Providence College Students: Transforming Society

Community service initiatives are a vital part of the Providence College experience

Providence College students annually volunteer nearly 50,000 hours at more than 125 community agencies, schools, and other non-profit sites in Greater Providence. Volunteer service is provided through the Office of the Chaplain/Campus Ministry, the Office of Student Affairs, the Feinstein Institute for Public Service, the Student Athlete Advisory Board, and many of the College’s student clubs, organizations, and service learning classes.

Among the notable service projects are the following programs that included direct collaboration with the City of Providence:

  • For the tenth consecutive year, PC students, alumni and staff worked with the City of Providence in Friars United for Service in Our Neighborhood (FUSION), a collaboration to refurbish historic landmarks and community parks in Providence. This April, the group focused their efforts at  three locations – Corliss Park, Pleasant Valley Parkway, and Viscolosi Park. Providence Parks Department officials estimate that there has been more than $100,000 of labor donated to various projects by PC students, staff, alumni, and city employees in this partnership. To date, much of the work has occurred at the Esek Hopkins Homestead complex including new walkways and perimeter fencing in conformance with the historical structure, addition of a new turf soccer field, and playground apparatus on the adjoining athletic complex. The FUSION effort matches PC undergraduates with young alumni/alumnae who graduated between 2000 and 2015, regional alumni club leaders, members of the National Alumni Association Board of Governors, and members of the President’s Council. FUSION is designed to facilitate networking and service opportunities among students, alumni, College neighbors, and members of the Greater Providence community.
  • Urban Action (UA) was launched in 1991 with 17 PC students volunteering the first year. The program offers incoming freshmen an opportunity to spend their first days in Rhode Island’s capital city of Providence improving the community that will be their “home away from home” for the next four years. Incoming freshmen are invited to apply during the summer orientation program. The program has grown to the point where now 150 students are selected to participate each year. Led by 25 upperclassmen, these freshmen spend three days working at the end of August – rain or shine – on outdoor and indoor service projects important to the Providence community. In 2010, UA began a partnership with the Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy, a non­ profit whose mission is to preserve the land of Neutaconkanut Hill, the only nature preserve in the city for future generations. Since its inception, UA has continued to thrive under the direction of student leaders, who have trained their successors with a passion for growing the program. Since 1991, more than 3,400 students have volunteered thousands of community service hours to UA, with many returning each year as upperclassmen leaders.
  • The Feinstein Institute for Public Service at PC partnered with five local high schools in Providence and Pawtucket through the EXPLORE! program. The mission of EXPLORE! is to promote awareness of, access to, and readiness for college and career among first generation local urban high school students while, at the same time, supporting and enhancing the educational experiences of PC students. The program includes weekly on-site after-school programming throughout the academic year, where PC students and high school students engage in a variety of formal and informal programming structured around a unique college readiness curriculum. The program also includes several special events, including visits to colleges throughout the state and attending a PC Men’s Basketball game in the fall semester, and three days of PC campus  programs in the spring semester. In summary, the EXPLORE! program curriculum is designed to target key aspects of youth identity and skill development so that the youth engaged in this program can identify, pursue, and achieve their goals in life.

Other service initiatives this academic year included:

  • Friar Food Rescue (FFR) has recovered more than 10,550 pounds of food from the Sodexo­ managed facility since fall 2012, when students Dave O’Connor’ 14 and Nick Canessa ’14  showed how leftovers could be safely packaged and delivered to two local charitable institutions – Mary House, a food pantry and McAuley House, a homeless shelter, both in Providence. This year, FFR focused on reducing waste around campus and increasing the number of community partners. They deliver six times a week and saved more than 1,000 pounds of food this year. FFR held a Day in Ray (Dining Hall) event this past spring where they collected every scrap of uneaten food on students’ plates, in a four hour period to create awareness about food waste. PC was one of the first eight colleges to join the Food Recovery Network, a national organization started at the University of Maryland that recovered leftover (unused) food from Dining Halls.
  • The fourth annual Faith Works service immersion program took place in August. More than 40 PC students participated in the program for incoming freshmen. The program is sponsored by Campus Ministry in collaboration with the Catholic Charities staff at the Diocese of Providence. Faith Works enables new PC students to build community with their peers, perform service work for vulnerable populations in Providence, and reflect on the significance of this work for their  own lives. The participants worked at service sites in the Diocese of Providence, including Emmanuel House, a day shelter for the homeless; the St. Martin de Porres Center, a senior service center; and as well as Immigration and Refugee Services. Students also toured facilities at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections to learn more about the chaplaincy services that are provided.
  • The partnership between the PC and the San Miguel School began more than ten years ago. (San Miguel is a De La Salle Christian Brothers school on Branch Avenue in Providence that serves economically disadvantaged boys in grades 5-8.) The College has deepened its relationship with San Miguel through a variety of collaborative initiatives, including the Scholars Club, Step Up!, and the Mentoring Program: The Scholars Club offers after school tutoring twice a week during the academic year, pairing up San Miguel students and PC service-learners for individualized learning. PC students tutor the middle school students in basic subjects such as math, literacy, science, and social studies, while building meaningful relationships across generational, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Each semester, about 6 service-learners support the work of the Scholars Club. 
  • Step Up! began in Spring 2009 as an initiative of PC’s Organization for Latin American Students. It was founded by a PC student who was also an alumnus of San Miguel and who saw a need to encourage college conversations at the critical middle school age. The program brings San Miguel students and their families to PC’s campus for eight Saturdays during the Spring semester. Fifteen San Miguel students participate each year, working with twenty-five PC students. Step Up! aims to prepare students at San Miguel for life beyond middle school; program topics include culture and identity, high school transition, health and wellness, and positive decision-making.
  • The San Miguel Mentoring Program was initiated through the Providence President’s Council at PC and began in the fall of 2006. In order to assure its sustainability and institutional resources, the program transitioned into the Chaplain’s Office in 2014. The program matches 20 PC students with 20 San Miguel boys. Once a month the group participates in expanded learning opportunities together, allowing the mentor/mentee pairs to meet and build positive one-on-one relationships.
  • Nearly all of the 350 PC student-athletes, representing all 19 varsity sports, participate in a range of community service throughout the academic year. In total, they raised $32,000 for various charitable organizations for 2015-16. Student-athletes understand the importance of the responsibility to give back to the surrounding community and are committed to helping others, demonstrating the Athletic Department’s core values: Honesty, Integrity, Mutual Respect, Effort, and Constant Improvement. A major youth initiative undertaken by all teams, is participation in the annual Reading Week. More than 50 student-athletes read to several elementary classrooms and answer questions about college, reaching out to hundreds of youths.
  • More than 90 female PC student-athletes from the College’s track, tennis, field hockey,  swimming and diving, softball, ice hockey, soccer, volleyball, dance, and cheerleading teams volunteered at the third annual Girls On the Run RI (GOTRRI) SK event on campus this fall. They attended the run as mentors to the girls. (Approximately 200 girls in grades 3-8 from around Rhode Island.) Their support included writing notes of encouragement to each girl in advance of the 5K. While the participants ran through campus, PC student-athletes stood at every turn with shouts of encouragement and supportive cheers. GOTRRI is a non-profit development program for girls ages 8 –  13. The event was co-sponsored by the Department of Athletics.
  • Throughout the academic year, many of our teams help at local soup kitchens. The biggest effort is the annual “We ‘CAN’ Do It” Drive for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, which raised over I,000 pounds of non-perishable goods. As Division I athletes, our students understand the value of health and wellness. The swimming and diving team raised more than $30,000 for Swim Across America to benefit cancer research. Many of our teams assist with R.I. Special Olympics events, refereeing and cheering on the participants. This year, each team also participated in the Big East Initiative “One Shirt, One Body,” which gives college issued athletic shirts to persons in need. The teams donated 75 tee-shirts, which were given to the Boys & Girls Club of Rhode Island
  • PC student-athletes also paired with numerous Providence Recreational Centers, to act as mentors within the Junior Friars Program. Before selected games, student-athletes would sit down and have conversations with local children from the Rec Centers about athletics, school, and life. This event was one of many community service initiatives that helped PC student-athletes perform over 3,000 hours of community service this year.

Spring Break 2016 Service Initiatives:

  • More than 125 PC students spent their Spring Break working on behalf of Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge Program. Among the sites students helped build homes were Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
  • Fifteen PC students along with Magali Garcia-Pletsch ’13, program coordinator for the Feinstein Institute for Public Service, participated in a “Global Border Crossing” service immersion trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Students worked with Esperanza International and their partner to support local families in Tijuana to improve their quality of life and communities. Student’s also helped build structurally sound housing with the families. They also toured community agencies and sites including Clfnica Esperanza: a health clinic serving the most vulnerable in Tijuana, run by Catholic nuns; Casa de Memorias: a home and clinic for people living with HIV/AIDS, and; Casa de Migrantes: a shelter and resource center for migrants in the area. The also made a trip to the U.S./Mexico border wall at Friendship Parle.
  • Ten students traveled to Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua and immersed themselves in Nicaraguan history, culture, cuisine and service through meaningful experiential learning with Unearth the World’s nonprofit partner-Project Bona Fide. The Food Security  & Local  Agriculture  Course Trip allowed the group to engage in cross-cultural exchange, service and reflection with the goal of breaking down barriers, educating, and gaining a greater understanding of food security issues. (Bona Fide promotes food security and sustainable living systems on the Island of Ometepe through permaculture design, agroforestry, research, education, and community collaboration.)

Winter Break 2016 Service Initiatives:

  • As a part of Storytellers in Our Communities, a Global Studies course at PC, 10 students traveled to EI Manzano Uno, Nicaragua. The course explored matters pertaining to community literacy and storytelling. Students engaged in dialogue-based workshops, story circles with high school students, and youth empowerment and intercultural partnerships.
  • Five PC students joined students from Stonehill and Notre Dame and participated in the My Brother’s Keeper Urban Plunge in January. The focus of the Plunge is urban poverty. There was a variety of community service projects, (primarily food and furniture deliveries, as well as serving at a soup kitchen) and prayer and reflection in the evenings. My Brother’s Keeper is a nonprofit organization in Easton, Mass. that delivers food and furniture to families in need.
  • PC’s eighth annual NOLA (New Orleans, La.) Immersion, sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry, a faith-based service trip in response to the needs of post-Katrina New Orleans, took place in January. Fourteen PC students traveled to work with 4 non-profits in New Orleans. The organizations were St. Bernard Project,, the Harry Tompson Center, and St. Joan of Arc School. NOLA Immersion is committed to the dignity of the human person, lived out by accompanying our neighbors in the journey toward justice.

The PC community also supported numerous charitable organizations:

  • Academic Affairs, along with the College’s President’s Committee on Service collected canned goods and turkeys, along with donating more than $2,800 for the second annual campus-wide Thanksgiving Food Drive, to the Smith Hill Community Development Corporation. Donations were also given to Mary House Food Pantry. In addition, Sodexo (PC’s campus dining service) donated 104 turkeys. Since 1974, Mary House, the social service agency of St. Patrick’s Church, provides nutritious food to low income families and individuals in the Smith Hill area. (Academic Affairs collected 486 non-perishable food items for Mary House during this drive.)
  • Dirigo, the honor society for PC students who have excelled as leaders during their college career, held its fifth annual Santa Shop in December 2015. The students invited parents of San Miguel students to an evening of free shopping in Slavin Center. Shoppers selected from more than 150 gifts, including board games, skateboards, books, sports apparel, headphones, and more. Gifts were then wrapped by PC students, and sent home with families –  ready to go under the tree!
  • More than 800 PC students, faculty, and staff members donated approximately $3,500 worth of toys, clothing items, bicycles, and money  to the 6 local  families,  including 22 children,  through the Adopt-A-Family holiday giving program sponsored annually by the College’s Office of Residence  Life.
  • More than 800 members of the PC community raised over $85,000 for the American Cancer Society at the 2015 Relay for Life. PC has hosted the event for the past 14 years and has raised more than $1,000,000 for the American Cancer Society.
  • Each year, at the end of the spring semester, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety and Residence Life hold a Move-Out Clothing & Food Drive. They collect used clothing and non­ perishable food items to be donated to charity. Clothing is donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the food goes to the Rhode Island Food Bank.
  • The Department of Human Resources assisted the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, in collecting items to support families with sick children. Donated items included snacks such as microwave popcorn, individual packs of cookies and crackers, and juice boxes, as well as paper towels, trash bags, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, and soap. The collections take place twice a year.
  • The School of Continuing Education’s Student Success Group, Student & Alumni Organization, and Eta Lambda held a service day on April 2nd at the San Miguel School in Providence. There were 22 people in attendance, including current SCE students, SCE alums, staff, and 7 day school students. Projects for the day included cleaning up outdoors, washing down each room, and library organization.
  • The School of Continuing Education and the Eta Lambda chapter of Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honor Society for Adults in Continuing Education sponsored a Thanksgiving Food Drive, and collected canned and boxed food, frozen turkeys, and monetary donations/ grocery store gift cards for 20 families identified through D.A.R.E. (Direct Action for Rights and Equality).
  • The School of Continuing Education conducted an “Adopt-a-Family” Christmas drive via Capital City Community Center, in which they collected gifts, toys, and other items for two local families.
  • The School of Continuing Education also sponsored an “April Showers” prize-a-day raffle which netted $2,840 to support scholarships for SCE students.
  • The Children’s Outreach group in Campus Ministry sponsored the “Giving Tree” and collected more than 300 toys and clothing items in December. All of the goods were donated to Smith Hill Early Childhood Learning Center in Providence.
  • Academic Affairs, in collaboration with the Campus Ministry, Institutional Advancement, and Student Activities, collected personal care items during the 10th Annual April Showers Drive. The donations included 1,868 items (regular and travel size) and benefited the guests at Mary House.

Upcoming Service Trips – Campus Ministry’s International Immersions Program:

  • Ten PC students and staff from Campus Ministry will travel to San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala from May 21 – May 28. The group will volunteer with San Lucas Mission, which works with the local community to address needs for housing, healthcare and nutrition, education, and land – all attending to the integral human development of the community.
  • From May 21-28, 11 students and staff from Campus Ministry will volunteer with Mustard Seed Communities in Kingston, Jamaica. Mustard Seed provides support for children with mental and physical disabilities.
  • As part of Social Infrastructures in South Africa, a Global Studies course at PC, 9 students will travel to Cape Town, South Africa from June 11-25 along with Dr. Nick Longo ’96 and Magali Garcia-Pletsch ’13. The group will spend two weeks in class alongside students at the University of Cape Town while working with various community organizations including Mothers Unite.