Providence College Students: Transforming Society
Community service initiatives are a vital part
of the Providence College experience
Providence College students annually volunteer nearly 48,000 hours at more than 200 community agencies, schools, and other non-profit sites in Greater Providence. Volunteer service is provided through the Office of the Chaplain/Campus Ministry, the Office of Student Affairs, the Feinstein Institute for Public Service, the Student Athlete Advisory Board, and many of the College’s student clubs, organizations, and service learning classes.
Among the notable service projects are the following programs that included direct collaboration with the City of Providence:
For the seventh consecutive year, PC students, alumni and staff worked with the City of Providence in Friars United for Service in Our Neighborhood (FUSION), a collaboration to refurbish historic landmarks and community parks in Providence. This April, the group focused their efforts at Fargnoli Park in the Elmhurst section of Providence. Providence Parks Department officials estimate that there has been more than $100,000 of labor donated to various projects by PC students, staff, alumni, and city employees in the first five years of this ten-year partnership. To date, much of the work has occurred at the Esek Hopkins Homestead complex including new walkways and perimeter fencing in conformance with the historical structure, addition of a new turf soccer field, and playground apparatus on the adjoining athletic complex. The unique partnership with city parks department officials was developed by the College’s President’s Council. The council is a leadership group, comprised of senior executives from many of Rhode Island’s most prominent employers, who serve in an advisory capacity to the College’s president. The FUSION effort matches PC undergraduates with young alumni/alumnae who graduated between 2000 and 2012, regional alumni club leaders, members of the National Alumni Association Board of Governors, and members of the President’s Council. FUSION is designed to facilitate networking and service opportunities among students, alumni, College neighbors, and members of the Greater Providence community.
Started in 2008, Smith Hill Rec Night is a collaborative effort of PC’s Feinstein Institute, the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence (ISPN), the Smith Hill Community Development Corporation, the Providence Recreation Department and the Providence Police Department. The Feinstein Institute and ISPN are the lead organizers. Rec Night involves one evening each week when 75-80 youth from the Smith Hill neighborhood and the Chad Brown housing project gather at a local park or rec center for sports, break dancing, tutoring, conversation, and pizza. Many participants are gang affiliated. Rec Night offers the youth a hospitable, safe space. Since the start of this program, emerging conflicts have been more easily identified and mediated; the youth have a greater number of positive adults consistently in their lives; and a number of the youth have been steered towards positive activities such as a summer jobs program.
Urban Action was launched in 1991 with 17 PC students volunteering the first year. The program offers incoming freshmen an opportunity to spend their first days in Rhode Island's capital city of Providence improving the community that will be their "home away from home" for the next four years. Incoming freshmen are invited to apply during the summer orientation program. The program has grown to the point where now 150 students are selected to participate each year. Led by 25 upperclassmen, these freshmen spend three days working at the end of August - rain or shine - on outdoor and indoor service projects important to the Providence community. In 2010, Urban Action partnered with the Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy, a non-profit whose mission is to preserve the land of Neutaconkanut Hill, the only nature preserve in the city for future generations. Since its inception, Urban Action has continued to thrive under the direction of student leaders, who have trained their successors with a passion for growing the program. Since 1991, more than 3,100 students have volunteered thousands of community service hours to Urban Action, with many returning each year as upperclassmen leaders.
The Feinstein Institute for Public Service, PC’s Department of Education, and the Balfour Center for Multicultural Activities at Providence College partnered with three local high schools in EXPLORE! The mission of the EXPLORE! program is to promote awareness of, access to, and readiness for college and career among first generation local urban high school students while, at the same time, supporting and enhancing the educational experiences of PC students. The program includes weekly on-site after-school programming throughout the academic year and four days of PC campus programs for high school students and their parents in spring semester. In the fall semester, PC students visit the schools to engage in a variety of formal and informal programming structured around a unique college readiness curriculum. In summary, the EXPLORE! weekly programming curriculum is designed to target key aspects of youth identity and skill development so that the youth engaged in this program can identify, pursue, and achieve their goals in life.
Other service initiatives this academic year included:
Nearly 30 PC students and staff kicked off their spring semester by participating in a national day of service (MLK Day of Service) on January 21, 2013, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The service event took place at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Academy in Central Falls, R.I. The academy is a Catholic school which serves Lincoln, Central Falls, and the Attleboros. PC students and staff, along with students from the academy, cleaned up and painted a large cafeteria and multi-purpose room at the school. After service was completed, there was a cultural night, including a dinner and fair with presentations from various countries represented.
The first Faith Works service immersion program took place from August 25-29. More than 30 PC students participated in the program for incoming freshmen. (7 juniors and seniors served as student coordinators in the program.) The program is sponsored by Campus Ministry in collaboration with the Catholic Charities staff at the Diocese of Providence. Faith Works enabled new PC students to build community with their peers, perform service work for vulnerable populations in Providence, and reflect on the significance of this work for their own lives. The participants worked at service sites in the Diocese of Providence, including Emmanuel House, a day shelter for the homeless; the St. Martin de Porres Center, a senior service center; and the diocese’s Office of Life and Family, as well as Immigration and Refugee Services. Students also toured facilities at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections to learn more about the chaplaincy services that are provided.
Most of the 365 PC student-athletes, representing all 19 varsity sports, participate in a range of community service. This past academic year, they raised $38,000 for various charitable organizations. Student-athletes understand that importance of the responsibility to give back to the surrounding community and are committed to helping others, demonstrating the Athletic Department’s core values: Honesty, Integrity, Mutual Respect, Effort, and Constant Improvement. Each year, students work with the Boys & Girls Club and tutor young students. A major youth initiative undertaken by all teams, is participation in annual Reading Week. More than 50 student-athletes read to several elementary classrooms and answer questions about college, reaching out to hundreds of youth. Throughout the academic year, many of our teams help at local soup kitchens. The biggest effort is the annual “We ‘CAN’ Do It” Drive for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, which raised 1,166 pounds of non-perishable goods. As Division I athletes, our students understand the value of health. The swimming and diving team raised more than $11,000 for Swim Across America to benefit cancer research. Many of our teams assist with R.I. Special Olympics events, refereeing and cheering on the participants. Another major project athletes participate in is raising money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. During the winter season, our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee collected money during one game for each of the four winter teams, raising more than $2,000 toward granting a wish.
March 2013 Alternative Spring Break Service Initiatives:
More than 200 PC students spent their Spring Break working on behalf of Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge Program at 16 destinations across the country. It was the largest group of students among all colleges and universities in the country. Among the sites students helped build homes are Cleveland, OH; Bloomington, IN; Waynesburg, PA; Bridgeport, CT; Mount Airy, NC; Buffalo, NY; Wilmington, DE; and York, PA.
Eleven PC students served at the Outreach 360 Health program in the Dominican Republic. The students worked with Outreach 360 and taught children in schools and orphanages in the Dominican Republic English and supported community health education.
Fourteen PC students participated in a “Crossing Borders” service immersion trip in Tijuana, Mexico. Students worked with Esperanza International and their partner Fundación Esperanza de México to support local families in Tijuana to improve their quality of life and communities. Student’s also helped build structurally sound housing with the families.
Ten PC students participated in a community service trip, “Re-Member the ‘Rez” in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. The students worked with the Lakota Nation through the nonprofit Re-Member, whose mission is “to improve the quality of reservation life through relationships, shared resources, and volunteer services.” Students also worked on improving homes and assisted in the schools throughout the week.
Winter 2013 Break Service Initiatives:
Five PC students participated in the My Brother’s Keeper Urban Plunge from January 8-11. My Brother’s Keeper is a nonprofit organization in Easton, Mass. that delivers food and furniture to families in need.
PC's annual NOLA (New Orleans, La.) Immersion, sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry, a faith-based service trip in response to the needs of post-Katrina New Orleans, took place from January 12-19. The trip is a mainstay alternative break experience held for the past five years, which aids the local community while exposing students to the faith, food, and culture of the Gulf Coast. NOLA Immersion is committed to the dignity of the human person, lived out by accompanying our neighbors in the journey toward justice. Fourteen students and one Campus Ministry staff member participated this year.
The PC community also supported numerous charitable organizations:
In March, PC presented a check in the amount of $7,030.70 to the Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) Fair Trade Coffee program. The money comes from the College’s portion of the Dunkin’ Donuts commission through January 2013. Dunkin’ Donuts opened a store in August of 2012 on PC’s campus in the Slavin Center. The PC community has consistently asked for the presence of a Dunkin’ Donuts on campus as well as the opportunity to purchase fair trade coffee. Additionally, Operation Rice Bowl raised more than $800 for Catholic Relief Services during Lent this year.
More than 1000 PC students, faculty, and staff members donated approximately $7,000 worth of toys, clothing items, bicycles, grocery store gift cards, and money to the 13 local families, including 47 children, through the Adopt-A-Family holiday giving program sponsored annually by the College’s Office of Residence Life.
Nearly 900 members of the PC community raised $79,698. for the American Cancer Society at the 2013 PC Relay for Life. The College has hosted the event for the last 9 years and has raised over $825,000 for the American Cancer Society.
The Department of Human Resources assisted the Ronald McDonald Family Room, at Christmas time 2012, in Providence in collecting items to support families with sick children at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Donated items included snacks such as microwave popcorn, individual packs of cookies and crackers, and juice boxes, as well as paper towels, trash bags, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, and soap.
The School of Continuing Education and the Eta Lambda chapter of Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honor Society for Adults in Continuing Education sponsored a Thanksgiving Food Drive, and collected canned and boxed food, frozen turkeys, and monetary donations/ grocery store gift cards for 20 families identified through D.A.R.E. (Direct Action for Rights and Equality).
The School of Continuing Education conducted an "Adopt-a-Family" Christmas drive via Capital City Community Center, in which they collected gifts, toys, and other items for a local family and one senior citizen.
The School of Continuing Education also sponsored a gift basket raffle to support scholarships for SCE students.
The PC Student Athletic Advisory Council held the Mary House Benefit Shower, a baby item drive to benefit Mary House, which operates an emergency food pantry and offers daily meals, health fairs, mentoring, and clothing to Providence residents. This event was one of many community service initiatives that helped PC student-athletes perform over 3,674 hours of community service this year.
The Children’s Outreach group in Campus Ministry sponsored the “Giving Tree” and collected more than 300 toys and clothing items in December. All of the goods were donated to Smith Hill Early Childhood Learning Center in Providence.
Faculty and student clubs in biology, chemistry and biochemistry, and engineering-physics-systems and the Office of the Chaplain/Campus Ministry collected books for distribution to the Textbooks for Ghana program.
Academic Affairs, in collaboration with the Feinstein Institute and Campus Ministry, collected personal care items during the 7th Annual April Showers Drive. The donations filled about (15) grocery bags and benefited the guests at Mary House, the social service agency of St. Patrick’s Church.
Upcoming Service Trips:
Early this summer, PC students and staff will participate in Campus Ministry’s new International Immersions program. Eight students and 2 Campus Ministry staff will travel to Haiti from May 27 – June 1. The group will volunteer at the Louverature Cleary School operated by The Haitian Project. The school provides a tuition-free education for 350 economically underprivileged Haitian children.
From May 25 – June 1, thirteen students and 2 Campus Ministry staff will volunteer with Mustard Seed Communities in Kingston, Jamaica. Mustard Seed provides support for children with mental and physical disabilities.