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.

Access Academy Profile: Lois and Kevin

On Tuesday, April 12th, I sat down with two students from Access Academy to talk about their experience with the program. Lois and Kevin are two individuals who have recently moved to America. Lois moved to New Hampshire from The Congo less than one year ago and Kevin came to this country back in 2012 from France. Both students are native French speakers. They work with Jennifer Brown, a tutor who is service learning for her French class. She assists the students with their English speaking skills.

The students are incredibly involved with the Access program. Both Kevin and Lois are a part of Humanities After School, a program that teaches students about influential individuals across the world. Kevin is also a part of the Computer Literacy program, and Lois works with Public Achievement. I spoke with them about their involvement in Humanities After School, and they agreed with one another that they have learned quite a lot this past semester. Lois admitted the program has encouraged her to speak up more. She feels more confident in her English speaking ability. Kevin nodded in agreement and told me he felt much more comfortable speaking English around a large group of people. They also agreed that the program has helped them meet new people and has opened their eyes to different opportunities. A few weeks back, Lois and Jennifer told me about the college tour Access took the students on. The tour, along with coming to St. A’s every week, has really heped the students realize that going to college is a possibility for them.

Jennifer, Lois, and Kevin

Jennifer, Lois, and Kevin

I started asking them about their aspirations beyond high school and Access Academy. Kevin humbly admitted to me that life in America can be a bit boring compared to his life in France. However, he does believe the city life is much livelier. He finds math and biology exciting subjects to study in school. They come naturally to him and he finds them simple. He hopes to someday become an engineer. Lois said her favorite courses are math and art. She dreams of become a child psychologist one day and help children who struggle with mental disorders.  These students have big dreams and I believe their participation in the Access Academy program can help them reach those goals.

There are many students like Kevin and Lois who are involved with Access Academy. Each student has a unique background, has their own hopes and dreams, and gets something different out of their program. Every participant has a story and deserves to be heard. As the semester comes to a close, as does the Access Academy. On Tuesday, April 19th the students from each program will be presenting what they learned. There will be a panel discussion with the students and a poster session. It will be held in North Lounge, from 3:30-630.


Girl Scouts

"We’re 2.7 million strong—1.9 million girls and 800,000 adults who believe girls can change the world."

Girl Scouts began over one hundred years with Juliette Gordon 'Daisy' Low. She believed in women everywhere and wanted to empower young girls to be the best they can be. She wanted to help girls discover their strengths, passions, and talents through experiences such as community service, cultural exchanges, and games. Thus 'Girl Scouts' was born. The organization grows daily, with over 2.7 million members today. Even with such a large number of members, the organization cares deeply about each individual involved. Any child or adult is accepted into the ever growing movement, regardless of background. Girl Scouts encourages cultural differences. girl scouts

Their mission statement embodies everything it means to be a part of the organization: 'Girl scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.'

Maggie O'Connor '19, coordinates her own Girl Scout troop in Manchester through the Meelia Center. There is a long list of girls anxiously waiting to join a troop, but many parents  feel they do not have the time or energy to start one. So Maggie started her own six week starter troop to show parents just how simple it is to run a troop, and how fulfilling it can be. The girls involved are broken into two groups, either Daisies or Brownies, depending on their grade. Her first meeting was held on March 15th. Maggie is one of 800,000 adults across the globe involved in the organization, each of whom is trying to make a difference in a girls life. There are sixteen Meelia Center volunteers currently working with Maggie at this site.

For more information on Girl Scouts, visit their website here.

The END IT Movement: Shine a Light on Slavery

END IT is a movement to raise awareness of modern slavery. 27,000,000 people are trapped in slavery around the world today. In fact, it exists in 167 countries around the world. That’s 85% of the nations across the globe. 55% of forced labor victims are women and girls and nearly one and five victims of slavery are children. end it

The word “slavery” can mean bonded labor, forced labor, and human trafficking. Bonded labor is a common form of slavery and means individuals are born into it. These people are indebted to a system working against them, sometimes for generations. Forced labor means individuals are forced to work with little or no pay. The work is labor-intensive and often under regulated. Lastly, human trafficking is when someone is stolen from their community and moved into a different country or  city and forced to work. These people are often lured under false pretenses, such as promises of money or a better life. People who are victims of human trafficking rarely return home. Each form of slavery is no better or worse than the last.

slaveryOn February 25th, stop by Davison or the CShop to get your hand marked with a red X to raise awareness on slavery. “Awareness alone cannot end slavery, but without awareness, slavery will never end.” By marking your hand with a red X you are saying you will not stand for slavery. You know it still exists, even if you do not see it every day. Slavery is alive and well, but by speaking about it and educating ourselves, we can end it.

Site Spotlight: YWCA

"The YWCA is an organization in Manchester, NH. It provides care, compassion, advocacy, and support to women and men in sexual assault and domestic violence situations. It provides internal support group for young mothers, support group for people fleeing DV, referrals to many helpful resources, and many more. One of the many resources the Y has is their crisis line-available with an advocate on call 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. I, along with eight other Saint Anselm students, sign up and volunteer for two twelve hour shifts a month. Our responsibilities include answering these calls, and providing the needed support. At times, these people may be calling just for someone to vent to. They may be actively fleeing domestic violence, looking for someone to safety plan with them, or seeking emergency shelter. They often have not talked to anyone about their situation, and our advocates are the first voices and hearts that they are able to connect with about this critical life issue. Although most of the calls are over the phone, sometimes we are required to provide services and support in the hospital setting. Often, calls come in in the middle of the night from the emergency room at Elliot. This may be from a new rape victim, a woman who has admitted to domestic violence in her home, or a domestic dispute that resulted in injury. Whatever the case is, the feelings within these patients are raw. They may be looking for support, and they may push you away. It is important to keep your heart open and utilize empathy in each situation, giving the person exactly what they need in that moment. YWCA

One particular situation has always stuck out to me from a hospital call. It was four in the morning last year when I received a call from the Elliot to come in. I entered through the curtain when I got there to see a 30-year-old woman badly beaten in the bed. Her sweet three-year-old girl played on her lap-she had been there since two am. Her husband had inflicted this injury upon her and her little girl had been woken up and watch from the stairs. He left once he was done, and took their youngest daughter (8 months) with him. The women talked for hours about her situation, something that she had never done before. She held my hair, cried on my shoulder, prayed with me, and rested when I took her little girl down the hall for a walk and a Popsicle. I ended up stayed for the better part of eight hours, simply being present. She expressed her thankfulness for my support, which was in reality just me being there for her as a listening ear and an open heart. It was in this hospital room that I truly realized the significance of being present for someone. By the middle of the morning, after many phone calls, we were able to find her a temporary housing the YWCA’s shelter for the weekend until she would be able to be hooked up with an advocate for some place more safe and permanent.  Her thankfulness and her gratitude were evident in her beautiful words and her humble actions. This secured purpose inside of me, and it put a little bit of peace in my soul to know that I was able to maybe provide some hope for her in the midst of her pain.

YWCAAA One particular comment by her daughter stuck with me. She was brave and beautiful for such a young age. She put her hand gently on her mom’s face and said, “It’s okay mum. We are a team. I love you and I’ll never let anybody hurt you again, it will be you and me forever”. I felt for her innocence that was taken too soon. This fall, we ran a campus wide book drive for the YWCA shelter. Physical plant donated a large bookshelf, and it was filled with children’s books. A bedtime story is something that every child deserves, and that may put some calmness in the midst of this confusing situation for them. This project was inspired the 3-year-old’s bravery in an attempt to put some comfort and normalcy in their days at our shelter. Alongside this donation, Wal-Mart was very generous in a donation of clothes, towel, and sheets for the shelter. After reaching out to them at the beginning of the summer, they contacted me right before the start of school. I was able to drop off five thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise with the books to add to shelter comfort. As for the future, we are currently collaborating a plan to be able to run a nonperishable food drive for the shelter. They have recently expressed their need in after school snacks, pasta and other dinner items, and anything that we are willing to collect. For now, everything is going great. The student volunteers continue to keep their hearts and minds open to provide the best possible care for anyone who may cross our path."

-Amanda Tiedtke