Site Spotlight: YMCA STRIVE

When most of us think of the YMCA, we may think of throwing our hands up in air and singing along to the hit song we grew up with.  It turns out, the YMCA is actually a fun place to stay! In addition to being a song many of us know and love, the YMCA works on strengthening communities by providing a variety of enriching classes and programs for children, teens, and adults. In Manchester, many of these programs cater toward at-risk children and teens. Through the Meelia Center, Saint Anselm students have the opportunity to volunteer for some of these meaningful programs. Hailey Droogan '19, a Criminal Justice and Social Work double major, serves as the site coordinator for some of the programs offered through the YMCA. She shares a little bit more about a program that is particularly significant to her- YMCA STRIVE.


What sites do you coordinate? Why is YMCA STRIVE special to you? I coordinate YMCA STRIVE, YMCA START, YMCA STAY, YMCA Teen Center, Webster House, and Making Community Connections Charter School (MC2). Not trying to pick favorites, YMCA STRIVE has a special spot in my heart because of how dedicated the staff are to the program and the amazing success rate of the teenagers that go through the program.

What kind of work do you and your volunteers do at YMCA STRIVE? YMCA STRIVE is a program run at the Granite State YMCA for middle school and high school students that have been expelled or suspended from school. At STRIVE, they do school work and take test to receive credit towards their diploma. At the site, my volunteers and I help the kids with their work and just hang out with them.

Who has really impacted you during your time serving at YMCA STRIVE? The staff there is amazing. They all are so passionate about the teenagers and kids that attend the site. When a new student enrolls in the program, Mr. Simpson, the teacher at the site, will talk to the student for a little bit throughout the day. He will remind the student that being expelled or suspended doesn't say anything about their character. He tells them that they had a bad day, and that it's okay to have a bad day every once in a while- just don't have a lot of bad days at once. He then will make an effort to get the know the student and what their home life is like. I think that because there is someone like Mr. Simpson in this program, there's no surprise that the program is so successful. The program has a higher success rate for the students that attend and they tend to do better in the STRIVE Program than the do in a public school setting. This is because the students get the one on one attention that they need and their environment isn't distractive.

What would you tell people who might be interested in YMCA STRIVE? YMCA STRIVE really is a good program. You get to volunteer with a lot of different populations. I've worked with middle school students and high school students of different races, ethnicities, abilities, etc. It really is a flexible program and a great way to get involved in the Manchester community. Also, you get a free membership if you volunteer for eight hours a month!


If you think you'd have fun serving at the YMCA, reach out to Hailey Droogan for more information at @hdroogan@anselm.edu! 

FAPNO: A night out for children and parents

On any given day in the United States, there are about 415,000 children in foster care. Children are placed in foster care because their families are going through a crisis. Often these children have been removed from their parents because they are unsafe, abused or neglected. 135,000 of the children in foster care are up for adoption, with an estimated 50,644 of these children getting adopted each year. The average wait period for adoption is nearly 8 years.

These statistics are shocking and troubling. As college students, it is difficult to find a tangible solution for helping children in the foster care system and children who have been adopted. However, Foster and Adoptive Parents Night Out gives Saint Anselm students a unique opportunity to aid both these children and their foster or adoptive parents.

On the last Thursday of every month, Saint Anselm students prepare to host 50 children for Foster and Adoptive Parents Night Out. The event, more commonly known as FAPNO, gives foster and adopted children a night of games, crafts, and movies while their parents run errands, catch up on chores, or enjoy a well-deserved dinner date.

This relatively new Anselmian tradition began nearly four years ago with the help of Riley Duggan '15 and Caroline Powers '07. Duggan, an alum who had been dedicated to the Meelia Center, worked with DCYF social worker and alum Caroline Powers '07 to craft a night that catered toward both the children and their parents.

Jenna Baker '19 currently serves as the coordinator of FAPNO, after volunteering for the event throughout her freshman year. Baker reflects on what the program has come to mean to her.

"As a freshmen, I attended FAPNO and was able to learn about the value of making connections with children in foster care and the importance of giving foster parents some time to themselves. Every month, dozens of foster children come running on to campus with smiles on their faces and enough energy to keep us college students busy for hours! FAPNO is a great way for students to gain some service experience which is something that is so important to the Anselmian community."

Baker comes up with a theme for each night and and picks crafts, games, decorations, and a movie that go along with the theme. Baker also gathers volunteers to make and prepare these crafts, games, and decorations in the nights leading up to FAPNO. Additionally, she ensures the planning process is communicated to the social workers and parents. Baker emphasizes how important this event is for all involved.

IMG_4492"During FAPNO, we play games with the kids, feed them dinner, do arts and crafts and watch a movie. But what the kids enjoy the most is being able to spend time with fun college students who become friends and positive role models for the kids.

FAPNO is also very important to families because it allows the parents to have some well deserved respite time. In addition, FAPNO provides foster children with an opportunity to interact with other foster children, as well as engage with dedicated SAC volunteers who are great role models and support systems for them."

This month, FAPNO will be held on Thursday, February 23 from 5pm to 8pm in the Carr Center. The theme is "Zootopia," complete with zoo-themed games and crafts. All are welcome to stop by and volunteer for this event and make a difference in the lives of children and parents, as well as making a difference in your own life.


 

For more information on FAPNO, contact Jenna Baker at jbaker@anselm.edu!

Valentines Day Dance Reflections

As the DJ turned the music down and the last guests left the dance floor, the 25th Annual Valentines Day Dance was officially over. The craft tables were full of leftover glitter glue and face paint, the balloon arch stood empty, and the sorbet punch was all gone. While guests grabbed their coats and volunteers took down remaining decorations, everyone reflected on another beautiful Valentines Day Dance.

Each year, the Saint Anselm community welcomes members of Southern New Hampshire's special needs community for a Valentines Day celebration. This year's celebration was held on February 11, 2017 from 1pm to 4pm in the Carr Center. With dozens of clubs running craft tables, plenty of volunteers making decorations, and guests from all over Southern New Hampshire on the dance floor, the celebration was an incredible success for the 25th year in a row.

For some, the Annual Valentines Day Dance is a time to catch up with loved ones. Erin Clapp '17 has been attending the Valentines Day Dance with her cousin Evie since Clapp's freshmen year at Saint Anselm.

"Evie has severe autism among other diagnoses and its not always easy to find things she enjoys to do. Evie and I are very close and spend a lot of time together when I am at home…Evie loves to
dance and sing, so freshman year my aunt and I thought we would give it a shot!" Clapp reminisced. She elaborated on all the memories her and Evie have singing on car rides and having dance parties at home. Evie is a particularly big fan of pop stars like Katy Perry and Kesha, and has attended dance class since she was 5 years old.

"Neither of us knew2017-02-11 14.14.29 what to expect. Evie was very excited about coming to campus and seeing me, but neither of us was sure what the dance was like. She came storming in with smiles and starting jumping in excitement. The music and the atmosphere was so welcoming and she was ecstatic to be there. I was so thrilled to see Evie having a good time and singing and dancing with some of her friends from her own community!" Clapp explained, mentioning that many of Evie's friends from her dance class often attend the celebration.

 

This year, Clapp came to the Valentines Day Dance alongside Evie for their fourth dance together- and Clapp's last dance as a student at Saint Anselm. As soon as the two showed up, they wasted no time. The dynamic pair headed straight to the dance floor where they remained for hours, dancing and singing under all the Valentines Day decorations.

"Every year at the dance is different with Evie. She plans her outfit in advance and always talks about which songs she wants to dance to. I am so glad I got to spend my four years at the Valentines Day Dance with Evie. I know that she enjoys her time at the dance and I will miss being able to share this event with her. It is something that has been very special for us. I am so glad that Saint Anselm gave me the opportunity to bring Evie to campus and share part of my school with her."

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The memories made at the Valentines Day Dance are only possible through the combined efforts of our entire community—both on and beyond the Hilltop. Maggie Walker '17, the Meelia Center's  Service Events Coordinator for the dance, prepared months before the dance to make sure volunteers and guests were ready for the special celebration. Walker accredits the success of the event to the dedication of the Meelia Center's staff, as well as all of those who were in attendance. When asking any given person what their favorite part of the Valentines Day Dance is, they are likely to mention students, faculty, staff, and community members coming together to spread some love. As February comes to a close, the community looks forward to all the years of celebration to come through the Annual Valentines Day Dance.

A Closer Look at the Annual Valentines Day Dance

As February approaches, people often scramble to make plans for Valentines Day or aim to avoid the Hallmark holiday all together. The day intended to celebrate romantic love is often resented by many who would rather spend their day alone. Instead of reserving the holiday for romantic love, the Saint Anselm community works celebrate all types of love on Valentines Day through service and friendship. Weeks before the holiday, Service Events staff and Office Assistants at the Meelia Center begin preparing for the Annual Valentines Day Dance. This year, the dance will be held on February 11, 2017 from 1pm-4pm in the Carr Center. The dance caters toward the special needs community all across Southern New Hampshire. Complete with music, games, craft tables, snacks, cookies, and tons of decorations, the day of love is often equivocal to a prom, a homecoming, or any other special event. Many involved with the Valentines Day Dance agree that it is one of the happiest days of the entire year.

The Meelia Center's Office Assistants will be preparing and celebrating their first Valentines Day Dance in just a few days. Often preforming behind-the-scenes tasks in the Meelia Center, the Office Assistants work passionately to ensure that all service events run smoothly. As Erin Martin '20 works on decorating signs for the Valentines Day Dance, she reflects on all the preparation that goes into the Meelia Center's service events. While Martin loves volunteering at the events, she expresses the value in being involved in with all that goes on before the event.

The OAs are often freshmen looking to get involved in service, and eventually transition to roles with more responsibilities. Becky Rondeau '20 currently works as an OA, and she hopes this position will give her the skills to be a Site Coordinator next semester. Having joined the Meelia Center staff as a freshman, Rondeau speaks about how her experience shaped her first year here at Saint Anselm.

"The Meelia Center definitely opened me up to more people. Especially people in other grades. People often see grade as a limit, but not here in the Meelia Center," Rondeau explains. The Meelia Center has over 80 staff members composed of students from all different grades, majors, and backgrounds. Each staff member is dedicated to strengthening relationships within and beyond the Saint Anselm community.

This Valentines Day, the Meelia Center, the Saint Anselm community, and the larger Southern New Hampshire community will come together for the 25th year in a row to create a day of love that everyone will benefit from.  All are welcome to sign up to volunteer at the 25th Annual Valentines Day Dance, or just stop by to enjoy the atmosphere created by the incredible Office Assistants. Everyone has a place at the dance, even those who typically resent Valentines Day! In fact, the Valentines Day Dance may just make Valentines Day your favorite day of the year.

 

 

Access Academy: Let's talk about privilege

On January 30th and 31st of 2017, Manchester high school students joined members of the Saint Anselm community for the Access Academy Open House. Access Academy is an after-school program run through the Meelia Center targeting refugee, immigrant, and underrepresented high school students in Manchester. This year, the Access Open House partnered with the Multicultural Center to host Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired activities.     

Zach Procek '17 and Hailey Grant '17 stand in front of a diverse crowd of high school and college students. Procek instructs everyone to crumble up a piece of paper into a ball. The crowd follows his instruction quizzically. Grant holds up a trash bin at the front of the room. Procek tells the crowd to stand up and throw their paper ball into the trash bin. But there is one catch: they cannot move from their place in the crowd. The students in the front row aim effortlessly and get their paper ball in the trash bin in one motion. The students toward the back deliberate on their method, aim carefully, and almost always miss.

"Who thought that was a fair activity?" Procek asks the crowd. A few students in the front row raise their hands while the students in the back are silent. This activity, Procek explains, represents the reality of privilege. Procek and Grant highlight the privilege of education. Every person in the room is granted access to an education- a privilege they should use to achieve their own dreams, as well as help others without this privilege achieve their dreams. Although, there are other privileges for the crowd to consider as well.

Candace Bonarrigo '19 guides a discussion for a group of students from Uganda and The Congo. Bonarrigo gets the students thinking about the challenges they may face in achieving their dreams. The students come to an agreement that having English as their second language has been a challenge. Despite the challenges they face, the students remain wildly passionate. Bonarrigo encourages the students to think about their craziest goals and dreams.

Isaac, an immigrant from The Congo and a long-time Access Academy student, puts on a large smile when Bonarrigo asks him what his dreams are. He gets lost in thought for a moment before telling the group that there are plenty of things he would like to do. "I might be a psychologist, maybe a musician." Bonarrigo suggests Isaac can be both at once, and the group laughs. The students go on to chat about why they are excited about their Access Academy programs. Some are passionate about Creative Writing, others about Student Action, and many about beginning Career and College Exploration.

The needs of immigrants, refugees, and those otherwise underrepresented are too often an afterthought in the United States. The exercise and discussion about privilege at the Open House recognizes that socioeconomic identity frequently dictates how many steps one needs to take to achieve their dreams.

Access Academy gives all students a chance to recognize the role of privilege, and challenges high school students to take an active role in their educational success and future. This semester, Access Academy is offering 7 high-school credit courses for Manchester students. These programs include Computer Literacy, Career Exploration, Creative Writing and Communication, College Admission, Environmental Studies, Humanities, and Student Action; each program is led by students from the Meelia Center, as well as other members of the Saint Anselm community.

Getting the paper ball into the trash bin can be difficult when you are in the back row. When those in the front recognize they can clear the way for those in the back, everyone succeeds. Take a moment to reflect on both the privileges and the challenges you face in your life. When we recognize our power and acknowledge our needs, we can more effectively help both ourselves and those around us.

Access Academy

Access Academy Presentations from Spring 2015.