that I wouldn’t take it off until I create a Christmas on Campus.”
The men accredit high school leadership experiences to what prepared them to create such a large and successful event. Boesch was involved in student government. As student council president, he had a lot of hands on experience in the Christmas on Campus event planning at De Smet Jesuit High School and in creating other events benefitting the community, such as The Special Olympics.
Herrmann, who was also involved in his high school’s student council, attributes involvement in numerous sports teams as practice for his leadership and event planning expertise.
“It was always working around people, playing on sports teams, and understanding what it means to communicate properly and to work together towards a common goal and a common mission,” describes Herrmann, a 20-year-old Communication Studies major.
They are thankful for the resources and contacts they were able to create to help make the event possible. After discussing their goals with various resources in The Office of Student Development at Loyola, they were able to gain contact with a math tutor at Chicago Public Schools, who helped them invite children to the event. Student organizations on Loyola’s campus were very receptive to Boesch and Herrmann’s plan as well, allowing them to speak at their organization meetings in order to get as many people involved as possible.
“It just takes all kinds of students, whether they are in a sorority or play women’s basketball, or whether they are in the computer club, it doesn’t matter, they all come together and give someone else a holiday experience,” said Boesch when referring to those who helped Christmas on Campus occur.
With all the prior leadership experience and help from others, the two still faced some difficulties throughout the planning process, but were able to be proactive and overcome any plights to reach their goal.
Working with the Chicago Public Schools, there were many opportunities for miscommunication or events where students could possibly miss the chance to attend the Christmas spectacular.
Boesch said, “There are all different kinds of factors; such as if the permission slip can get from the student’s hands, to the mom’s hands, to the teachers hand’s and back to us.”
Struggles such as breaking a Spanish language barrier with some Chicago families, and making sure families remember the event is occurring since it takes place on a weekend.
Their problem solving skills allowed them to tackle all problems, they recruited Spanish speaking Loyola students from either their Christmas on Campus committee or student volunteers who could relay all important information to the families via the phone two days before the event. They also sent Loyola students to pick up the students in a school bus at their prospective schools to make sure all permission slips and children were accounted for.
They have many hopes for the future of Christmas on Campus, such as passing on the event planning role to someone in a grade below themselves. Doing so will give them the opportunity to assist this person in developing the event again that will hopefully expand and continuously receive position recognition.
Nic Herrmann describes only optimistic aspirations for Christmas on Campus’ future.
“We want to hit a point where everyone knows it’s happening, and everyone knows that come every first weekend or second weekend in December, it’s Christmas on Campus time and everyone chips in to participate. We are very excited for the future of Christmas on Campus and the future leadership.”
Besides creating Christmas on Campus, both Boesch and Herrmann are active members of Loyola’s Catholic Student Organization. Boesch works at the Jesuit Residence and is a leader at a homeless ministry called Labre. Herrmann is a part of a Kairos community and works with children at an after school program at a nearby church, Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church. Both also plan to study abroad in Barcelona during the Spring Semester.
For more information about their event, visit The Loyola Phoenix website to read a feature article about Christmas on Campus.
Photo By: Sophie Mair
- written by smair on December 14th, 2012
- posted in Reporting and Writing