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​Students work at Neutaconkanut Hill Park in 2010. 

151 Freshmen Arrive on Campus Early, Ready to Volunteer

When Patrick McNiff ’96 was a freshman entering Providence College, he arrived on campus early to join classmates in renovating and painting the Smith Hill neighborhood center — volunteer work that fueled his commitment to public service.

Now McNiff will welcome 100 PC students to his own farm, Pat’s Pastured, at the non-profit East Greenwich Land Trust in East Greenwich, R.I. Students will clear brush and trails, remove a fence, and clean a cemetery on the property, all through PC’s Urban Action Program.

Urban Action was established in 1991 to give incoming freshmen an opportunity to learn about public service and urban issues. This year’s program will welcome 151 members of the Class of 2016 for three days of community service, helped by 22 upper class student leaders and three coordinators, said Sharon L. Hay, dean of student programming in the Office of Student Activities-Involvement-Leadership.

Student coordinator Allison D’Aprile ’13 (Newburgh, N.Y.) said Urban Action is a great introduction to college.

“The one great thing about Urban Action for freshmen is that you all start out on the same playing field because you work as one team, all completing the same work that leaves a lasting impression on our community,” said D’Aprile.

This year, students will work at four sites, including McNiff’s farm. He leases 87 acres from the land trust to raise his free-range, grass-fed cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys.

Help from PC students is always welcome, McNiff said.

“It’s always great. They’re wonderful,” McNiff said.

Blazing trails

Urban Action participants will arrive on campus on Saturday, August 25 — four days ahead of their classmates. Their work begins on Sunday. One hundred will travel to Pat’s Pastured, while another 75 will undertake trail work and coastal cleanup at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown, R.I., on a peninsula between the Sakonnet River and Rhode Island Sound.

On Monday, August 27, all 175 students will work at Neutaconkanut Hill Park, 88 acres of woodland and trails owned by the City of Providence. They will paint, build a kiosk, prepare a meadow for a concert, and spread wood chips, Hay said.

The work concludes on Tuesday, August 28, with a trip to Riverside Mills in Providence, located on the Woonasquatucket River Watershed. The students will clean the park, garden, landscape, weed, and paint.

“It’s a way for students to give back to the community that they will be living in for the next four years,” said Clare Carroll ’14 (Merrick, N.Y.), an Urban Action student leader.

Other student coordinators are Michael Tate ’13 (Upton, Mass.) and Michael Welsh ’13 (Rye, N.Y.).

McNiff participated in Urban Action as a freshman and was a student leader during his junior and senior years.

“The work I did then set me up for continued community work in the neighborhood around PC and was fundamental in getting me off on a good footing,” said McNiff.

D’Aprile agreed.

“I had an easier transition into my first days of college having been surrounded by a group of complete strangers who make you feel completely accepted and friendly as you do worthwhile community service,” she said.  

 

— Vicki-Ann Downing

 

 

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