Junior Nicole Addesso is busy. On top of a full schedule of classes, homework and a social life, she opts to spend eight to 10 hours a week volunteering in the community through the Rider Community Scholars Bonner Foundation (RCS).
Because of Addesso’s commitment to service, AmeriCorps, a national service program, has named her the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. Addesso described her experiences over the past three years as “life changing,” although she has been actively involved with community service for a long time.
“Service has been ingrained in my life since I was very young,” said Addesso, an accounting major. “My parents have always been active members in the community and I learned from them the importance of giving back and caring for the people. I view the world as part of my extended family and wish to protect and comfort whenever possible.”
The community service project Addesso is currently involved with, El Centro, works to provide an after-school service for Latino children in Trenton. Most of the kids she works with are 6- to 12-year-olds, but age is not the biggest barrier; many of these children are accustomed to speaking Spanish at home. Addesso has basic knowledge of the language, so she is able to hold limited conversations with the children.
“[El Centro] allows people to pursue their passions, to grow as individuals and to ultimately change our little piece of the world,” she said.
Another key mission of the program is to introduce a comfortable English-speaking setting that can be proactive.Tutoring is one method of achieving this objective.
“I can see the improvement in their reading and math skills,” Addesso said. “I can see the excitement in their eyes when the light bulb goes off in their head.”
Because the project takes place four days a week, close ties are created between the children and the volunteers.
“If, for some reason, you are unable to go to the program for one day, the next time you arrive, the kids run up to you with big smiles on their faces and demand to know where you were,” she said.
With graduation less than two years away, Addesso feels that she will likely continue with her venture to get involved with the community after college.
“I plan to join different organizations in my community, like Soroptimist International, which is an organization that helps women and children in the local community,” Addesso said.
The award from AmeriCorps is a much-appreciated acknowledgement of her hard work, but Addesso has taken something not quite as tangible away from her experiences with RCS.
“I’ve gained a new family from this program and I can’t imagine my life without the kids,” she said.
Other local community service projects offered at Rider include the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Mercer Street Friends, Homefront, Millhill Child and Family Development Center, Trenton After-School program and Minding Our Business Xtreme. For more information about Rider Community Scholars, visit the Web site at http://www.rider.edu/175_14470.htm