Updated: Aug 11
Who leads Boot Camp, works at Growing Solutions Farm, always has a great attitude and never seems to slow down? That would be the intrepid Loren Ketelson.
Loren has been a part of Urban Autism Solutions since 2017 when she received an email from UAS announcing a new microbusiness.
Image: Loren at Growing Solutions Farm
While the microbusiness was not a fit for Loren, she was intrigued by the organization. She emailed asking if she could volunteer with UAS, since communication disorders and autism were among her interests as she was pursuing her master’s degree in social work at the University of Illinois Chicago. Julie Tracy, founder of Urban Autism Solutions emailed Loren back. “I just loved what Julie was telling me about their model of support and the mission of UAS in helping people with autism get jobs and get out into the community. It really resonated with me,” said Loren.
Loren continued her work with UAS, and in spring of 2017 completed her degree. In the fall, Loren was hired on as a social worker at North Grand High School but has continued her relationship with UAS. Ironically, North Grand had just become a new partner with the UAS West Side Transition Academy in 2020.
This summer, Loren, 26, led “Summer Boot Camp,” a three-week program offered twice during the summer from Tuesday through Thursday for young adults with autism. Campers explore the city via public transportation and work at Growing Solutions Farm. They also learn social skills, basic budgeting and so much more. This summer there were 5 campers total who visited Chinatown, the Loop, Millennium Park, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago River Walk, Tom Ping Park and other locations throughout Chicago to sightsee and eat.
When she’s not working at UAS or at North Grand, Loren, 26, who is from Lincolnshire, can be found biking on the lakefront path or the Des Plaines River bike trail.
“Loren is the best because she really likes people,” said Cameron, a Boot Camper who attended both sessions of Boot Camp this year. “She is really fun to be around.”