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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis volunteers in service program at Waltham school

Published: December 9, 2011
Section: News

Volunteers from the Brandeis and Waltham community came together Monday evening at the Stanley Elementary School to host Stanley Family Night, an event featuring nearly 30 activity booths for children as part of the university’s involvement within the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.

Proposed by President Barack Obama, the campus Interfaith Challenge encourages individuals of diverse religious and cultural views to collaborate together to solve community issues and foster relationships.

“There were many overarching goals of Family Night, but I would say generally that we hoped to give students and parents a fun night out together, to expose children to ideas and activities that might have been novel for them, and to increase family awareness about what Brandeis University can do for them and their families,” Rachael Downs, the community service coordinator of the Brandeis Interfaith Group, said.

Nearly 200 volunteers attended the event and ran a total of 28 activity booths for the children in the community. Groups affiliated with the event were the Waltham Group, the Brandeis Interfaith Group, the Interfaith Chaplaincy, Clubs in Service, Ultimate Frisbee, Student Events, Rather Be Giraffes and the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity.

“Teaching Frisbee at Stanley night inspired me to become more involved in community service at Brandeis. I realize that taking one night out of my week to play with kids can make a huge impact on their lives,” Mira Smith ’15, a member of the Ultimate Frisbee team, said.

Activities at the event included puppet theater, arts and crafts, planting, spin art and hula hoops. Volunteers also read to students in English, Spanish and Creole.

Downs said the event was successful because students communicated well with administrators at the Stanley School.

“Junior Brandeis Achievers is but one part of the Waltham Group that speaks to this continuous relationship,” Downs said. “Principal Jenn Hacker is one of several adults that we communicated with regularly from the school, and she was totally supportive of our vision from the beginning.”

With support from the director of community service, Lucas Malo, and the efforts of Allie Joseph from the Waltham Group and Clubs in Service at the event, Downs said she hopes to continue fostering new relationships with the Waltham community.

Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, Waltham Superintendent Susan M. Nicholson and members from the Waltham Public School Committee were in attendance as well.

Following Stanley Family Night, more than 30 students volunteered to host a reflection dinner and discuss service in conjunction with the collaboration of varying faith systems.

Downs said that as part of the Interfaith Challenge, student clubs are planning activities in collaboration with Protestant chaplain Alex Kern for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.