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Student leaders run community service programs

Published on October 26, 2021

Student leaders run community service programs

Covenant Soup Kitchen

Covenant Soup Kitchen

Windhm Recovery Community Center

Windhm Recovery Community Center

Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters

Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters

Windham Center After School Program

Windham Center After School Program

Twelve students at Eastern Connecticut State University are serving as "student leaders" this semester, overseeing 14 community service programs through the Center for Community Engagement (CCE). From assisting people who are experiencing homelessness to helping those who are food insecure, Eastern students are running programs that serve the most vulnerable communities in the Windham area.

Maria Lara Sandoval

Due to COVID-19 last year, the CCE had to greatly alter its operations, transitioning from in-person programming to a virtual format. “Last year all of our programs were virtual and while it wasn’t an ideal way of volunteering, many of our partners and students really enjoyed the interaction,” said Kim Silcox, director of the CCE. “This year nearly all the programs are back on ground, and we will continue in person for as long as the programs allow. We are excited to be back in the community.”

Maria Lara Sandoval oversees the Natchaug Elementary After School Program and is co-leader of the Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center.

Marissa Daniolos

“It feels amazing being able to do on-ground volunteer work again because I feel like it’s important for students to get first hand experience when volunteering,” said Sandoval. “Volunteering is important to me because I feel it puts so many things into perspective. We hear stories and stereotypes about the people around us but it’s different when we are actually playing a part and interacting with those individuals. Not only are we able to provide support and aid to those around us but we are also able to uplift them and debunk labels or stereotypes that were placed upon them.”

Marissa Daniolos is co-leader of the Windham Recovery Community Center, which is a part of the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), a non-profit organization that helps residents battling addiction achieve recovery.

Tashieka Sangster

“Volunteering is extremely important to me,” said Daniolos. “It provides an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and experience something that I may not have been able to before. It also allows me to truly become a part of the community and get to know every aspect of it in a positive and enriching manner.”

Tashieka Sangster oversees the Douglas Manor Nursing Center, which is a short-term rehabilitation center. “Volunteering has always been essential to me,” she said. “I’ve gained so much knowledge and grown so much more as a leader as our programs allow us the opportunity to step out of our comfort zones and gain new experiences.”

Kathryn Kubisek

Kathryn Kubisek oversees the North Windham and Village Heights after school programs, which are tailored to school children to help with homework, participate in activities and more. “Volunteering is important to me because it has expanded my worldview and helped me to gain new skills such as time management and communication,” said Kubisek.

Camryn Tyson

Camryn Tyson oversees the Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program and is co-leader of the Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center. BBBS is a virtual program that matches children six -18 years old with mentors. The Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center offers shelter to people experiencing homelessness. “With this opportunity, I have learned and gained so many things,” said Tyson. “From the experiences in the community to the connections made on campus, I have learned and matured in multiple ways.”

Kit Andersen is the leader of the Windham Center After School Program and is co-leader of the Windham Recovery Center. “Volunteering is the key factor in uplifting entire communities,” said Andersen. “There are beautiful aspects of almost every community across the country that most people would not realize, and one is the work of volunteers. Volunteering is a more powerful force than most people realize.”

Kit Andersen
Dania Banon Vazquez

Dania Banon Vazquez is co-leader of the Covenant Soup Kitchen and the Windham Recovery Center. “I personally love to meet and interact with others more in person than through a computer screen because I get more of a realistic measure of who they are,” said Banon Vazquez. “Being an out-of-state student, I was able to find a community within Eastern with the same values and passion I have for volunteering.”

Martha Castillo-Mercado

Martha Castillo-Mercado oversees the Barrows Stem Academy After School Program and is co-leader of the Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center. “It feels good to be back to in-person volunteering, of course while following COVID-19 guidelines,” said Castillo-Mercado. “It’s nice to meet our volunteers in person and recognize them around campus as well as our community partners. Volunteering is very important to me because it’s a way for me to not only give back to the community but to meet people who live in the area.”

Carlos Castro-Gomez

Carlos Castro-Gomez is co-leader of the Covenant Soup Kitchen which is a non-profit organization that provides meals to guests free of charge. “Many people want change in the world, but who are the ones that are actually willing to create that change?” asked Castro-Gomez. “Volunteering is one way to make those needed changes. It’s a powerful way to create a difference within the community and even yourself. As I'm able to offer essential help, volunteering is important to me because of the sense of accomplishment and difference I hope to make,” he said.

Yamileth Jarquin Yescas

Yamileth Jarquin Yescas oversees the Windham Middle School After School Program and is co-leader of the Windham Recovery Center and Puentes al Futuro, which translates to “Bridges to the Future.” Puentes al Futuro is an annual summer camp for local middle school children. “Volunteering is important to me because it allows me to meet a place or person beyond a first impression,” said Jarquin Yescas. “It allows you to understand why an issue came to be and how we, as a community, can do our part in making someone’s life a little better each day. I enjoy volunteering because it provides me with a sense of purpose when I feel lost and encourages me to explore the world outside of my comfort bubble.”

Paige Stegina

Paige Stegina leads the virtual programs for the St. Joseph Senior Living Center and the Reading Program. “Volunteering is important to me because it lets me give back to the community that I’m a part of,” said Stegina. “It allows me to meet new people with diverse backgrounds and make a difference. As a college student, I can go beyond what I learn in textbooks and my classes and be given real-life experiences that will impact me the rest of my life.”

In addition to these year-long community programs, the CCE also hosts special events such as blood drives, mobile food pantries, family nights at local public schools, beautification events and more.

Written by Bobbi Brown