Eight years of Access Academy and many more to come

On Tuesday April 11, the NHIOP auditorium was transformed into a display of poster boards, poems, slideshows, and artwork for the Access Academy Spring Showcase. Access Academy is an after school program aiming to engage immigrant, refugee, and otherwise underrepresented high school students in the Manchester area. At the Spring Showcase, each student has the opportunity to share what they learned through their program. This year, the high school students choose between 7 courses: Students in Action, Career and College Exploration, Environmental Studies, Computer Literacy, College Admissions, Creative Writing, and Humanities After School.

The entire room was packed with friends, family members, teachers, mentors, reporters, and community members. The evening included two poster sessions, a presentation by each program, and a panel discussion with students, volunteers, and coordinators.

As the presentations went on, it became clear that each program had something unique to offer for students, and each student had something unique to bring to their program. Students in the College Admissions program and the College and Career Exploration program shared their dreams with the crowd. Many students shared a dream of going to college. Some students held a common dream of helping people by becoming a nurse or a doctor. One student went on to say their dream was to "save people's lives."

During the panel discussion, students shared the most important thing they learned through Access Academy. Tahj, a student in the Computer Literacy program, reflected on what he learned about his work ethic. "I am better than I thought I was before," Tahj said to the audience. "If I put my mind to it, I can achieve what I want to do." Sarah, a student in Computer Literacy and Humanities After School, shared that she would not have had the confidence to stand up and talk to a crowd before the program. "[Access Academy] helped me discover who I am," she explained.

Professor Terri Greene Henning, the first professor to teach at Access Academy for an entire semester, offered her reflection on the power of the program. She was moved throughout the semester as she slowly discovered "who [the students] were, what they dreamed about, what they wish for, and who they want to be."

Naturally, the goal of Access Academy is to provide support for the high school students in the program. However, the experiences shared the Spring Showcase displayed that it does not matter if you are a high school student, a volunteer, a coordinator, a manager, or a professor- Access Academy will influence your life. "Access Academy set me on my best career path…[and] gave me a foundation for who I am today," Zachary Procek '17 explained in his reflection during the evening's welcoming remarks.

Access Academy celebrates its 8th birthday as this semester comes to a close. Meelia Center Director Dan Forbes reflected on how far the program has come.

Access Management Team Member Becca Hall. Photo by Madison Tager.

Access Management Team Member Becca Hall. Photo by Madison Tager.

He highlighted the Access Academy management team's unwavering commitment, the importance of the coordinators, volunteers, and service-learners, and most of all, the passion of the high school students, who all "keep us wanting to do better."

Recently, Access Academy was given a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to improve the program. The grant will allow for Access Academy to add 12 new courses over the span of 6 years. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) only provides grants for 2 high school programs in the country- Access Academy being one of them. With the support from everyone involved, the possibilities for the future of Access Academy are endless. There is so much to look forward to in the years to come.

 

 

 

 

 


Want to get involved in Access Academy? Stop by the Meelia Center and we will get you on board for next semester!

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.

Here's how service can enhance your professional development

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill

Most college students recognize the importance of obtaining an internship, perfecting a resume, and networking with alumni. Community engagement is another (and often overlooked) tool that can help stand out among the competition. Here are some ways that service can help you become your best self.

You'll communicate more effectively. IMG_5146

Community engagement can help you hone in on your communication skills. Service requires you to work with diverse populations including other volunteers, supervisors, volunteer coordinators and the various populations you are serving. Your time in the community will help you navigate how to work with different types of personalities in the work force. As with anything, practice makes perfect!

Community engagement encourages you to use creative problem solving.

Getting involved in the community can also help you learn to solve problems more efficiently. One of our favorite catch phrases at the Meelia Center is, "Community is messy!"- and for a good reason! Although we love our work, we have learned along the way that nothing ever goes exactly as planned. You will learn to adapt as you face unexpected situations, which will help you think on your feet in a fast paced job!

Service can inspire you to take on a leadership role. 

Passionate volunteers often take the initiative to start new programs based on the needs at their site and their personal interests. Some Saint A's students teach children a skill such as photography or arts and crafts.  Others have developed mentoring programs to match saint A's volunteers with members of the community. All volunteers set an example for other students and citizens to give back! Community engagement can help you become a more confident and socially conscious leader.

You'll manage your time with ease.

Balancing a full class load, extra circular activities, athletics and still making time for service? Community engagement will definitely help you learn to manage your time! Students often think they are too busy to get involved in service, but even one hour a week can make an impact. Future employers will be impressed with your ability to balance a work-social-acadmic-service lifestyle! Showing up each week to dedicate your time to others is a sure sign of responsibility and dedication.

Service reminds you to loIMG_9464ve a little more!

Lastly, service will help you become a more compassionate individual and future employee. You will remember the importance of taking others' needs into consideration before thinking and acting on your own. You will remember how far a little act of kindness can truly go. Every career field can benefit from hiring more socially conscious and caring people.

 

 

 


The Meelia Center has over 50 volunteer sites! We can help match you to one that works with your schedule and interests. Contact meeliacenter@anselm.edu for more information.

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.

 

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Katie Williams

With finals week quickly approaching you might be in need of some motivation! Take a quick study break to read about Katie Williams' volunteer experience at Saint Anselm and how she remains connected to her community in post-grad life. [Read more…]

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.

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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.

 

Dodgeball Tournament Raises Money for Human Trafficking Survivor

Spring is finally here, and the last service event of the semester is right around the corner. The Fourth Annual Dodgeball Tournament is scheduled for April 17th in the Carr Center. The games begin at 10am and go until a final team is named the winner. The tournament is broken into competitive and noncompetitive leagues. Teams have the option to choose which league they would like to play in. Teams are quickly signing up, including a number of teams, clubs, and off campus community groups such as Kids Cafe and Girl Scouts.

This year, the tournament will be raising money to help Nourma (her name has been changed for her safety. Her case is still under investigation), a woman who escaped slavery. She now resides in New York where she attends community college, studying to become a social worker. Nourma and her case worker have written out this short blurb, describing her story: Nourma

"A time for new things, new hopes, new opportunities, in 2015 Nourma considered herself reborn. Originally from South East Asia she grew up a committed Muslim. Her father died after a 4 year struggle with an illness when Lely was still young. Shortly after that Lely was illegally labor-trafficked to New York by a diplomat. Forced to work 14-20 hour days for 6 different families, Lely suffered for 6 years before she finally mustered up the courage to flee for her freedom. Because her trafficker was a diplomat, he leveraged his influence to prevent Lely's passport from being re-issued leaving her vulnerable and undocumented. Mentari, Human Trafficking Survivors Network helped Lely secure her passport and she’s now enrolled in her first year (a life-long dream) at a community college New York. Lely is a Social Work major and dreams of one day being able to help vulnerable young women. Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism and Mentari continue to invest in Lely’s promise and potential, supporting her dreams and investing in her healing. In the meantime, she’s an avid NBA fan with her eyes on Kyle Korver loves traveling in her new home country—in fact, she’s already been able to visit 9 US states and hope to one day see them all."

It is $10 a person to play in the tournament. Sponsorship  is allowed, meaning individuals or organizations can sponsor an entire team to play in the games. If you are unable to play, but would like to help out, donate any amount if possible, or sponsor a player or entire team. Encourage your friends and classmates to participate in this incredible event.

Use our online registration form here to sign up, or sign up in person in the Meelia Center.

RSVP if you're interested in attending (even if you just want to watch!).

If you would like more information on modern slavery, check out the End It Movement. 

 

Relay For Life

In a few short weeks, members of the Saint Anselm community will come together for the college’s 9th annual Relay For Life. Last year, this all-night event raised over $75,000 for the American Cancer Society. 

Almost everyone has been touched by cancer in some way. Maybe you have personally battled this disease or have a friend, relative or neighbor who is currently fighting. Relay for Life is a night-long fundraiser designed to help remember and celebrate these members of our community and to fight back against cancer.relay

Following an opening ceremony, the night begins with a survivor lap. All of the teams cheer on cancer survivors as they take the first lap around the Carr center and celebrate their strength, dedication and triumph over this devastating disease. Next, the caregivers lap celebrates all of the individuals who cared or are caring for loved one’s through their battle with cancer.

After these two laps, the entire community takes their first lap together, as one big team fighting the same fight and supporting one another.

Many events take place throughout the rest of the night including the Luminaria ceremony, hair donations for Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, birthday cake celebrations and talent shows.

On Friday, April 8th Relay teams will be walking around the Carr Center from 6 PM until 4 AM supporting the fight against cancer. So far, 50 teams (655 participants) have registered for this event, fundraising over $32,000. The Saint A’s Relay For Life Committee has increased our fundraising goal this year because of the amazing success at last year’s event! There’s still time to make a team and fundraise, so if you haven’t signed up yet please consider joining a team today! If you’re still looking for friends to walk with: teams Alpha Phi Omega, Love Your Melon, and Hawks Wanna Walk are all accepting individual walkers to join their teams.

Click Here to learn more about Relay for Life and to sign up to Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back!