December Membership Spotlight

December 14, 2018

Neighbor2Neighbor (N2N) is a Northwestern University initiative that promotes learning and service rooted in the local community. This initiative started last year and continues to develop and expand thanks to the current Illinois Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA, Kaitlynn Durham. This initiative began to help Northwestern become better neighbors to their surrounding communities. The goal of Neighbor2Neighbor is to create ethical and mutually beneficial relationships with communities, the focus being on the North of Howard area within the Rogers Park neighborhood, just south of Northwestern University.


Neighbor2Neighbor currently works with seven community partners throughout the North of Howard neighborhood. Using a “placed based model,” N2N and these organizations develop unique ways for Northwestern students to not only create relationships, but become actively involved in the work the organizations does. This takes shape in several different events throughout the semester. The Justice Talks Series is a series of talks with speakers from community organizations on  specific subjects pertaining to important justice issues facing communities

A Just Harvest (AJH) spoke at a Justice Talk this fall about food justice and creating sustainable urban agriculture in Rogers Park and beyond. A Just Harvest also teams up with N2N for the Eat, Serve, Love Service Series, where students can learn more about AJH and what they do in the community. Another Justice Talk featured a panel of teachers and staff from Gale Community Academy. They spoke with Northwestern students about education equity.


N2N also works with Gale Community Academy to provide Lunch Circles. Lunch Circles are a time for 5th grade students to gather in small groups with a Northwestern student as a facilitator. The program aims to develop students’ conversational skills, advance social emotional skills, become confident in conflict resolution skills, create a sense of community around lunchtime, and empower students to critically think about the world around them.


One of Kaitlynn’s biggest goals for the N2N program is to create sustainable capacity building. As a way of reaching this goal, Kaitlynn and her supervisor Valerie Buchanan, the Assistant Director of Leadership Development & Community Engagement, are in the process of creating a student leadership team. This would create job positions for students who could continue to build the program. Right now, Kaitlynn spends four to five days and their community partner’s sites, getting to know their needs, creating relationships, and shadowing programs. With a team of student leaders, Kaitlynn could focus on expanding the program, and creating partnerships, while also allowing student leaders opportunities in capacity building.


Although Kaitlynn only began her AmeriCorps year in August, she is not new to service. She has spent the last two years as a Program Coordinator for Playworks, both as an AmeriCorps member in Portland, Oregon, and as a Jesuit Volunteer Corps member in Boston, Massachusetts. Even with her amount of experience she’s still learning and developing new skills as a community organizer. She also said that her ILCC VISTA position has opened her eyes to all the aspects of higher education.


Not only has Kaitlynn been monumental in the Neighbor2Nieghbor program but she’s involved throughout the office of Development and Community Engagement and Campus Life. She’s on a strategic planning committee for Campus life, was a guest speaker for a Women in Leadership panel, and is helping plan the MLK Day of Service and Learning. Her favorite thing so far is being able to see what N2N community partners do, and getting to know people in the North of Howard neighborhood. In her short time, she feels likes she learned so much and made amazing connections. She also said she couldn’t be so successful without her supervisor, Val Buchanan and the staff she works with at Northwestern.