What Happens When College Students And Residents Work Together
On September 20th, 2012 a cold call visit to the Worcester Youth Center changed my life. I was standing in front of the Youth Center’s receptionist asking to see the director because of a community project idea that a few Holy Cross students had been discussing via email. The director, Samuel Martin, came out to greet me and we began to talk about the facilities at the Youth Center. After about 30 minutes of touring the space and engaging the Youth Center staff, we exchanged information and set another meeting. The enthusiasm of the staff was contagious, and when I got in my car to drive back to Holy Cross, I called my roommate immediately, saying, “Buddy, this could really take off!”
Eight months later on April 20th 2013, 540 college students, representing seven Worcester schools gathered in the hockey arena at Holy Cross to rally for the start of the first ever Working for Worcester project. After words of encouragement from Holy Cross president Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J, United Way of Central Mass. CEO Tim Garvin, and Worcester mayor Joseph Petty, students and community members, united through mission, set off about the city to create and rejuvenate a dozen of Worcester’s important recreation spaces. By sundown on April 20th, student vision had manifested into one of the largest student inspired community moments in the history of Worcester. A group of college students, working out of a dorm room, had connected corporations, politicians, colleges, neighbors, and students in the name of Worcester pride.
More than $60,000 worth of infrastructural improvements (playgrounds, basketball courts, sports fields, a dance studio, etc.) were made to the recreation and community spaces at 12 sites that serve Worcester’s children, teens, and families: the Worcester Youth Center, South High, Belmont Community School, Goddard Street School, Elm Park School, Grafton Street School, Rice Square School, the Village Shelter, AIDS Project Worcester, Cookson Park, Maloney Field, and Middle River Park. Worcester’s largest corporations including Unum and Hanover joined the mission with local politicians, contractors, organizations, and colleges to invest time, money, and resources into both the city’s infrastructure and Worcester’s college students. Ultimately the project represents the community, resources, and pride that make Worcester truly the heart of Massachusetts.
I can say that walking into the Worcester Youth Center one year ago changed my life, because in that moment, I saw how something as abstract and informal as an idea can connect community and mobilize human enthusiasm towards a common mission. This is at the heart of what the college-student organizers of Working for Worcester believe and practice. I can speak for the dozens of dedicated student-leaders behind this project that we are determined to make sure that Working for Worcester becomes an annual staple of student action and responsibility to our city and neighbors. Just the experience of developing this project, like a cold call visit to a Youth Center, and working with the incredible organizations, businesses, politicians, and people of Worcester has profoundly affected my life. I want every student in this city to be blessed with this same experience, for Worcester isn’t just the zip code of our colleges, but a living classroom where students become citizens.
Please join us in this mission, and help us bring more recreation opportunities and wellness advocacy to the children and families of Worcester. To get involved in Working for Worcester 2014, volunteer, sponsor, donate, organize, and/or just share feedback with the project team, please visit us at www.workingforworcester.com.
By Jeffrey Reppucci