Skip to Main Site Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Back To Top
decorative element

Community Engagement

Students at Eastern Connecticut State University gave almost 11,000 hours of community service during the 2014-15 academic year through the Center for Community Engagement. The annual Service Expo and Awards, on April 8, showcased many of these student-led efforts and programs, which address the diverse needs of the local community. From helping out at the No Freeze Hospitality Center, to volunteering at after-school programs with Windham Public Schools, to working with disabled adults at the High Chase Live-in Center, to coordinating clothing drives, Eastern students volunteered in a variety of ways and causes.

The Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) held its Fun Mud Day obstacle course last May. Based on the military-style obstacle course "Tough Mudder," Fun Mud Day challenged the preschool children enrolled at the center to get out of their comfort zones and try a variety of muddy obstacles they typically do not come across. Like the Tough Mudder, the goal of the event was not to win, but simply to try.

Eastern took the lead in a collaborative effort to transform historic downtown Willimantic into an alternative art space for the six-weeklong My Windham Project. This past April to June, hundreds of arts patrons from Connecticut and beyond visited Willimantic to tour the exhibition's many art installations, galleries and theatrical performances. More than 30 regional artists were on display. A trail of yarn and frog footprints (Willimantic icons) led visitors down Main Street-which was adorned in yarn, paint, vinyl, clay and ceramics-to My Windham destinations. The exhibition received funding support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Town of Windham and Eastern.

 Day of Giving

Hundreds of members of the Willimantic community visited Eastern on Nov. 26 for the eighth annual Day of Giving. Despite the day's inclement weather, Eastern's dining facility, Hurley Hall, bustled as usual, serving up hot Thanksgiving meals to more than 400 community members who otherwise may not have had one. Faculty, staff, alumni and students volunteered to help serve the food. The Day of Giving has become a fixture in Willimantic during the holiday season. Eastern students also coordinated a food drive that yielded more than 3,000 canned goods that were donated to the local soup kitchen and food pantries. Food pantry officials indicated those food items will last them into the summer months.

The Interschool Walk for Warmth, an awareness-raising event for Windham elementary schoolchildren, occurred last October at Windham Middle School. Approximately 300 children from the five public elementary schools of Windham participated in the event, which required the children to run around the middle school's track so they could earn points to pay for crafts and educational activities going on within the field. The Interschool Walk for Warmth was a collaborative effort between Eastern's Center for Community Engagement and Windham Public Schools. It also drew approximately 70 volunteers from Eastern, Windham High School and the University of Connecticut.

President Núñez and others from Eastern braved the rain on July 4, 2014, for the 29th Annual Boom Box Parade down Main Street in Willimantic. The annual parade, which has drawn international media attention over the years, featured dozens of floats, fire engines, antique cars, martial arts clubs, and assorted other participants. Governor Dannel Malloy, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Windham Mayor Ernie Eldridge were among the crowd.

At the 2015 Connecticut Campus Compact Awards (CTCC), Eastern Connecticut State University and Windham Public Schools won the Campus-Community Partnership Award for their joint effort with Puentes al Futuro (Bridges to the Future), an afterschool program for Latino youth living in Willimantic. Puentes has resulted in a partnership that benefits local schoolchildren while enhancing the learning of Eastern students. In the four years the partnership has been in effect, more than 150 children from Windham Middle School and Windham High School have received year-round mentoring and tutoring from 80 Eastern students, while enjoying enrichment activities related to Latino cultures.

In an ongoing effort to strengthen ties with the local community while also providing hands-on learning experiences for students, Eastern began a partnership with the Windham nonprofit CLiCK this past May. CLiCK (Commercially Licensed Cooperative Kitchen, Inc.) offers a culinary education/cooking facility and community garden for local people and organizations. From programs in health sciences to sustainable studies, social work to business administration, "CLiCK offers the use of their teaching kitchen where faculty and students can hold classes and events, as well as learning opportunities in the community garden on the property," said Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement.

Eastern's chapter of Best Buddies was named Overall Outstanding Chapter in the United States in summer 2014 at the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference at Indiana University. Best Buddies is a nonprofit, worldwide organization that helps create friendships for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Eastern's chapter holds a variety of events each year, from dances to friendship walks.

Because of its commitment to the disabled adults who live in the High Chase Residential Center in Willington, CT, Eastern's chapter of People Helping People (PHP) won one of two Connecticut Higher Education Community Service Awards this past April at the State Capitol. For the past seven years, PHP has organized a group of students to visit High Chase every week during the academic year to socialize with the residents. The visits are a highlight for High Chase residents, who do not get much interaction from the outside world. The award was given by the State's Office of Higher Education.

Also in the spring semester, PHP collected 840 pairs of jeans for the "Teens for Jeans" campaign. Member Kirby Madden-Hennessey '15 brought the initiative to Eastern and setup collection boxes in dorms throughout campus and collected donations at sports games. "I'm ecstatic and thankful at how successful the campaign was!" she said.

The Center for Community Engagement and the rugby team co-hosted another successful "Plunge for Hunger" this past February. For the event, nearly 200 members of the Eastern and Willimantic communities dove into the frigid Natchaug River to raise funds and support for the local Covenant Soup Kitchen. Thousands of dollars were raised, and generously matched by the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation.

To raise awareness about homelessness, last fall semester members of Habitat for Humanity spent the night outside sleeping in cardboard boxes-despite temperatures in the low 20s on that November night. With the students bringing sleeping bags, blankets, cardboard boxes and plenty of duct tape to the Shackathon, the front of the Student Center was transformed into a shantytown. The event was also a fundraiser to benefit the Windham chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Early in the fall 2014 semester, more than 300 students participated in the Poverty Awareness Marathon. A donation was required to register for the 26.5 mile run around campus, with each lap consisting of 1.2 miles. Participants were encouraged to come and go as their schedule permitted. Approximately 560 nonperishable food items were collected for the Covenant Soup Kitchen, and 667 miles were covered in total by participants.

To kick off the fall 2014 semester, more than 100 freshmen and transfer students volunteered throughout Willimantic for the annual Warrior Welcome. Activities included clearing brush around the Railroad Museum; preparing and serving lunch at the Covenant Soup Kitchen; weeding, harvesting and maintaining community gardens with the Willimantic Chamber of Commerce; organizing and folding clothes with the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry; and assisting Sweeney Elementary School with its Field Day.