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Patience, Empathy, and Building Bridges 

Senior Isabella Delach was taught two valuable lessons this summer: Be patient. Be empathetic. 

Her Norton Fellowship project through World Relief, an organization that partners with churches and volunteers, was two-pronged. She made welcome kits for refugee families settling in the Chicago area, and four days a week, four hours a day, she worked with third- and fourth-graders at a local church in a summer program, where she led a book club and an art club. 

“Some of the kids had not been in the U.S. for long, so it was hard with obstacles such as language barriers and cultural differences,” Isabella said. “So, bridging that gap and making sure everyone was having a good time was important to me, and seeing everyone interacting, even if not from the same cultures, was meaningful.” 

Isabella learned to communicate without words at times, and so did the children. As time went on, Isabella said she could see the kids “coming out of their shells.” 

The fellowships, administered by the Norton Family Center for the Common Good, enable selected students to pursue their interests and become more engaged with their local communities over summer break. Students must apply and, if chosen, each receives up to $1,000 to help complete their project.   

Isabella said the structured process of applying for a Norton Fellowship proved invaluable when she began her project. She needed to put together a comprehensive plan, “and that helped me get ready to be a volunteer.” 

The welcome kits consisted of such things as hygiene items, food, and kitchen utensils — all designed to make life easier at the start for those finding their way in a new country.  

“It was fulfilling because I was able to visit a townhouse and see people unpacking all these things and putting them in various parts of the house, such as cutlery in drawers and sheets on a bed,” Isabella said. “I was fortunate to see the impact these kits had.” 


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