On April 28, Princeton University athletes took a break from the normal routine of class and competition and volunteered in the local community as part of the Princeton Varsity Club's Weapons of Mass Construction (WOMC) program. Founded in 2009, the Weapons of Mass Construction program is a way for undergraduate student-athletes, coaches and administrators to give back to the region.
This year, with the help of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, WOMC partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Burlington County and Greater Trenton-Princeton to make a difference in Trenton, NJ. At Habitat for Humanity's build site student-athletes helped break up sidewalks and work on a series of townhomes rising on East State Street. Student-athletes also participated in a garden project to help bring to life new gardens at five sites in Princeton.
“Our athletic program aims to complement and enhance the educational mission of the University and aims to provide our student-athletes with the opportunity to achieve, to serve and to lead," said Mollie Marcoux Samaan ’91, Ford Family Director of Athletics. "The Weapons of Mass Construction service series is an extension of our belief in the value of 'Education Through Athletics' and a wonderful opportunity to connect and directly benefit the surrounding community.”
Through WOMC, the Princeton Varsity Club has partnered with several non-profit organizations, including HomeFront, Community House, Isles, Inc., the YMCA of Trenton, the United Way of Greater Mercer County, and Jersey Cares. Projects have included building community gardens, restoring hurricane-damaged properties, refurbishing community centers and renovating the future site of a sustainable urban village.
Hear more about this year's work at Habitat for Humanity in Trenton from student-athletes in this video by the Princeton Varsity Club:
In lieu of closed captioning, a transcript of the video appears below:
"It's really nice to be able to get off campus, but it's also obviously amazing to be able to help people who are in need," said Hailey Reeves '17, Field Hockey, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. "I think that it gives us a great opportunity as athletes to just let go and have an opportunity to get away and have a bigger picture of what's going on in the community around us because sometimes I think you can get stuck in that orange bubble. I think it's a really cool opportunity to come here and volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and help out people in need that are near us."
"We're helping to build some of their houses and our job today is to break up the sidewalk around the house so they can keep building," said Steven Cook '17, Men's Basketball, Winnetka, Illinois. "A lot of sledgehammers, a lot of safety glasses, gloves and we're having fun."
"It's really rewarding," said Catalina Vives '19, Women's Tennis, Santiago, Chile. "It's a fun opportunity to come out and do something different. We're always so busy in our own little worlds. Just doing something different and getting out it's so fun. Everybody is enjoying it."
"It's girls against basically the football guys and you know that's always a great competition," added Reeves. "I think the girls are winning safe to say. We've definitely pulled up a lot more sidewalk so that's always fun."
"We got about five slabs out and they were working on their second maybe, so there's a competition between us on who can do better," said Keiko DeClerck '19, Women's Ice Hockey, San Jose, California.
"We see them around campus, we see them in the training room, we see them around a lot, but we don't get a lot of time to spend together so that's great bonding over a great cause," added Cook. "We spend a lot of time in the weight room so we're trying to show what we can do."
"For sure it's nice to meet new people and hear about how they're doing in their season or what they're doing after they graduate" said Vives. "It's through something we all enjoy, sports and helping out."
"I mean obviously we're so lucky that PVC does do much for us and just bringing together community initiatives is one of the things that they do and we're really lucky to be able to come together for the day and bond and have a great time and help out people that are in our community that are underserved," said Reeves. "So I think that we're super lucky that we have the opportunity and that PVC really puts forward their message of Achieve, Serve and Lead. We're very lucky to be able to achieve and lead on campus, but coming off campus and coming to Habitat for Humanity in Trenton is a great opportunity to serve."