Earn Service Hours By Gift Wrapping for Expanding Lives

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Earn Service Hours By Gift Wrapping for Expanding Lives

By Aila Durakovic, Staff Writer

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Niles West provides a wide selection of clubs and programs that students can join and take part in. Although, it’s unfortunate that our student body barely knows about half of these programs. One of the most eye-opening associations West provides to its students is the Expanding Lives program, founded by one of West’s French teachers, Leslie Natzke.

A major part of Expanding Lives is volunteer work and giving donations. The next upcoming event will be the gift wrapping that will occur at Lincolnwood Mall.

“We’ve been really lucky with the number of people who’ve signed up to volunteer for gift wrapping. From the 17th of December till the 24th, we will be wrapping gifts for free at Lincolnwood mall and collect donations from people. In the summer we will have a 5k which we will also need runners for,” Natzke said.

Natzke also gave more insight on what Expanding Lives actually does during the summer.

“Expanding Lives is a nonprofit organization where we bring girls from West Africa who are the first generation of their family to go to high school, to the United States,” Natzke said. “Every year, four girls are chosen to come due to what they write in their applications. The girls stay for six weeks in the summer. The first week, we take the four African girls and four of our girls to Wisconsin and teach them the culture and try to get them to use the language. The second week, the girls pair up and live with host families. We teach them how to take public transportation to Northwestern University which is where they take their classes. At the end of their stay, we through a celebration for the girls on returning back to home.”

The program is made up of the junior board which includes graduates, college students, and high school students. Mahnoor Haider, a junior at West, participates in this organization and tries to promote the program in all sorts of ways to gain more volunteers.

“Essentially, Expanding Lives is a program that empowers young women in West Africa to be leaders in their communities. Our scholars attend a six-week conference in Chicago and then return home to complete their education and serve as role models for their peers.’ Many fundraisers are held including the upcoming gift wrapping one which will be held at the Lincolnwood mall throughout the month of December,” Haider said.

Sophia Cinquemani, a senior in of the junior board in Expanding Lives, became an active volunteer in the summer. She helped the girls learn English during their English class at Northwestern and communicated with the girls through French.

“My favorite part of the program was becoming close to the girls I met while volunteering,” Cinquemani said. “They were incredibly kind to me, and we became so close almost instantly. It was honestly as of I was hanging out with my friends.”

The program doesn’t only help students become more active with making a difference in the world, but it also helps students interact with people from other nations and create friendships. It’s such a great way to get more involved with helping others, locally and around the world, and to just expand your knowledge beyond our community.