About murphyjo

Communication Coordinator Center for Community Engagement

North Windham Elementary School Recess Program

By: Talene Balian

I have done some volunteering at one day events here and there as part of my desire to give back to the community. I am an intern at the Center for Community Engagement and heard about many of the opportunities and decided to volunteer at some of them. When choosing the volunteer program, I wanted to do one where I would be having a good time but also do something that I normally would not do.

Generally, I have not enjoyed being with little kids but missed recess, so why not give it a try? The North Windham Elementary School Recess Program is on Wednesdays and has two sessions; 11:00 AM to 12:15 PM and 12:30 PM to 2:20 PM. I did the 12:30 PM to 2:20 session.

The grades that I saw every week were 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade. Each grade has about a 15 to 20 minute recess. The first time I volunteered, I was nervous because I usually do not know how to interact or play with little kids the greatest and wondered what they thought of me.

After experiencing my first day volunteering at the North Windham Elementary School Recess Program, I realized that the children were really excited about having college students playing with them every week. the program’s student leader, Samone, every week would bring in a different activity to the school children and they would have a blast every time! Some of the activities that Samone brought in include relays, bubbles, chalk, and potato sack races.

The children enjoyed all the activities Samone provided and even if some of the children did not want to play the games, they enjoyed playing on the playground or the swings with some of the other volunteers. I usually participated in the activities Samone provided or was taking pictures of the children playing with the other volunteers.

I learned a lot about myself from the time I spent volunteering at the North Windham Elementary School Recess Program. The first thing I learned is patience. My patience for little kids definitely increased over the two months I volunteered. The second thing I learned about myself is that I got more mature. By being around the kids, I started to understand what it is like taking care of other people’s kids. The program helped me overcome my anxiety of interacting small kids.

I would definitely recommend students join this program! The program is only once a week for two hours and you get to feel like a kid again playing at recess! You can also get more experience in the real world by volunteering!! Come sign up at the Center for Community Engagement.

Town Pride Town Wide

By: Talene Balian

Volunteering at the Town Pride Town Wide on April 30th was an experience I will never forget! At 8:30 in the morning, we gathered at the Clock Tower by halls, clubs, teams, etc. I was in lowrise group. We had to go around Willimantic and pick up any trash that we saw on sight.

At first, everyone was tired because of the time of day (and because it was a Saturday) but as the day went on, everyone started to have a good time and walk around everywhere in Willimantic. We all made jokes and got to know each other better! The event went on until noon and the Center for Community Engagement provided everyone with lunch.

I would tell anyone who goes to Eastern to sign up for this event because it was a fun time and you can do it with your friends and make new ones too! Come sign up Town Pride Town Wide at the Center for Community Engagement and have an experience you will never forget!

Natchaug Elementary School After School Program

The first day of volunteering was one of the best for me. We showed up and got to meet the children we were going to work with, and I sat down at a table of fourth graders. This is where the fun began with this amazing group of kids. We were the gold team. We started when the children got out of school, because not every child could go home.

The day started with snack and milk during attendance; then we would do homework together. It was a great experience to see their way of thinking and how they would figure out their work. They were intelligent children, so sometimes I would help them and other times they wouldn’t need my help. After homework was recess, which would be inside or outside depending on the weather. Outside we could play anything from kick ball to four square to tag. Playing tag was the toughest for me, because I did not realize how fast 9-year-olds could be! If recess was inside, we could do something like a cooking class that would teach the children how to make healthy nutritious foods for themselves!

We learned from them through friendship, caring and dedication!

Program & Responsibilities

  • 3:45 pm to 5:45 pm
  • Attendance and Snack
  • Homework
  • Recess
  • Teach and nurture young impressionable minds


This program will continue to grow through the volunteers; and the children in the program will hopefully give back to the community themselves someday. Talking with the children and listening to their goals and dreams, has made me want to be a better person and to give even more back to the community! Through learning and education, Natchaug’s after school program will stay successful for years to come!

Day of Giving Food Drives

The Mission:

  • This project aims to help those in need by donating money and food to the community by way of the Covenant Soup Kitchen.
  • There is also the Day of Giving event on Thanksgiving day where community members are provided a hot and delicious Thanksgiving meal courtesy of Eastern students and staff.

The Process:

  • Gather food products and monetary donations for the Covenant Soup Kitchen
  • Make signs to explain who we are and what we are doing
  • Pass out flyers with a list of what is needed for donation
  • Talk to people walking into the store
  • Collect donations!

I went up to people and asked for donations. I handed them the flyers that had the items we were asking for, and told them we also were accepting monetary donations. I held up the signs we made in front of the store as well. With the help of all the volunteers, we filled a cart and a box with food.

Lessons Learned:
This program helped me to realize that working together helps to lessen the amount of people in need and will lead us to a better future. It shows that people come together to help their community and the people in it; and it will continue to be beneficial by getting people to volunteer at the soup kitchen, as well as continuing to raise awareness for the homeless and hungry community and asking for donations. This program helped me to understand that volunteering feels good because you know you’re helping someone in need.

To look at photos, check out this link on our Flickr account! Day of Giving

Oh, The Joy of Children! A Tale of North Windham Elementary Recess Program

By: Christopher Mathis

For this program, my team and I worked with elementary-aged students to engage them in structured cooperative play during their recess period. The goal of this program was to inspire healthy play with the children emphasizing sportsmanship, integrity, and respect. The program took place on Wednesdays from 11:15 AM to 2:20 PM at North Windham Elementary School.

As a volunteer for this program, it was my job to interact with the children during recess. My team and I thought of games and activities for all the kids who wanted to play. We didn’t want to disturb their natural order of recess, so we adapted to fit right in with what the students were already playing. Each shift was about 20 minutes and contained the different grade levels.

During recess I noticed the many habits and actions the children did. The children split into their own groups for recess, but it was never cliquey or divided. Students of different races, genders, and even spoken languages often played together. I also observed that there was a strong sense of community at recess. When a student was hurt playing or by another student, the children would rush to their aid, either helping them to the nurse or confronting the student directly. It was great to see kids helping each other in such a way, in a world where everyone seems to be against each other.

When I wasn’t playing with the children, I often engaged them in conversation. The students in kindergarten would talk about their friends, hobbies, and what they did in class. The older students talked about their home lives; some had parents that were divorced, were being raised by a single mother, and/or lived in troubled neighborhoods. I appreciated the students’ willingness to share sensitive information with someone they had just began to know.

I believe we had a positive impact on the students. I think they got a better understanding of cooperation, safety, and inclusion. The children definitely learned better by seeing the benefits of healthy play first-hand, rather than experiencing the consequences of unhealthy play at the hands of a teacher or administrator. I hope the students can translate these lessons to situations later on in life.

I learned that recess is an essential program for children to have. It is an important time for them to socialize with classmates, make new friends, and most importantly, release stress and built-up energy. Recess period has been cut to shorter times and even removed completely across the country. This is definitely a mistake because recess isn’t simply a time for children to ‘run around’, but a time to interact with peers. For some children, that period could be the only physical activity they perform, and we shouldn’t take that away. I loved my experience doing this program and I hope I can do it again.

To look at photos at this program, check out our Flickr account! North Windham Elementary School Recess Program



By: Brianna Faustini

Growing up, I always wanted to be an elementary school teacher. When I found out I could volunteer my time through the CCE as credit for my class, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get myself out there and make the best of both worlds: volunteer doing what I love and get credit for a class. As I was deciding where to volunteer, I saw that the CCE had an after school program with elementary school students at Windham Center School from 3:15-5:15 on Tuesdays, and I knew I had to do it.

Once I became a volunteer, I talked with the volunteer leader, Alana, who helped guide me through the program. First, Alana sat me down and explained what to do, what not to do, and how to act at the program. Then we were off to Windham Center School! AUntitleds I walked in, the students all looked in my direction like I was a celebrity; they looked at me in excitement, and gave me a hug that felt like it lasted an eternity. I worked mostly with the kindergarteners and third graders, helping them with their homework and doing fun activities. One thing we did was cook! Every week a woman came in and brought ingredients and even a skillet for the children to use; they made pancakes and were able to decorate them with little treats. They all enjoyed the help and advice I gave them and always looked forward to seeing me at the program. I helped them learn different tricks, such as doing nine multiplications with your fingers to get the answer instantly!

Volunteering at the Windham Center School is such a rewarding experience. Some of the children came from broken families that didn’t have much, and giving them undivided attention meant everything since they don’t get that enough at home. I am so happy I chose to do this program through the CCE. I was able to get a real life experience and learn how the children are in Willimantic. I believe improving our children’s education, giving them more of the individual help they need, and being able to connect with them more can make a huge difference in this town’s reputation and educational system. Being able to see the children on a weekly basis, I was able to build a strong bond with them, making me never want to leave. I knew what each student had to work on to improve and what they were confident with. Although I am done with the 15 hours of community service I need for class, I still plan on volunteering my time here next semester, becauseUntitled1 of the impact it had on me.

I would recommend that everyone do this program and have a chance to experience what I did. When you work with these children, you realize how lucky you are to have what you do, especially because some of them have broken families. They look forward to seeing you every week, and you walk into the room, the looks on their faces are priceless. The bond that you create with them is like no other feeling in the world.

To look at photos of this program, check out our Flickr account! Windham Center After School Program

W.B. Sweeney Elementary School After School Program

By: Briana Torres

Program Mission
The After School Program offers a series of educational, artistic, and creative events for children. With help from organizations such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Community Engagement, we provide health and safety projects, as well as mentoring and reading support.

What We Did
Every Friday from 3:15 to 5:15, I would attend the Before and After School Program (BASP) to volunteer and spend my time with about 25-30 kids in my community. When we first arrived, the children would be finishing up their snacks before the program started. Then they would separate into groups among the four staff and volunteers to read books and complete homework. After the reading portion was over, the CCE would have a planned activity that would allow the children to work creatively with their peers. For example, one day we learned how baking soda reacted in different liquids; and on another occasion we had them act out different animals in a group.

Volunteer Responsibilities

  • Help the children with their snacks.
  • Help the children read books and do homework.
  • We usually have a program set up for the children to complete that allows the children to be creative while learning.
  • Interact with the children by facilitating games for all of them to play together outside.

Experience and Impact
Overall, I liked working at the BASP program at Sweeney. The program was very structured, and way the students respected and admired the program staff and volunteers. I learned that kids always love to learn when you make it fun. They are so bright and open with you, and it is amazing to watch their minds grow as they learn new things. This program changed my life, because I got to bond with the kids as the program progressed, and it was hard to say goodbye.

Through volunteering I was allowed to connect with the kids in the community around me instead of staying in the “Eastern Campus Bubble” and get to know the children that actually live here. Willimantic has a diverse community that contain children with really big personalities. This program continues to run every year giving the children a safe place to go after school is let out when parents might not be available. This allows parents to know that their children are well taken care of and their education is the number one priority.

Day of Giving

By: Christina Sinclair

I have always wanted to help others, but I questioned why I should volunteer my time; and, as a college student, I wondered how I could possibly help others in need. However, with Thanksgiving approaching, I started thinking about the many people that won’t be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner; and then, I decided to go the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) to see what volunteer programs they had. The one that stood out to me the most was the Day of Giving Food Drive, so I signed up, and within a day I had an email with the day and time I was volunteering. I was so excited!

On the day of the food drive, we went to the Willimantic Co-op and asked people to donate money and/or food for the Covenant Soup Kitchen. We set up by getting carts and boxes to put the donations in, making signs to hold up, and making flyers to hand out to the customers that walked by. We talked to the customers before they went in to the store, and they were more likely to bring out a canned good or box of food to us for donation than those that ignored us. Almost everyone tried to donate at least one food product, and, in fact, most people donated more than one item! When the day was finished, we had money that was donated, as well as a cart and a huge box filled with food products!

Not only was I able to help people in need, but I also got to talk to people from the Willimantic community. Most people would stop to talk to us, and would listen when we told them about the fire truck that goes around town to alert people when it is time for lunch or dinner, and then we told them how helpful their donations would be. They would tell us that we were doing a good deed, and then would express interest in signing up to volunteer at the Covenant Soup Kitchen. Before this event, I used to think that people did not care about others and just did what was best for them, but everyone in Willimantic showed caring for one another. It made me realize that there are good-hearted people who want the best for their community and the people that live in it.

I recommend that people volunteer for the Day of Giving and any other programs that the CCE has to offer, because it makes you feel better about yourself and helps hundreds of people in need. The food that is donated from the Day of Giving food drives helps people from the Windham community. UntitledIt is cooked and served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to the people in the community that are in need of a good meal.

To look at photos of this event, check out our Flickr account! Day of Giving


St. Joseph Living Center

Volunteering for Seniors Brings Life to the Everyday

By: Morgan Maliff, April 28, 2016

While volunteering at St. Josephs Living center, I would interact with the residents by helping them participate in fun and engaging activities.  St. Josephs plans an activity everyday to give residents the option to get out of their rooms and have social engagements with other residents, volunteers, and visitors. Part of my job as a volunteer was to bring residents to the recreation room to participate in the activities. Many of the residents had trouble physically getting to the recreation room to participate, so I would go room to room and ask them if they wanted to join that day. If the resident was feeling up for the activity, I would give them a ride in their wheel chair or guide them with their walker to the recreation room.

Each week the residents would be very happy to see me helping out. They would enjoy making small talk and ask me how school is going. My help would allow the residents to be able to enjoy activities they may not have been able to enjoy with out assistance of others. We did a lot of cooking and craft activities, which need a lot of extra hands because there is a lot to do and many residents would join in for the fun. The resident’s also enjoyed having someone to talk to while they waited for activities and enjoyed being out of their rooms. Many of the residents would talk about how lonely they get in their rooms. They would always be appreciative to have me there and give them a break from solitude. The activities also gave them a feeling of independence, which many residents feel they lost by living at St. Josephs.

The most rewarding part of volunteering was seeing how happy residents would get when they can share their stories. Especially, the residents who do not get many visitors they would be so happy to be out of their room and be able to hear about current events, the weather, and so much more. I saw how moving away from your home and losing much of your independence is not easy, especially after you’ve been independent for so long. It made me understand that residents being able to share knowledge with a young person can help them regain a little bit of the independence they lost.

I learned a lot about myself during the volunteering experience. I learned that sometimes just your time and ear could mean the world to people. You do not always have to donate money or material things for people to truly appreciate you. I learned that the residents all had extremely interesting lives and many moved to Connecticut from various places. I met men that served in our military and had a ton of stories about their experiences serving for our country. It felt great to be valued by the people of St. Josephs both the staff and the residents. I surely will miss volunteering with these incredible men and women.

Petey Greene Program at Brooklyn Correctional Institute

Help your Community, Go Greene!

By: Alezandria Brown, April 28, 2016

I had been looking for a volunteer opportunity that reflected what I wanted to pursue in my future career. I intend to become a Probation Officer, therefore I was looking for something criminal justice related. Upon looking into the CCE, I found what I knew would be the perfect fit! The process of beginning volunteering was made exceptionally easy by the CCE student Leaders, whom conducted numerous workshops and informational meetings. The Petey Greene Program that I participated in was conducted at the Brooklyn Correctional Institute in Brooklyn, CT and consisted of tutoring inmates who are working towards earning their GED.

Upon our arrival at the prison every Wednesday, we were unaware of the extent of the tutoring that we would be doing. The anticipation and mystery of not knowing what we were getting into that day kept us on our toes. I was mostly nervous that I would be working with a student who was working on something that I didn’t know how to do! Although I assure you that I received my high school diploma, as well as an Associate Degree from an accredited community college, I was still uneasy about tutoring another person in math. It can be very intimidating! However, I mostly found myself aiding the students in, yes you guessed it, math! The GED practice booklets posed as a challenge for me but I accepted it with my head held high. I refused to let my student see my nerves because that would not benefit either one of us. I found, however, that the students are just as willing to help you as you are in helping them. Together, we worked our way through the obstacles of geometry and algebra and managed to understand the problems efficiently.

The appreciation that the students had for us was blatant every time that we finished with the sessions. They repeatedly thanked me and told me that they looked forward to seeing me the following week so that we could pick up where we left off. This alone has proven to be rewarding to me because I can see the impact that 2 hours of my day has made for these individuals. I feel that it is important to instill confidence and optimism within these students because, although they are students, they are inmates when it comes down to it. At the end of the session I get to go home, but these men go back to a lonely cot that serves as a temporary home. It is imperative that we help them as much as we can in all aspects so that they are able to fully function in society and be a part of the community once again. It is not impossible to rehabilitate people whom have served time in prison; it just takes a substantial amount of time and dedication. This Petey Greene Program promotes the significance of education among the inmate population and gives them skills that they can take with them and apply to their lives once placed back in the community. For this very reason, I encourage others to Go Greene and experience this highly rewarding opportunity. I am proud to say that I will always be a Greenie!