SHU Students Continue Tradition of Helping Others During Annual CURTIS Week

Curtis Week 2011

Students work on environmental service project at Bridgeport's City Hall Annex as part of CURTIS Week. They were decorating old barrels that will be put around the city as garbage and recycling cans.

News Story: January 1, 2011

With the Spring Semester on the horizon, about twenty students took part in what has now become a time-honored tradition at Sacred Heart University – CURTIS Week which stands for Community Understanding  and Reflection Through Inner-city Service.

Named in honor of the Most Reverend Walter W. Curtis, the second Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport and founder of the University, CURTIS Week is a week-long immersion program where several students from all classes reside off-campus at a church in the Park City and learn through community service and reflection, the daily social and economic challenges inner city residents face.

“CURTIS Week differs from the various service opportunities that come through the office because it is one of the two immersion programs in Bridgeport,” said Dawn Doucette-Kaplan, Sacred Heart University’s coordinator of Volunteer Programs.  The other immersion week, Community Connections, takes place prior to the Fall Semester. “Students not only get to know the different service projects they could participate in through the office, but they are also learning about different cultures and religions within the Bridgeport community, breaking stereotypes and  barriers.”

Community Service and service-learning has become the hallmark of the Sacred Heart University experience which emphasizes to students the importance of changing the world inside and outside the classroom.

“I think the week gives us an opportunity to learn about other people and ourselves,” said Alyssa Darmstadt who participated in CURTIS Week and a freshman from Long Beach, NY. “At the end of the day, I think what we’ve learned through CURTIS Week is that we’re all the same.”

Through projects such as partnering with Habitat for Humanity and building homes alongside with those who will dwell in the respective homes to preparing meals in soup kitchens and other community projects, students who take part in the immersion week are given the rare opportunity to see and feel social needs individuals face in urban areas. CURTIS Week  also serves as a collaborative focus on how to create change and learn about prejudices and ways to combat them.

Additionally, students take part in religious services at a mosque, synagogue, a Catholic Church and a Black Pride Program at a Baptist church. At the end of the each day, participants engage in ice-breakers, discussions and journal writing to chronicle the events of the day and serve as moments of reflection and introspection to share what they’ve learned.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to begin the Spring Semester by taking part in service and by directly helping people,” added Samantha Fasanello, a sophomore from Middlesex, NJ. “I really think it’s important to give back to the community and I think that’s what we’re called to do.”

This year's CURTIS Week was sponsored by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.