Finding Community in Tradition of Service

Annual Feinstein Community Connections Day immerses freshman class into local communities for a day of service

Students help move items from a church
For RWU's annual Feinstein Community Connections Day, the entire freshman class spreads out to more than 30 community sites to dedicate a day of service before classes begin.
Public Affairs Staff

BRISTOL, R.I. – What better way to get to know your new classmates than to roll up your sleeves and work together to give back to local communities? On the Monday before classes begin, every member of the freshman class takes part in a beloved Roger Williams University tradition to dedicate a full day of service to community organizations in need.

Some 1,300 students, faculty and staff members fanned out today across 33 sites in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts for the 13th Annual Feinstein Community Connections Day, one of the largest single-day service programs in the region. From Charlestown, R.I. to Fall River, Mass., and RWU’s own back yard, yellow-shirted students harvested produce for food pantries, worked with local residents on the Bristol tree mapping project, created art projects with developmentally disabled adults, cleaned trash from beaches and cleared trails, among many other activities.

Since the program’s inception in 2005, RWU students have provided more than 69,500 hours of service. For some, it was their first introduction to community service, but for every freshman it was an opportunity to dive headfirst into the cornerstone of an RWU education – strengthening society through engaged learning and community projects.

At the Providence Children’s Museum, Mariella Secchiaroli, of Waterford, Conn., and Darian Napodano, of Green Brook, N.J., helped make educational playtime fun for the children visiting the museum.

Students with their arms around each other

“I really love that they get you involved in the community,” Secchiaroli (left) said. “I’m from a small town, and we’re all about community and family and all that.”

“It’s pretty clear that RWU values learning,” Napodano added. “They took us to a place that starts learning at a young age.”

Inside Saint John’s Church in Newport, Justin Arrichiello and Christopher Abbate – best friends from Westchester, N.Y. – undertook the task of digitally documenting the parish vestments. With respect and care, they removed the cardinal-red robes from drawers, laid them out and captured photos of each item for a digital archive, before attentively folding the delicate garments and placing them back into a dresser.

Students fold vestments inside church sanctuary

“This day demonstrates how much Roger Williams is dedicated to community service,” Abbate said. “There were a lot of smiling faces on the bus coming here, which shows how much we love to take part in it – we’re giving back to the community, and it makes you feel good.”

Students clean trash from street

Kylie Hofhaugh ’19 (left) and freshman Kaitlyn Savarese of Sainsbury, Conn., became quick friends as they worked together to clean Roger Williams National Memorial during this year’s Feinstein Community Connections Day.

Student paints a wall

At the Center for Reconciliation in Providence, Joseph Forcino worked with more than 20 of his classmates to help clean and organize their space. Forcino, a Cranston resident, said the experience quickly brought everyone together: “It’s nice how we are all helping out together. It shows we are all a team.”

The scent of lemon-fresh cleaner filled the sanctuary of Saint John's Church in Newport as Emily Botelho, of Bristol, R.I., took advantage of the opportunity to bond with her classmates as they polished the pews and intricate woodwork along walls and doorways.

Student polishes woodwork inside church

"As a commuter I don't get as many opportunities to meet my classmates," Botelho said. "Doing this community service day before school starts really let me meet other people. And it proved to me how much everyone at Roger Williams wants to help out, and how close we are as a community in general."

For many students, making small talk over their work revealed unexpected connections. As they picked the end-of-season harvest at Sandywoods Farm, an arts and agricultural community in Tiverton, Natalie Chretien of Winchendon, Mass. and Gaile Greene of Binghamton, N.Y. learned that they not only share the same major and residence hall, but also an interest in swimming.

And inside the children's room at Sandywoods, Madeline Leahy of Lowell, Mass. brainstormed with her artistic-leaning classmates to create a colorful mural demonstrating the interconnectedness of life, from the sea to the land and all of its creatures.

Student paints a mural on wall

"We had all chosen this job, so we quickly started working together," Leahy said. "We're sharing ideas, connecting on similar ways of thinking and how we can make something great for the children."

At RWU, we develop Civic Scholars who believe in service toward the greater good. That’s why we commit to providing immersive learning opportunities for every student, putting their knowledge and skills to the test solving real-world problems and creating meaningful change for community partners. Learn more about the Civic Scholars program and how to support community-engaged work at RWU.