Max Goto, front, a sophomore from Hamden majoring in History and Murphy Almonte, back, a freshman from Bridgeport majoring in Psychology, lead
other Eastern students as they paint the band shell at Patriots Park in Coventry.
Willimantic, Conn. -- Student volunteers from Eastern Connecticut State University gave Coventry a "spring cleaning" on April 9 and received a warm reception from grateful townspeople. Approximately 200 volunteers registered for "Community Day 2011," putting in a 4- to 5-hour workday to clear hiking trails, paint the band shell at Patriots Park, landscape that and several other parks and spruce up other town facilities, including the Nathan Hale Homestead and two properties of the Coventry Historical Society. In all, Eastern students worked on 16 different projects during the day.
"The work the Eastern students did today was amazing," said Coventry Parks and Recreation Director Wendy Rubin. "I'm just thrilled. The work would not have been done if these students hadn't been here. It has changed the face of our town and created pride in our community. I also had an opportunity to get to meet a number of Eastern students. I was very impressed." Colin Doherty and Kristina Scherber, VISTA coordinators in the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), organized the day. "Because this is the first time we have come to Coventry, we spent a lot of time planning the day so that we would be ready once we got here," explained Doherty.
Left to right, Stephen Taylor, freshman from Haddam majoring in Sociology; Kate Harner, junior from Oxford majoring in English; Sarah Bojorquez, freshman from Columbia majoring in Sociology; and Nicolle Hill, freshman from Willimantic majoring in Communication.
Jennie Navarro, a senior English and Elementary Education major from Pomfret Center and a student employee in the CCE, worked behind with scenes with the Coventry Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments to identify projects for Eastern students to work on. "They were very appreciative and cooperative, and I think, as a result, we had some great outcomes today." "This was a fantastic experience -- lots of unique projects and a great turnout, given that all of us had to travel from campus," said Alex Cross, a senior history and political science major from Manchester. "Everyone here is a volunteer. That's what it's all about."
In addition to resident and commuter students, volunteers included members of the men's soccer team, as well as members of such clubs as the Organization of Latin American Students, the Campus Activity Board, People Helping People, the American Marketing Association, and Men Achieving Leadership, Excellence, and Success (MALES). "It's great knowing we can make a difference in the community," said Kate Harner, a junior communication major from Oxford. "As we were working, Coventry residents were walking by to thank us. It was extra special to hear their appreciation. It was a gorgeous day."
Student Government President Wiley Dawson, a junior history and education major from Bridgeport, Julie Nguyen, a freshman from East Hartford and Todd Aviles, a freshman from Hartford, visited 15 middle school students at the Channel 3 Kids Camp, sharing with them the importance of going to college and discussing what living on a liberal arts campus was like. "This is a great opportunity for Eastern students, faculty and staff to come together to achieve a common goal -- serving our communities," said Dawson. "In the process, we get to practice one of our University's core values -- social responsibility. I look forward to this event every spring."
"This was not just our students," remarked CCE Director Kim Silcox. "One of our retired police officers, Louise Wright, brought her church group and we also had a Daisy Girl Scouts Troop with us. Food for lunch was provided by Bidwell's, LJ's Barbeque and Country Kitchen and Dimitri's Pizza. It's all about working together with the community to improve our local towns."
In years past, Eastern has focused the annual spring cleanup in its hometown of Willimantic. "We have students from 164 of Connecticut's 169 towns," explained Silcox, "and alumni throughout eastern Connecticut and elsewhere. We thought it made sense to share our students' energy and time with other communities as well."