Nov. 21, 2021
EVANSTON -- The Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) Community Engagement committee has launched a program for dancers and committee members to interact with the 2022 primary beneficiary, Chicago Youth Programs (CYP).
The program, CYP Companions, will pair one child from CYP with two Northwestern students for bimonthly Zoom meetings, a space to bond through activities and conversation.
CYP Companions is part of a larger NUDM mentorship program that has paired students and beneficiary participants since 2015. The program will shift its focus this year from homework help and life advice to light-hearted games that will foster a partnership between dancers and CYP participants, according to Community Engagement Co-Chair Cara Savin.
“CYP already does a great job of providing students with mentorship and homework help and everything you need to support a student’s life in the classroom,” Savin said. “We want Northwestern students to be more of an example of ‘what you could become and achieve.’”
By changing the name of the program from a “mentorship” to a “companionship,” the Community Engagement committee hopes to void the program of any power dynamic between CYP participants and NUDM dancers, Savin said.
The program’s small-group activities model CYP’s structure, designed to help participants feel comfortable and give Northwestern students a taste of the organization’s work.
“Understanding the problems that CYP is trying to solve is a really important part of NUDM, and getting involved with them is one way to do that,” said Anthony Cruz, participant and Co-Chair of the Tech and Analytics committee.
While engagement events are a great way to meet and host programs for CYP participants, Savin said, the companionship program gives students the opportunity to build close and lasting relationships with members of the beneficiary.
“For me, (CYP Companions) really solidifies the fact that Dance Marathon is for the kids,” Savin said. “I think that can be lost in the shuffle of the excitement of the tent. Being able to be more hands-on and interactive with the kids has allowed me to participate in NUDM in a more authentic way.”
Community Engagement hosted a Zoom training session with CYP representatives on Thursday to share program expectations and guidelines. The recording will be shared with all NUDM participants. If students are interested in participating, they must complete the training and interest form before the first block begins on Nov. 29.
If you have any questions about CYP Companions or further engagement opportunities with our beneficiaries, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.