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​​Providence College Students: Transforming Society

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

Providence College students annually volunteer nearly 49,000 hours at more than 120 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 11th 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 Ascham Park in Providence and painted a mural, spread mulch, and removed a fence. Providence Parks Department officials estimate that more than $100,000 of labor has been donated to various projects by PC students, staff, alumni, and city employees in the eleven years of 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 unique partnership with city parks department officials was developed by the College’s President’s Council. The council is a leadership group, comprised of senior executives from many of Rhode Island’s most prominent employers, who serve in an advisory capacity to the College’s president.  The FUSION effort matches PC undergraduates with young alumni/alumnae who graduated between 2000 and 2016, 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 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. Since its inception, Urban Action 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 Urban Action, with many returning each year as upperclassmen leaders.

The Feinstein Institute for Public Service at PC partnered with five local high schools 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 visit the schools to engage in a variety of formal and informal programming structured around a unique college readiness curriculum. The program also includes four days of PC campus programs for high school students throughout the academic year, including a visit to a Friars men’s basketball game at the Dunk. In summary, the EXPLORE! weekly programming 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. 

The partnership between 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 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 six 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.

In its fifth year, the Faith Works service immersion program took place in August. More than 50 PC students participated in the program for incoming freshmen. Sponsored by Campus Ministry, 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 connected to the Church in Rhode Island, including the St. Martin de Porres Center, a senior service center; The Little Flower Home, a crisis pregnancy shelter; St. Edwards Food and Wellness Center; the Refugee Dream Center; and Habitat for Humanity Providence. Students also toured facilities at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections to learn more about the chaplaincy services that are provided. 

Two PC students participated in the My Brother’s Keeper Urban Plunge in January.  My Brother’s Keeper is a nonprofit organization in Easton, MA that delivers food and furniture to families in need.

Fifteen members of Dirigo, the honor society for students who have excelled as leaders during their college career, conducted an on-campus workshop for juniors from St. Patrick’s Academy in downtown Providence on Friday, April 28. The student leaders - from PC’s Classes of 2017 and 2018 - designed and led a four-hour program focused on the college search, student leadership, and time management in college vs. high school.

The second year of Lightening Others’ Loads supported nearly 70 incoming new students in August. At the end of the spring semester, students are invited to donate unwanted dorm supplies to be distributed to incoming students in need during fall orientation. This student-run program is supported by Campus Ministry, the Night in FriarTown Committee, and the Office of Residence Life, and redirects many usable items from being prematurely discarded.


Nearly every PC student-athlete, representing all 19 varsity sports, participated in a range of community service projects throughout the academic year. There were 389 participants out in the community representing the Friars, putting in a total of 3,231 community service hours. In total, they raised $30,800 for various charitable organizations for 2016-17. Student-athletes understand giving back to the surrounding community, and are committed to demonstrating the Athletic Department’s core values: honesty, integrity, mutual respect, effort, and constant improvement.  

Each year, students work with local elementary schools through their participation in the annual Reading Week event. More than 50 student-athletes read to the students and answered questions about attending college, reaching out to hundreds of youths. Many of the teams help at local soup kitchens, such as Judy’s Kindness Kitchen in Providence. They also collected canned goods at basketball games for local food banks.  Another major initiative was a partnership with the DaVinci Center on the Adopt-a-Family Project, which afforded Christmas gifts to over 300 families. All 19 teams contributed, providing for 130 local kids through their efforts alone.

The swimming and diving team raised more than $19,000 for Swim Across America to benefit cancer research. Many of the teams also assist with R.I. Special Olympics events, refereeing and cheering on the participants. Approximately 150 female PC student-athletes from field hockey, softball, swimming and diving, track, cross-country, soccer, tennis, and dance volunteered at the Girls on the Run RI (GOTRRI) 5K event at Colt State Park in Bristol, Rhode Island. GOTRRI is a non-profit development program for girls ages 8-13. The student-athletes first wrote individual letters to participants, sharing feelings of encouragement and confidence with the girls before their big race day. 
This year saw the continuation of the Junior Friars program. The Junior Friars initiative is led by the College’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). SAAC coordinated a schedule of student-athletes who volunteered to serve as hosts for each game attended by Providence Recreation participants. The student-athletes greeted the students when they arrived on campus, and spent time talking with them before each game. Here, they emphasized the importance of hard work across academics as well as athletics, and encouraged them to make good choices and set their sights on going to college once they graduate from high school. The athletes then watched the game with the kids. Six varsity teams participated, touching more than 250 students.  

The Walking School Bus. The women’s soccer, field hockey, and track teams woke up early many mornings to walk children from the surrounding area to their respective schools. Buses will not provide transportation within a certain proximity, so PC athletes were there to make sure the students arrived safely, while forming bonds and relationships with the neighborhood children they saw each week. 

​Winter 2017 Break Service Initiatives:

As a part of Supporting Community Literacy in Nicaragua, 14 PC students went to El Manzano, Nicaragua, in Jaunary with Dr. Nicholas Longo ’96, associate professor of public and community service studies and chair of the Department of Global Studies, and Dr. Nuria Alonso García, associate professor of Spanish and chair of the Department of Foreign Language Studies.  The students worked with Waves of Hope, a non-profit organization promoting education in that rural community.

Also in January, 19 students enrolled in Visualizing Peace and Justice traveled to Quito, Ecuador, with Dr. Jeffrey D. Pugh, assistant professor of political science, and Eric Sung, associate professor of photography. They used photography and art to promote social justice through the Center for Mediation, Peace and Resolution of Conflict.

PC's 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. Fifteen students and two Campus Ministry staff members (Bob Pfunder ’09, Campus Minister, and Fr. Dominic Verner, OP Assistant Chaplain) participated this year.  The trip is a mainstay alternative break experience held for the past eight years, which aids the local community while exposing students to the faith, food, and culture of the Gulf Coast.  NOLA Immersion is committed to the dignity of the human person, lived out by accompanying our neighbors in the journey toward justice.  

​March 2017 Alternative Spring Break Service Initiatives:

138 PC students spent their Spring Break working on behalf of Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge Program. Some of the sites where students helped build homes were Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. 

Eleven PC students served at the Outreach 360 Health program in the Dominican Republic. The students, enrolled in the course called Community Development in the Americas, taught by Dr. Eric Hartman, adjunct assistant professor of global studies. They worked with Outreach 360 and taught English to children in schools and orphanages in the Dominican Republic, and supported community health education. 

Ten PC students along with Kaytee Stewart ’09, program coordinator for the Feinstein Institute for Public Service, participated in a “Crossing Borders” service immersion trip in Tijuana, Mexico.  Students worked with Esperanza International and their partner Fundación Esperanza de México 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.

The PC community also supported numerous charitable organizations:

More than 1000 PC students, faculty, and staff members donated approximately $7,500 worth of toys, clothing items, bicycles, and money to 13 local families, including 51 children, through the Adopt-A-Family holiday giving program sponsored annually by the College’s Office of Residence Life.

Senior Public and Community Service Studies majors started a new philanthropic partnership with Kiva, a non-profit microfinance organization. The students in the capstone course, along with the Feinstein Institute and the Public and Community Service Studies department, donated $200 to Kiva in the form of a small business loan for a women’s baking cooperative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The loan will recycle within 8 months and subsequent capstone classes will choose a new loan recipient within the Kiva network.

For the last 14 years, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety and Residence Life hold a Move-Out Clothing & Food Drive at the end of the spring semester. 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 School of Continuing Education (SCE) 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 a local family. SCE received donations of gifts and cash to purchase all items for a local family with three children, as well as a senior citizen.

The School of Continuing Education sponsored the fourth annual April Showers prize-a-day raffle which netted $3200 to support scholarships for SCE students. It was the largest amount raised in four years.
601 members of the PC community raised over $66,000 for the American Cancer Society at the 2017 Relay for Life. PC has hosted the event for the past 17 years and has raised more than $1,000,000 for the American Cancer Society.

This year, the Turkey Drive successfully donated approximately $700.00 in monetary donations, 40 turkeys from Sodexo, and almost 2,000 canned goods and other non-perishable food items. The Smith Hill Community Development Corporation and Mary House, the social ministry of St. Patrick’s Parish, were the beneficiaries of the collection.

The PC Student Athletic Advisory Council held their annual Mary House Benefit Shower, a baby item drive to benefit Mary House, which operates an emergency food pantry and offers daily meals, health fairs, mentoring, and clothing to Providence residents. This event was one of many community service initiatives that helped PC student-athletes perform over 4,520 hours of community service this year.

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.

Faculty and student clubs in biology, chemistry and biochemistry, engineering-physics-systems and the Office of the Chaplain/Campus Ministry collected books for distribution to the Textbooks for Ghana program. 

Academic Affairs, in collaboration with the Feinstein Institute, Campus Ministry, Institutional Advancement, and the Office of Student Activities-Involvement-Leadership, collected personal care items during the 8th Annual April Showers Drive.  The donations filled nearly 20 grocery bags and benefited the guests at Mary House, the social service agency of St. Patrick’s Church.

Upcoming Service Trips:

This upcoming summer, PC students and staff will participate in Campus Ministry’s new International Immersions program. Nine students and staff from Campus Ministry and the office of Institutional Diversity will travel to Guatemala from May 27 – June 3. The group will volunteer at San Lucas Mission. The Mission provides a number of important services and development opportunities for the community of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. 

From May 27 – June 3, eleven students and staff from Campus Ministry will volunteer with Mustard Seed Communities in Moneague, Jamaica. Mustard Seed provides support for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities.

10 students are preparing for international travel to Dominican communities around the world through the Father Smith O.P. Fellowship for Study and Service Abroad. After a long self-guided research and competitive application process, these students will live in the community and serve with Dominican Friars and Sisters, deepening their acquaintance with the Catholic and Dominican intellectual tradition and the ethos of Christian service.