Celebrating Community Partnership

Tuesday, Jan 15, 2019
by Toyosi Oluwole ’21

On Friday, January 11, the Pace Center for Civic Engagement celebrated the hard work and dedication of community partners with its annual Community Partner Gathering at Prospect House at Princeton University. In the peaceful setting of the drawing room, community partners gathered together to connect and network with Pace Center staff and fellow partners from throughout the greater New Jersey area. All enjoyed a wonderful evening of gratitude, fulfillment, and joy.

“Today’s really, truly expressing gratitude not only from myself, but from my colleagues who are in this space with me, and from the students you all engage with every day,” said Sara Gruppo, Community Action Program Director. “We really and truly cannot do this work without you.”

Community Partner Gathering 2019

Community Action Program Director Sara Group thanks community partners for all they do with the Pace Center, the university, and in the community. Photo by: Gwen McNamara

A time for celebration and appreciation of the various Pace Center affiliated community partners who work tirelessly to ensure that compassion and care are present throughout service, guests could share kind words expressing thanks on a bright yellow “Gratitude Wall” and take home gifts of thanks, including bright orange mugs, Pace Center pins, and creative booklets. 

Attendees represented organizations throughout the region who support service at Princeton in a myriad of ways. From introducing students to community in and around Princeton, to expanding students’ understanding of social issues, to sharing expertise at workshops and trainings, and engaging with the campus community through sustained volunteering or short-term efforts, each community partner makes a significant contribution to service at Princeton. 

One of the partners, Jean Czarkwoski, a counselor with Alan B. Shepard Jr. Elementary School expressed how incredible it was working with the Pace Center as part of Community Action, a small group experience during Princeton Orientation that introduces incoming students to service at Princeton. When discussing her role in being committed to service, she shared how “a common goal is to have a more educated socially just society. The Pace Center helps bridge gaps in order to create a more collective impact.” 

Community Partner Gathering 2019

Calder Burgam with Arm in Arm connects with the Rev. Karen Hernandez Granzen, of Westminster Presbyterian Church and former Pace Center Community Partner-in-Residence. Photo by: Gwen McNamara

The event was not only a space to share gratitude, it was also a space where all individuals alike were joined together in a space of compassion, love, and kindness in a world that has often neglected to show that. It was a space where community partners were able to affirm how working to make the world a better place required many hands and dedication, in order to make substantial differences in the world.

As the event came to a close, Gruppo also reflected on the goals of the Pace Center as referenced in its 2016-2019 Strategic Plan. As the center seeks to create purposeful partnerships and foster inclusivity in service she remarked how the annual Community Partner Gathering ultimately “creates a space where we can come together and make a world a better place.” 

Ultimately, the event illustrated how the dedication of community partners helps unite us as one working toward a common goal of improving the world. Together we can work “in the nation’s service and the service of humanity” and live in a world of love, equality, and compassion.