As part of the Rider Bonner Community Scholars program, 20 students engaged in service projects throughout the capital of Massachusetts during spring break.
Meaghan Haugh

Rider students spent the week engaged in service projects throughout Boston.

While many of their peers headed home for the spring break, a smaller group of Rider students headed north to Boston to participate in a service trip from March 11 to 16. As part of the Rider Bonner Community Scholars program, 17 freshmen and three sophomore leaders spent the week engaged in service projects throughout the capital of Massachusetts.

The Rider Bonner Community Scholars program partnered with Catholic Charities and Union United Methodist Church, which provided housing to the group during their stay. Annie Pasqua, assistant director of Campus Life for Service Learning, and Jane Sanchez, coordinator of Community Service, organized the trip.

Pasqua explained that first-year Bonner Community Scholars are required to participate in a domestic service trip. Previously, service trips have been held in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Last year, the program had a successful trip to Boston and the organizers decided to return.

“The focus of this trip is to expose students to different service issues nationally, so they reflect on their experiences in the Mercer County-Trenton area and learn best practices,” Pasqua said. “This year’s trip was extremely successful.”

In the mornings, the student volunteers engaged in a number of service projects, which included painting, placing tile and cleaning the Union United Methodist Church; painting and organizing rooms at the St. Ambrose Family Shelter; cleaning and organizing closets in St. Patrick’s Shelter for Homeless Women; and participating in sessions at Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization.

Sanchez explained that the service project also focused on building connections amongst the students.

“There is truly something special about people serving together. By serving together they are able to discover things about themselves as well as establish bonds with each other,” Sanchez said. “By building a community with themselves the students became a stronger force of change. In other words, they each went to Boston as individuals. At the end of the trip people saw them as one community.”

In the afternoons, the volunteers provided homework help and mentoring to children in afterschool programs at the Teen Center at St. Peter’s, Elizabeth Seton Academy and The Labouré Child Care Center. Toward the end of the trip, the students had a chance to explore Boston commons and the campuses of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Cambridge and Harvard University.

Pasqua said she was extremely happy to see how the students responded to the service issues and how they were able to push their own comfort zones when they experienced urban poverty and language barriers.

“The students were really impacted by the service issues and they grew together as a community,” Pasqua said. “I think the sophomore students really grew in their leadership in helping to build that community.”

The rest of the sophomore leaders included Jalyssa James, Chelsea Jenkins and Adam Rebhun.

Rebhun remembered how last year’s service trip to Boston pushed him beyond his comfort zone.

“As a sophomore leader, I really wanted to get the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of the freshman participants,” said Rebhun who facilitated discussions and reflections during the trip this year. “As Bonners, we are not afraid to challenge ourselves to get out there and make an impact whenever we can.”

The freshman participants included: Lorena Alvarez, Victoria Barton, Jessica Butzke, Kelsey Carroll, Kelly Ferrara, Kyler Grigsby, Momna Hassan, Bethany Jacobs, Christopher Mari-Davis, Alexander Kettles, Daniel Martinez, Dwight Mathis, Moriah McGill, Terik Miller, Mary Tella, Dominique Wiggins and Lauren Wood.

The Rider Bonner Community Scholar Program is a community service leadership development scholarship program that exposes members to issues social justice while providing them hands on experience to impact their community.