First Year Students Connect Through Community Service at Alvernia University

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Uniting college students with community need is a tradition for Alvernia University, located in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Students clean up Pendora Park

Alvernia University students work to clean up Pendora Park in Reading, Pa.

Bringing students and their professors together for a project like this gives them a chance to build relationships, and to see how easy it is to make a difference in the lives of others.

Almost 500 students and faculty members from Alvernia University got a taste of civic engagement and social responsibility when they helped clean up 10 parks and playgrounds in the City of Reading this week. As part of Orientation Weekend, new students moved into residence halls and said goodbye to parents — waking up the following morning to don white Alvernia t-shirts and board busses headed for inner city green spaces.

It’s a tradition at the Franciscan university in Eastern Pennsylvania — for which upper-class students and First-Year Seminar professors lead new students to take their first steps into youthful cooperation. They spend the morning clearing out debris, giving new coats of paint to tired equipment and pavilions, and trimming brush. Surrounded by students at Pendora Park, Freshman Foundations Program Director Wanda Copeland cleared weeds from an area around playground equipment. “It’s hard work, but well worth the effort,” she said.

"Service is really at the center of an Alvernia education," explains Jay Worrall, director of Alvernia’s Holleran Center for Community Engagement. “Bringing students and their professors together for a project like this gives them a chance to build relationships, and to see how easy it is to make a difference in the lives of others.”

In historic Baer Park, the Reading Fightin’ Phils baseball team joined the charge to remove old bleachers, and at the Reading Ironworks park a neighborhood mother taught her two young children to ride bicycles while Alvernia students cleaned off the pavement and uncovered a weed-choked fence surrounding a flourishing community garden.

“It feels good to do something that will help make this area safer for kids,” explained a smiling freshman, his white shirt stained black from pulling up broken playground flooring at Keffer Park. “I feel like I’m already making a difference.”

Alvernia is a thriving university that empowers students through real-world learning to discover their passion for life, while providing the education to turn what they love into lifetimes of career success and personal fulfillment, helping them make the world a better place.

Situated on a scenic 121-acre suburban campus in historic Berks County, Pa., the university of more than 3,000 students is conveniently located near Philadelphia (60 miles) and within an easy drive of New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. With a College of Arts and Sciences and College of Professional Studies, Alvernia today offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and minors and a range of graduate programs at the master’s and doctoral levels through its School of Graduate and Adult Education. Satellite sites are located in Philadelphia and Schuylkill County. As one of only 22 Franciscan institutions in the country, Alvernia’s focus on caring for each other, the environment and the community are joined with a challenging educational experience to provide an unparalleled environment to grow, develop and mature as a person and professional.

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Carey Manzolillo
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