Protests and potholes

As an intern in the City of Chicago’s 36th Ward this summer, Kathleen “KC” Stralka ’16 is learning the day-to-day life of a public servant.

An independent scholar with a minor in finance, Stralka assists the staff of Alderman Nick Sposato in responding to inquiries and complaints of constituents from the area, an older middle class section on the city’s northwest side.

She also has attended a City Council meeting, where she witnessed an outcry from protesters both outside and inside of council chambers; worked at the alderman’s annual dog rescue event, where she met prominent politicians such as Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and City Clerk Susana Mendoza; and participated in a town hall meeting, where constituents had a chance to voice their concerns about noise disturbance caused by O’Hare International Airport.

One day, Sposato, himself, a Chicago fireman who has spent his whole life living in the ward, took Stralka out on the roads with him to mark all the potholes as they drove up and down the streets. Potholes resulting from the severe winter, Stralka says, are among the most common complaints she has heard from residents.

“I log their complaint in the City’s automated system, and explain to them how long they can expect to wait before the service is delivered,” she said. “Unfortunately, many of residents are anxious because they are burdened by unanticipated financial situations such as flooded basements, increased taxes or bills, and costly home repairs. I am learning techniques to lower anxiety levels so the residents hopefully leave the office satisfied with our service … The Alderman is very responsive to their needs.”

A Chicago native, Stralka is interested in and concerned about Chicago politics, so she targeted the City of Chicago during her online search for internships. She also has a general interest in politics and legal studies and has taken some of those courses as part of her independent scholar major, “The History and Politics of Social Movements.”

Her internship has allowed her to explore a possible career in public service–and more.

“I am currently uncertain about my career future, but this internship has introduced me to a wide variety of opportunities that will prepare me for any number of career paths.”


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