Students Spend Break in Service to Others

News Story: January 21, 2016
   SHU students participate in CURTIS Week at the Kennedy Center’s Maggie Daly Arts Cooperative.

A week before students were expected back on Sacred Heart University’s campus for another semester of schooling, many spent the last days of their winter break participating in service activities.

Two groups of students provided community development in Central America and Mexico, another visited Mississippi to rebuild homes and a third was busy participating in eye-opening experiences locally during SHU’s annual CURTIS Week.

A group of about 23 students volunteered for CURTIS Week, which stands for Community Understanding and Reflection Through Inner-City Service. The annual week of reflection, service and immersion in Bridgeport is named after the founder of SHU, Bishop Walter W. Curtis. Students were housed in the St. Charles Borromeo Parish and during the day worked at several sites throughout the city, including Alpha Community Services, Merton House and the city’s food pantry. Each evening they attended a different religious service.

This year, the initiative focused on diversity, said Andrea Canuel, assistant director of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning. Students went to a Buddhist service, a synagogue, a mosque and a Catholic Mass at a predominately African-American church, The Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Bridgeport.

“We wanted to expose students to various religious traditions and different cultural aspects,” Canuel said.

On January 14, students arrived at the Kennedy Center’s Maggie Daly Arts Cooperative (MDAC) to work with people who struggle with cognitive disabilities. MDAC is designed to provide an innovative environment for people ages 22 to 76 to learn and create in a multi-faceted arts program.

Jazz music played in the large room filled with a variety of arts projects, including a large, colorful Christmas tree made from painted aluminum cooking tins while the group sat in a circle and got to know one another. Students talked about themselves and got to know the MDAC participants. Once everyone was well acquainted, the group started ballet activities.

Sophomore Jacqui Krebs was a group leader during CURTIS Week and said MDAC is an “amazing place. People are able to come here and thrive. They get to do what they love,” Krebs, who was involved in CURTIS Week in 2015 as well, said.

Krebs said she enjoys participating in the service week, because students go into it not knowing anyone else, and by the end of it, everyone feels like family. In addition, they get to help out the community, she said.

While 13 students worked at MDAC, another group volunteered at Alpha Community Services.

Service initiatives didn’t stop in Bridgeport, a group of students worked with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Lucedale, Miss., rebuilding homes.

Seven students worked for two weeks in Guatemala concentrating on community development. They worked with families and children.

Another group of four students worked in Oaxaca, Mexico, with the Norwalk-based Simply Smiles nonprofit agency, providing relief to the poverty-stricken region by putting a new roof on a home. 

CURTIS Week 2016