Senior Samantha Yi Wins Alumnae of Northwestern Service Award

Senior Samantha Yi Wins Alumnae of Northwestern Service Award

Samantha Yi

SESP social policy major Samantha P. Yi is the recipient of the 2015 Senior Woman’s Service Award given by The Alumnae of Northwestern University. The award honors a senior woman for outstanding volunteer service during her undergraduate years at Northwestern.

Yi has worked to improve the lives of underprivileged children through mentoring programs involving Northwestern students. Her major volunteer service has been with Supplies for Dreams, a nonprofit dedicated to providing resources and opportunities for Chicago Public School students, entirely run by undergraduates. Yi serves as executive director, in charge of fundraising and growth. 

“We envision a public education system in which no student lacks access to the basic provisions needed for school, including school supplies, field trips and a committed mentor,” Yi says. Supplies for Dreams provides those three resources for low-income students at four CPS schools. “It is an amazing community of students, many in SESP.”

“I was a mentor my freshman year, and fell in love with the organization,” Yi says. The following year she became the Supplies for Dreams Northwestern outreach chair, hosting events for children featuring Northwestern students. During her junior year she became director of the organization’s academic enrichment program, which pairs sixth graders with Northwestern mentors. In that role, she coordinated volunteers, wrote curriculum and worked on a system to measure impact.

While inspiring other Northwestern students to join her, Yi volunteered at the organization 20 hours a week for four years.

The co-founder and director of Supplies for Dreams, Hiro Kawashimi, says of Yi: “Her volunteering and leadership produced remarkable results. She led a team of 40 part-time staff and supported more than 3,600 CPS students, raised $100,000 from countless corporations and foundations, and pivoted program strategies to improve outcomes … She is an asset to our team, to the students our organization serves and to the Northwestern University community.” Kawashimi co-founded Supplies for Dreams with SESP alumna Aria Fiat (BS13).

Yi says, “SESP has been a huge factor in my ability to do this work with Supplies for Dreams. When I was directing the mentoring program, I often consulted with various professors to design the best curriculum possible and to figure out how to measure our impact. Beyond the specific advice I received, my classes in SESP have made me more aware of the systemic issues relevant to our students in some of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods.”

For example, Yi’s senior thesis is on a dual-language program in a school with a 30 percent poverty rate. “Collecting qualitative data in a district that has so many more resources than CPS allowed me to understand better the achievement gap that exists between those two districts. I am so incredibly grateful to my SESP professors for their guidance and support!”

During her college years, Yi also volunteered with the Heartland Alliance, where she served as the college prep coordinator for high school-aged refugees and immigrants. During 2013-14, she helped students at Evanston’s Dewey Elementary School in their Books & Breakfast tutoring program.

In addition, Yi has been a counselor at Camp Kesem, a camp for kids whose parents are fighting cancer, and through her sorority she worked with the Girl Scouts to present anti-bullying workshops. Finally, she completed a PASE teaching fellowship, teaching K-8th graders over the summer of 2013 in Queens, New York.

Samantha will receive the Senior Woman’s Service Award of $2,500 at The Alumnae of Northwestern University’s annual board meeting in May. The Alumnae of Northwestern University is an all-volunteer organization of women that raises funds to benefit Northwestern while also sharing Northwestern’s resources through a continuing education program. 

After Yi graduates, she will begin interning for the Chicago Community Trust this summer. 

By Marilyn Sherman and The Alumnae of Northwestern
Last Modified: 4/29/15