As the LENS program begins its fifth year, its student participants’ commitment to service and mission is stronger than ever. The Leadership, Engagement and Service program is run by the Office of Service-Learning and introduces a select group of first-year students to campus,the mission and legacy of CHC and the Sisters of Saint Joseph and SSJ-sponsored works. They also learn about the roots of social inequality while performing service works at local social service agencies and other locations.
For this academic year, 12 students joined two student leaders and Ryan Murphy, director of service-learning, and Shane McCarthy, service-learning assistant, a week prior to the official start of the semester for four intense days.
“We had a great group that really gelled,” says Murphy. “They are still connected because they live together in a living/learning community and will perform various service projects throughout the semester and hopefully into the spring.”
Students apply to be part of the program that challenges them through the service projects, offers time for reflection and provides friendship and a new level of confidence as they enter their first year of college.
This year’s group worked at Greensgrow West Urban Farm at 49th and Baltimore in Philadelphia, where they helped move plants and repaired chicken coops. Residents at The Villa enjoyed visiting with the students who also helped the seniors pack and prepare to move to new rooms while their old ones are renovated. The group got a tour of the United Cerebral Palsy Center of Philadelphia in Chestnut Hill, which offers day programs for adults and an inclusive daycare program, and learned how they can get involved there and be of service on a regular basis.
Philabundance Food Bank is always in need of help and the students spent a morning in South Philadelphia unpacking and re-packing groceries. They also packed several hundred school kits for local children with crayons, paper, pencils and pens and other school supplies.
On their last night in the program, the students were given SEPTA train passes and free time in Center City.
When on campus, they toured the Heritage Room in the Mother House, had a scavenger hunt in the town of Chestnut Hill to help them become familiar with the area, met with Joannie Cassidy, SSJ, director of campus ministry, and Colleen Gibson, SSJ, assistant director of campus ministry, for pizza and reflection and yes, had a little downtime to settle into their new home.
One evening during the week, the students are treated to a home-cooked Italian feast prepared and hosted by Nancy Dachille, director of career development.
“Hosting the LENS students at my home sets the tone for a wonderful, personal relationship that we continue to nurture throughout their time here and beyond,” says Dachille.
On August 19, move-in day for all other first-year students, this group joined President Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., and her cabinet at a special breakfast in the College’s boardroom. After the meeting, Sister Carol told Murphy she was impressed with the students’ commitment to the mission and to service.
“This kind of program isn’t unique,” says Murphy, “but what makes ours stand out is that we imbue them with the mission and charism of the Sisters of Saint Joseph through a reflection-based servant leadership program. We also place a focused effort on developing leadership skills so the students understand how they can become leaders through service. They learn through their experience.”
“These students connected very well and I’m confident they will show up ready for any good work, will share what they’ve learned with the other first-year students and will hold each other to a high level of service.”