MOVE groups serve Buffalo, Immokalee communities over winter break
Established partnerships allow students and staff advisers to forge ahead even in face of pandemic-era challenges for life-enriching encounters
Saint Michael’s students from MOVE, the volunteer service arm of Edmundite Campus Ministry, returned this past weekend right before classes from successful and fulfilling service trips to Buffalo, NY, and Immokalee, FL.
Lara Scott, MOVE director, said she was pleased students were able to participate in these partnerships — well established from previous years – despite the challenges of the pandemic.
One Saint Michael’s group worked with the NativityMiguel Schools – “a very longstanding community partner of ours” according to Scott– while the other group in Immokalee worked with Habitat for Humanity and the Redlands Christian Migrant Association School (RCMA).
“Our incredible participants contributed beautifully and importantly to communities, building relationships, and having a good time!” said Scott of this year’s trips.
Lauren Best ’24 of Nottingham, NH, with double majors in English and Secondary Education and minors in creative writing and philosophy, was the student leader for the Immokalee trip, with George Goldsworthy ‘93, the College’s director of print & mail, as staff leader. Top image behind headline shows
Victoria Castillo ‘20 of the MOVE staff led the Buffalo group. Victoria also coordinates MOVE’s service trip program and was active in such activities in her recent student days too.
Best, the Florida trip’s student leader, also an Undergraduate Professional Endorsement through a new Saint Michael’s program in “Adventure Sports Coaching and Non-Profit Organizational Leadership.” Of her recent service trip experience, she said it “has been absolutely phenomenal!
While in Immokalee, FL, the group of five students and one staff leader volunteered daily with Habitat for Humanity, helping with certain build projects on the construction site. Habitat for Humanity of Collier County typically serves the large migrant farmworker community in Immokalee, and the group attended a tour at Coalition of Immokalee Workers to learn more about the non-profit’s efforts in establishing farmworkers’ rights, equality, and justice for farmworkers in Immokalee and around the country.
The group also volunteered daily at Redlands Christian Migrant Association School (RCMA), which is a bilingual elementary school that also primarily serves migrant farmworker families. There they assisted teachers in classrooms and interacted with the students in the afterschool program.
Castillo said she joined senior Roark Thomas and junior Kristyn Carrozzo in traveling to Buffalo, NY for their week of service spent at NativityMiguel middle schools: St. Augustine’s campus for young men and St. Monica’s campus for young women.
“Since interaction with the students was limited this year due to COVID, we dedicated our time to various, much-need organizational projects around both schools cleaning up spaces to make them functional to be used in the way they were intended,” she said.
“Additionally, our main project at both schools was to set up the school store, which is a Saint Mike’s tradition that the students look forward to every year. We sifted through bags of donations of clothes and organized the physical space of the stores. On our last day of service, students were able to come into the store and ‘purchase’ things they wanted or needed like winter jackets, hats, gloves, and uniform apparel, and we taught them how to write out a fake check to pay for their purchase.”
“It was fantastic to see the students light up with excitement when they found a piece of clothing they really liked. Being able to bring that to the students of NativityMiguel middle schools was the best way to end our week there,” Castillo said. “And while there was less interaction between Saint Michael’ students and NativityMiguel students compared to previous years, our group really learned and understood through experience that seemingly small acts of service can make a world of difference.”
The St. Mike’s group also enjoyed a recent tradition: contributing their creations to an art wall in St. Monica’s school, where MOVE service trips groups have been painting additions since 2017.
Goldsworthy described his experience with the Immokalee group and motivation for signing on. This was his first service trip. “With my kids being 18 and 20 years old now, I had the opportunity to dive in,” Goldsworthy said. “The experience was enjoyable, enriching, and enlightening.”
Students in his group along with Best were Lesley Rivera’25, Diana Whitman ’22, Celeste Gonzalez ’22 and Lily O’Connell ’24.
“We spent the first four hours of each day at Habitat for Humanity Immokalee where we completed all the insulating of a home our first day on the job and had the house ready for inspection,” he said. “The rest of the week we were caulking, sanding, painting, nailing trim, and installing counter tops in three other homes. We completed all of our tasks and it was very rewarding. Some of the homes will be sold to Haitian migrants who were at our job site.
“In the afternoons, we spent 4 hours at the RCMA Charter School for the children of migrants. We each worked in both English and Spanish classrooms and stayed through the after school program,” Goldsworthy said. “The children and staff were welcoming and appreciative and it was really hard to leave.”
As in years past, Saint Michael’s alumnus and former trustee Don Dion ’76 and his wife, Cathy, hosted the volunteers for a gathering at the Dions’ home in Naples, joined by Don’s sister (Joline ’81) and also former Trustee Michael McGrath and his wife, Diane.
In Immokalee, they also met Jenny Wise ’09, who teaches at the public elementary school in town and was a volunteer this year,” Goldsworthy said.