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!

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! 

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.



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 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.


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!

The Global Water Crisis

You can go days, even weeks, without food. You can go without shelter depending on your surroundings, and you can do without clothes in many different environments. However, a human being can survive only a few short days without water. That's about two or three days. Water is the most essential component to life, yet almost one billion people do not have access safe, clean drinking water.

The Thirst Project installed a well to access clean groundwater.

The Thirst Project installed a well to access clean groundwater.

The global water crisis is not simply an environmental problem, but a  social justice issue. Here in the United States, where toilets, showers,  and bottled water, are almost always readily available for many  individuals (but certainly not all), it can be difficult to imagine a world  in which water was not so easily accessible. About 663 million people  do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. According to the  Thirst Project, an organization dedicated to putting an end to the water crisis, the average distance someone in a developing country must walk in order to fetch water is about 3.75 miles. This task is often left up to women and children. So much time and energy is lost in the task, many of these women and children do not finish their educations or are unable to get jobs and contribute to their families financially. Collecting one of life’s most basic necessities has become a job in itself.

Countries that suffer the most from water scarcity, meaning there simply isn’t enough water, are located in arid regions such as the Middle East. Do to the dryer environment, the ground water is less abundant. Places that do not have the technology or readily available labor to access clean drinking water are mostly developing countries, many of which are located in different parts of Africa and South East Asia. These are two different, yet equally devastating issues that fall under the broader category of the global water crisis.

Women carry their water supply across an arid desert.

Women carry their water supply across an arid desert.

Due to climate change, another environmental justice issue, water scarcity will grow exponentially. Arid regions will grow dryer. In developing countries, women and children will have to walk farther and farther to reach any source of water, clean or not. According to a study done by the UN based off of the rate climate change is currently affecting the planet, almost half of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030. This includes about 75 million to 250 million people in Africa alone. Many immigrants and refugees living in the greater Manchester area come from regions dealing with this major problem. These countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, South Africa, Libya, Bangladesh, and many more. water stress

The global water crisis is simply that; a crisis. The planet is 3/4's water, yet only about 1% is actually drinkable. Within the next century, climate change will certainly change that number if nothing drastic is done. There are simple ways to be more conscious of this issue, as well as ways to help those suffering.

  • Take shorter showers.
  • Stop buying bottled water, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Recycle.
  • Educate yourself and others on the issue.

These steps will not ensure people across the globe will get clean, safe water, but it will help you be more conscious of this very broad concept. If you are interested in doing more visit: The Thirst Project  Water.org  The Water Project

If you would like to learn more about climate change, the bottled water industry and how it affects this topic, or are interested in learning more, visit these sites as well:

NASA on Climate Change

NextGen Climate

Food and Water Watch on Banning Bottled Water

Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Sandford

Today's Alumni Spotlight is on 2015 graduate, Ryan Sandford! Ryan talks about his passion for service and what he's been up to since graduation.

Name: Ryan Sandford
Location: D.C.
Occupation: Writer/Copywriter
Major: English
Minor: Communication and Music
Y.O.G: 2015

1. How has service in college affected your life today?

Service at Saint Anselm helped me scrape the surface of what it means to sacrifice “self” for others. I still don’t understand exactly what that means, or how I can truly do that in a sincere way, but SBA and Volunteer work through the Meelia center opened my eyes to how lucky I am—and how close we live to those who are struggling for survival. My perspective on the world was greatly opened by service at Saint A’s. It helped me see two things—the suffering others endure, and the amazing resilience and courage those same people have in the face of adversity.

2. Are you currently serving your community? Ryan Sanford Spotlight

Today, I work for the NGO International Justice Mission, which helps poverty stricken populations on a global scale, working to protect them from violence and trafficking. We rescue victims of violence and slavery, restore them with aftercare programs and social work, bring the criminals responsible to justice, and try to ensure through partnership with local governments that the same crimes do not happen again–that the laws are enforced. I am a writer and am lucky enough to do my dream job—give voice to the oppressed communities around the world who don’t have the chance to tell their own story. I am heading towards two years of Peace Corps service starting in September, and will be moving to Rwanda to teach ESL programs. These opportunities have been a bit of an immersion experience for me, helping broaden my ideas and perspective of what service is in the process.

3. How were you involved at Saint Anselm College?

I volunteered through the Meelia Center to help with Child and Family Services in Manchester, New Hampshire. I also went on Spring Break Alternative my junior year to the Benedictine School for Individuals with Disabilities, an experience that changed my life.

4. What has been your most memorable service experience?

For Saint A’s, it was the Benedictine School. I was helping a young boy who was barely able to control his muscles or his movement. Moving his arms was painful and difficult for him. I didn’t think even care I was there. But I chose to stay and just hope that my love and attempts at being a servant to him would be helpful to him, maybe lift his spirits. Boy was I wrong. He was the one who wanted to serve me, who changed my life. I remember it well. I sat down for dinner across from him. He could barely lift his head. Zach was his name. Zach, with a huge amount of effort, reached over to a pitcher of water and started trying to pour a cup. He was trying to pour me a cup of water. He was trying to serve me. That’s when I realized something. The less people have, the more beautiful they are, the more they get what life is all about—getting through this together and helping those we can, even if all we can do is pour a cup of water. I’ll never forget that cup of water. Ever.

5. How long have you been involved in service and what sparked your interest in volunteering?

I think I always wanted to serve people, but I didn’t know how or why. I just knew that I wanted to help, I wanted to be someone who pulled someone out of a ditch instead of putting them there.

6. What does community service mean to you?

Community service for me, stems back to my service at Saint Anselm and also just a new faith and trust in Jesus that I never had until after I graduated. This idea that we are all family, all loved by God and created for a purpose. Jesus washed feet and walked among the lepers. That kind of love and selflessness and sincere compassion are at the core of what community service means to me.

7. What advice do you have for current students about getting involved in the community?

Go do things outside your comfort zone. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Walk into the Meelia center and put your name down for service opportunities. I did once, and it set me on a journey I never could have imagined.

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.