SHU Celebrates First-Ever Volunteer & Service Learning Week

News Story: April 1, 2012

Sacred Heart University’s first-ever “Volunteer & Service Learning Week” April 16-21 celebrates the 45,000 volunteer hours students and other members of the Sacred Heart community gave last year, as well as encourages an even great number to be given in the year ahead.

A Mass at noon Monday kicked off the celebration, which will include a recyclables collection, a visit by Peace Corps recruiters and a campus-wide cleanup.

The event was conceptualized by Matthew D. Kaye, who earlier this year joined SHU as director of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning.

“It's a time of new beginnings at Sacred Heart. We have a new president, and that brings about opportunities to explore new possibilities, including how the University can become even more civically engaged,” said Kaye, referring to SHU President John J. Petillo, Ph.D, who was inaugurated in September. The Volunteer and Service Learning Week activities are part of the Presidential Inauguration Year events.

The week-long celebration coincides with National Volunteer Week, an annual, nationwide celebration designed to not just thank volunteers, but to encourage more people to offer their time and talents to make local communities, the United States and, in many cases, the world a better place.

“The 45,000 service hours our students and staff give each year is exceptional, but there are ways – and the need – for us to do even more,” Kaye said.

To show that need and explore how service learning can be incorporated into more class curriculums, Kaye and his staff have arranged “faculty excursions” each day this week to Fairfield County non-profits.

While not every course is appropriate for service learning, many are, Kaye said, providing meaningful opportunities for students and the community.

“Service learning allows students to apply subject matter,” he explained. “Tutoring middle or high school students is a great way to do this, but it’s certainly not the only way. We have science students who help environmental groups perform water tests and students from all disciplines who mentor elementary-aged kids in academic and leadership skills. Our students just recently helped to guide Bridgeport kids through an Outward Bound ropes course. With a little creativity, the opportunities are endless.”

Kaye said he is more than willing to brainstorm service learning ideas with faculty. His office can also help match students looking to volunteer with local opportunities. Both one-time (like helping an elderly person move) and long-term (like becoming a tutor or mentor) projects are available.

Events this week will help show the many opportunities available both on campus and within the community, including:

  • Thursday, April 19: Pizza with the Peace Corps, University Commons 109, 5-7 p.m.
  • Friday, April 20: Cleanup of the University’s community gardens, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Recyclables collection on the Chartwells Patio, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 21: Campus-wide cleanup, 10 a.m.- 1 p.m.

A special Mass and dinner for students who traveled to Tierra Blanca, El Salvador, to build homes, schools and medical facilities are among a handful of invitation-only events that will also take place.

“There is so much enthusiasm on campus for giving to help others, and it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to celebrate it,” Kaye added.

Those interested in learning more about Volunteer & Service Learning Week or volunteer opportunities can call (203) 365-4710.