Service During Break? Yes Please!

Monday, Oct 31, 2016
by Gwen McNamara, Communications Coordinator

At Princeton, fall break is a time for rest, relaxation and (sometimes) finishing up midterm exams. But for some students, it’s also about service. Whether exploring social issues on Breakout Princeton, or engaging with the local community as part of a new pilot initiative, students are making time to learn and serve.

Service on Campus
A few weeks before fall break, Mason Cox ’20, from Oregon, stopped by the Pace Center for Civic Engagement with a simple question. For students not leaving campus for break, is there any way to get involved with the local community? 

“We of course said yes,” said Elsie Sheidler, senior associate director at the Pace Center. Working with several community partners where Princeton students regularly volunteer during the academic months, the Pace Center is piloting an on-campus break service experience for students to learn about issues facing the local community and have the opportunity to engage, she said.

Students can work with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, Community House, Princeton Nursery School, Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and HomeFront. Most opportunities are within walking distance, with transportation provided for those that are not. Lunch is also provided daily. 

“Back home I was active in volunteering and I’d like to be more active here at Princeton,” said Cox. “I’m looking forward to engaging in the community and the learning aspect that comes with that. When we study in the classroom we learn facts and theory, but in the community you get to know people and learn the way the community works. That can often be so much more valuable.”

So far about 10 students have signed up for service experiences in the local area. Students interested in signing up can do so online. Spots are still available, no prior experience necessary. 

Time to Serve
Both Adhitya Raghavan ’20, from India, and Bj Hewage ’20, from Ireland, are looking forward to working with the Princeton Nursery School. 

“I am here for training [with the varsity squash team] and wanted to do something else too,” said Raghavan. “Our season starts soon, so it’s nice to be able to get involved while we have some time off.”

“I really enjoyed being part of CA [Community Action] and saw this as a great way to do more,” Hewage said. “I’ve signed up to help at the soup kitchen and nursery school. Back home in Ireland I worked with kids and am really looking forward to helping out at the local school.”

The service experience began on Saturday, Oct. 29, with volunteering at Habitat for Humanity in Trenton, NJ. Sarah Schneider ’20, of Long Island, NY, took part. 

“We worked on a townhouse and were in the stage where we put up the walls for the second floor,” she said. “I thought it was really interesting that of the supervisors we worked with only one was from the organization, the rest were volunteers who live in the community and have been volunteering every Saturday together for more than 10 years. It was amazing to meet them.”

The on-campus break service experience runs through Friday, November 4. View what volunteer opportunities are available and sign up online. Questions, contact Carey Hoover at the Pace Center.

Photo by Sarah Schneider '20 at Habitat for Humanity's build site in Trenton, NJ.