Learnapalooza's Maggie Schutz -- an interview


Activist and buoyant people-person Maggie Schutz is the co-founder of the upcoming Learnapalooza event on June 19 in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood.

In a bit of internet-era magic, Schutz connected with fellow community builder Sarah Press through a listserve after they both read an interview with Rosalyn Lemieux, the founder of the first  Learnapalooza, out in D.C.  In late autumn 2009, Schutz and Press began the planning stages of their own version of the event, which will be held this Saturday, June 19, 2010, in Wicker Park, from 10 a.m to 5 p.m.

I've always been a very shy person, so the biggest lesson I've learned is "Don't be afraid to ask." So you're actually putting yourself out there. You're putting your ideas out there. You're telling people about it. You're just asking them. You're asking for money. You're asking to participate in something. You're putting yourself out there to get rejection, but you have to be okay with it, but also just believe in your own idea enough that people are going to buy into it and want to be part of it. So it's really simple: don't be afraid to put yourself out there.


Learnapalooza's teaching team

The magic of learning? Actually, I wish you had been here a little earlier this weekend. We had a teacher meet-up, all the teachers were here, and that was probably a great opportunity for the magic of learning to happen. It happened on a couple different levels. It brought in people who were uncomfortable with what they didn't know, and made them feel very safe and able to learn and open up. We had experienced teachers and inexperienced teachers. And we had one teacher who I was trying to help a lot, because she was really great, I love that she's putting herself out there - she's here from Korea, she's just learning English, and she wants to teach people how to speak Korean and she's never taught before. It's like, Huge! That's awesome! So I wanted to make sure that she had as much support as she could. That was one of the magic pieces. She's sitting there, she's a little nervous, she's a little uncomfortable. I kind of put her on the spot, but everyone came around and helped her and she felt much more comfortable and happy afterwards. And I think that's the magic: one, making a connection with other people, and two, feeling excited about doing something new.

I want people to be really excited about it. To have met new people, to have made new connections. The biggest thing for me is for something else to come out of it. It doesn't have to have anything to do with us. It's just, people are meeting, and creating something new, and sharing their ideas, and making something bigger, or finding someone that they've never met before, and "Now I'm going to learn German." Something that will make them excited about something, anything...I really like people. I work a lot in customer service as I always have, like libraries and all that kind of stuff, and I think helping people and making connections between people, it's just something that's satisfying to me. People don't always have the easiest way to connect. And if you can facilitate that and make it a little easier in a safer place than a bar, or randomly where you have to figure out and force a way to talk to someone, it's so much nicer. You're just making something bigger. You're creating community!

Home base for the event will be the Wicker Park Art Center (former the St. Paul's Cultural Center) at 2215 W. North Ave. Learnapalooza Street Team will be available during the morning to direct people to the class locations.



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