Site Spotlight: Bridge Academy (written and coordinated by Grace D'Antuono)

Bridge Academy, is an alternative high school to benefit teens who are dealing with drug, mental health or behavioral issues that prevent them from thriving in a standard high school environment. Many have varying backgrounds; some formerly incarcerated, some are mothers, and others are fighting mental illness. Some of these tribulations may have gotten in the way of their attendance at their public high school, but after ten consecutive days of absence, the Manchester School Department prohibits students from returning to classes (Board of Schools Committee). This policy provides no mercy and narrows the chance of success tremendously. However, by taking individualized classes at Bridge Academy, students are given the opportunity to earn their high school diploma.

IMG_3599The program started towards the beginning of the fall semester of 2016, and when I was told I was going to be in charge of it I didn’t know what to expect. As any other volunteer, I knew I would be working as a teacher’s assistant, something I had done before, but never like this. The first time I went to the school I was unsure if I would be able to handle this new situation. I was intimidated by the idea of working with the unknown. I was afraid that they wouldn’t like me. I was nervous to be out of my comfort zone. Most of all, I was scared by the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to make connections with any students because our backgrounds are so different.

After attending a few classes there, I realized the reasons that I was afraid are the very same reasons I belonged there. We were each venturing outside of our comfort zones, and working towards a better future. I became outraged that a policy as unforgiving as that of the Manchester School Department exists, knowledgeable of lives separate of my own, and a better person because of my experience volunteering there.

At Bridge Academy, the students take lessons in math and English, while I learn from their resilience and hope.

To further your learning outside of the Saint A’s classroom contact Grace D’Antuono at

Site Spotlight: Girls Inc. (Coordinated by Jacqueline Talbot and Gillian Kayo)

According to their website, Girls Inc. "inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through direct service and advocacy."  Girls Inc. is an after school and dinner program that provides girls aged 5-15 from mostly low income, impoverished, or broken homes a safe, positive, and empowering environment. With Girls Inc.’s mission in mind, Meelia site coordinators Jacqueline Talbot and Gillian Kayo hope to instill this mentality in their own lives and in the lives of their volunteers.

girls incorpJacqueline provided some insight into what volunteers can expect in a typical semester at Girls Inc.:

"Volunteers go to the site to provide a positive role model for the girls. They hang out with them, play games, or help with homework. The girls rely on the volunteers coming each week and get super excited whenever volunteers arrive. A lot of volunteers are able to create bonds with the girls which makes going even more impactful."

Girls Inc. also puts on annual events for the girls, usually for the holidays. Jacqueline adds that "the parties are a lot of fun and included face painting, crafts, and other activities. These are great for the girls because it breaks up their regular daily routine and provides them with excitement."

Aside from events that Girls Inc. plans, the Meelia Center works with various other organizations at Saint Anselm College to fundraise for the girls. Last year, according to Jacqueline, they "also worked with Campus Ministry, and were able to get all the girls a pair of sneakers for Christmas through the giving tree, which was amazing."

If you are interested in volunteering with Girls Inc., please contact either Jacqueline Talbot ( or Gillian Kayo (


Site Spotlight: YMCA Strive by Hailey Droogan '19

Every twenty six seconds a teenager makes the choice to drop out of high school, and thus gives up on their education ( Why is this statistic so high? Why are students dropping out so often? High school is hard and teenagers can be cruel, but all of us got through it. Why can’t everyone else?

ymcaManchester Public Schools serve a large and diverse student population. Although 60% of students are White-Non Hispanic, there is a large Hispanic and African American population, and all together this school district represents just shy of 14,000 students ( Despite serving so many students, the district is underfunded and understaffed. In a school comprised of a multitude of students and not enough staff, there are students that are forgotten about—students who others assume won’t amount to much, students who are perceived to lack the bright future many of us were guaranteed.

There is nothing concrete that makes these students different than others; their education must also be valued. These students simply need extra guidance and support, which they often cannot find within the school system. These students need a mentor like you, a college student who they can relate to and someone that understands the struggles of high school. Someone that inspires the students to ask: “If they can do it, why can’t I?”

IMG_3322The YMCA in Manchester offers a program called STRIVE, which serves and supports students that have been recently suspended or expelled. The program provides an academic environment to complete necessary course work along with life skills classes to better their daily lives. As a volunteer at STRIVE, you may have a role as a tutor, but you are not just someone that helps students with their homework. You become a mentor and a friend to these students. You become a role model.

Education is a right, not a privilege. No student deserves to be underrepresented in the school system, but everyone deserves the support provided by YMCA STRIVE. If you want to get involved and make an impact, please contact me at    

Site Spotlight: Hillsborough County Nursing Home

On Monday April 24th, Saint Anselm College volunteers welcomed guests from the Hillsborough County Nursing Home for a morning of coffee, pastries, and bingo in Davison Dining Hall. HCNH provides a number of services for residents and patients with both short term and long term needs, including care for those experiencing Alzheimer's disease and terminal illness. Since all needs are met on site, there is often no need to journey away from HCNH.  As we can imagine, many residents and patients appreciate a change of scenery every once and a while. Service-learner Eva Karakolidis '17 invited guests from HCNH to campus for the first time last fall, and site coordinator Erin McCosh '20 ensured the tradition lived on this spring. McCosh offers her reflection about her time as coordinator for HCNH for our Site Spotlight.

What is your role at HCNH? What is the role of your volunteers?
I have 26 volunteers who go to my site. My role is to coordinate them and make sure they are all on track and everything runs smoothly. While at the site, the volunteers and I are each on one of the 7 units at HCNH for the entire semester. We help out in the activity aid in the common room and provide companionship to the residents. We are able to make a connection with the residents we see every week whether we are just talking about their life, our life, or just playing a card game or bingo with them.
What has been the most challenging thing about serving at the nursing home? What has been the most rewarding thing?
The most challenging thing is to witness how many of the residents do not get visitors from their family and friends. In turn, the most rewarding thing is being able to have one on one conversations with the residents and make that connection. You can tell how much they appreciate spending time with young volunteers. It brightens their day to have someone who genuinely just wants to spend time with them. I always tell my volunteers that the two hours they spend at HCNH may be the smallest part out of their day but it may be the happiest part out of one of their residents day. It's rewarding to see the joy we are able to bring to the residents.
What was it like having the residents here on campus?
Having the residents on campus was very fun for everyone! They loved the aspect of coming on a college campus and getting to spend time with the volunteers. We got them coffee and pastries from Dave and then played bingo. It was so nice for the residents to spend time with us in Davison and they loved it. When they were back on the bus I was saying goodbye to them and they were saying "thank you" and "God bless you." They were very grateful for us bringing them on campus. It was nice to see how happy they got that so many students wanted to spend their morning with them playing bingo.

 If volunteering at the Hillsborough County Nursing Home sounds like a good fit for you, make sure you stop by the Meelia Center to set up your plans for next year!

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! 

ENA and Holy Cross: All Are Welcome

In light of the recent immigrant and refugee bans coming from the Trump administration, the Manchester community as a whole is in a state of confusion and fear. Because Manchester is a refugee resettlement city, the community at large is rooted in a myriad of traditions and cultures from all around the globe. Saint Anselm College works closely with two sites in particular that have experienced the drastic changes within the immigrant and refugee community that have been enacted by President Trump.

English for New Americans and Holy Cross Family Learning Center offer ESL and Citizenship classes for the immigrant and refugee communities in Manchester. Their teachers are not only dedicated to what they are teaching, but to who they are teaching. Having witnessed and volunteered at both sites, I've seen firsthand the compassion and love that each site offers every student that walks through their doors.

ENA and Holy Cross are not just schools, but communities. Immigrants from different countries teach one another about their cultures. Language is not seen as a barrier, but rather an opportunity to connect with the other person and to learn more about this beautiful world that we live in.

Although ENA and Holy Cross stay clear of politics, they are making an impact in the lives of those affected by the immigrant and refugee bans. Instead of closing their doors or turning away students, both sites stand strong on the belief that all are welcome here; welcome at their sites and welcome in this nation.

UnknownThrough working at these sites, I understand the importance of inclusion and acceptance. I have gotten to see the impact that immigrant and refugee communities make on our overall community. I also have made friendships and connections that I will cherish forever.

Sometimes it is scary to recognize that differences do not make us weaker, but stronger. We want to believe that our nation is made up of the same people, same ethnicity, same orientations. From volunteering at ENA and Holy Cross, I've learned that these differences of cultures and tongues make us better. Inclusivity is what makes us vibrant and beautiful.

All are welcome.

[Read more…]

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."


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.

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.




Site Spotlight: Hillsborough County Nursing Home

Hillsborough County Nursing Home is coordinated by junior nursing major Jackie Parece. It is a nursing home in Goffstown, only a few minutes down the road from St. A’s. Students work one on one with the residents and even build friendships with them throughout the semester. Volunteers play games like bingo and cards with the Hillsborough residents, as well as accompany them on walks around the facility. Volunteers listen to their stories and keep them company during the day. A few of Jackie’s volunteers decided to share some of their fondest memories at Hillsborough, as their time volunteering comes to an end.cheer

Nicole Landry shares a sweet moment from her time at Hillsborough. “My favorite moment was when I was helping one of the women play bingo and she was having a really difficult time putting the bingo chips where she wanted them. When I helped her one of the other woman told me how nice of a person I was which really made me feel good because I did not think helping her was a big deal but it really showed me how it's the little things in life that matter and how helping people with little things can make them have a better day.”

Jaclyn O’Donnell says her favorite moment was during a goodbye. “My favorite moment so far is one day I was leaving and I said goodbye to the lady I was helping during bingo and she asked me where I was going. I told her I was going back to school and she said "okay, bye I will miss you". It was a good feeling to hear that.”

Lauren Rose states “…my favorite moment so far was going on a walk with a resident because we had finished up bingo and the nurses didn't really have anything for me to do. The man said he wouldn't mind spending some time with me so we walked around his unit and he talked to me for a little bit.”

Volunteering at Hillsborough County Nursing Home is a unique experience. Although the semester has come to an end, there will always be next semester if anyone is interested in volunteering. Working at a nursing home can be difficult, but also rewarding work. Thank you to all the volunteers from this semester who dedicated their extra time to brighten someone else’s day.

Access Academy Presentations 2016

On Tuesday April 19th, the Access Academy presentations were held in North Lounge. Professors from Saint A's, Meelia Center staff members, high school teachers, and Rich Meelia were all in attendance. The event began with guests walking through upper Cushing to admire the student's posters. Access participants stood in front of their works and presented on their topic. Poster topics ranged from Martin Luther King to Frida Kahlo, from favorite poems to computer program coding. Students from each program focused on different topics that were covered throughout the year.


A Humanities student's poster on Martin Luther King

Once the poster session came to a close, students and guests moved into  North Lounge for presentations and a panel discussion. Coordinators  from  each program stood in front of the room and explained their  programs to the crowd. These programs are: Humanities After School,  Computer Literacy, College Admissions, College and Career Exploration,  Environmental Studies, Public Achievement (Students in Action for the  Environment), and Creative Writing. A few students from each program j  joined them as well, and spoke about their personal experience with  Access Academy. They discussed particular projects they worked on, presentations they saw, and programs they created. Their presentations were incredibly touching, as many students shared their dreams with the audience. Some confessed they never saw college as a possibility until joining Access Academy. Others shared that they found new friends and even acceptance with the Academy. Students from Creative Writing stood in front of the audience and recited an original poem. It was moving to see the students come together from throughout the programs to share their knowledge and experience with others.

Some of the posters at the presentations.

Some of the posters at the presentations.

The second and final part of the afternoon was a panel discussion. Select students, volunteers, and coordinators sat in front of the room and audience members were invited to ask questions. They spoke about their individual experience with Access, either from a high school or college student perspective. Audience members asked thoughtful and interesting questions for the panel. One woman asked if the Meelia Center were to add a program into the Academy, what would they like it to be? A female high school student said she wishes there was a program on psychology. She hopes to someday become a psychologist and would love the added experience. Another young woman answered that she love if Access Academy would offer internship opportunities for the students to gain not only educational experience, but professional experience as well.

The panel came to an end at 6pm. Students and guests ate a light dinner and mingled until 6:30. After an exciting year, the Access Academy has finally come to a close for the semester. Access Academy will hopefully only continue to grow with years to come.