CURTIS Week Introduces SHU Students to Opportunities for Bridgeport Service

News Story: January 1, 2009

SHU students, from left, Jenna Gallagher, a senior from Newburgh, NY, and Lindsay Pucino, a sophomore from Glastonbury, CT, served lunch at the Bridgeport Rescue Mission as part of the week-long community service program called CURTIS Week. 

SHU students, from left, Fransisco Sebastian, senior from Greenwich, CT, Kelsey Mullaney, sophomore from West Warwick, RI, and Sam Dowd, sophomore from Holliston, MA, listened to the instruction of Habitat for Humanity architect and Site Development Manager Malena Yrigoyen at Habitat's Bridgeport warehouse.

The chocolate almond cake made a big hit at the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, and that was just one of the things that helped sweeten Lindsay Pucino’s last week of Christmas vacation. The Sacred Heart University sophomore spent the time as a student leader during CURTIS week, SHU’s immersion program in inner city Bridgeport. It helped acquaint 20 University students – from freshmen to seniors – with the challenges and the satisfactions of service to others, accompanied by three student leaders. A Glastonbury, Connecticut, native, Pucino is a psychology major who participated in CURTIS Week last year. She enjoyed it so much that she returned for a second helping.

Among this year’s highlights was working directly with clients at homeless shelters in the city, where the students prepared and served meals and cleaned up afterward. Activities during the six-day program ranged from reading to pupils in Bridgeport elementary schools to working with residents of a nursing home. According to Dawn Doucette, the University’s coordinator of volunteer programs, there was ample time for reflection and prayer as students worked to make sense of their many new experiences. The project is named for the University’s founder, the Most Rev. Walter W. Curtis and stands for Community Understanding and Reflection Through Inner-city Service. While students pay a small amount to participate, the week is supported by a grant from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation.

Lindsay Pucino explains that CURTIS Week is one of many outreach activities at the University. “Being at Sacred Heart, I see the difference that one person can make in so many situations. It’s one of the great things about this place.”

A first-time participant was Briana Berberich, a junior business major who grew up in New York City. She is a veteran of Community Connections, a similar program the University sponsors the last week of summer vacation, as well as a SHU Habitat for Humanity experience in Mississippi. In addition to the great good the CURTIS Weekers make possible each year, she says it is an incredible way to meet new friends, guessing that she knew fewer than half of the participants at the beginning of the program.

Both young women agree that it can change the way you look at the world around you and the many opportunities available for service, and that even if you start out as strangers, you quickly become friends. Friends united in service and common purpose.