Students at Camden parish see service as ‘two-way street’


ndstudents-webIn photo: Notre Dame University students Cara Pozolo, left, and Margaret Adams are pictured on their arrival at St. Claire House, a residence for volunteers at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Camden. The two students are spending time at the parish as part of Notre Dame’s Summer Service Learning Program.

All the way from South Bend, Ind., two University of Notre Dame students have come to South Jersey this summer to engage in community service and fellowship with Camden City residents.

Sophomores Cara Pozolo and Margaret Adams have, for the past few weeks, been working at St. Anthony of Padua Parish and School as part of Notre Dame’s Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP), through the school’s Center for Social Concerns.

The two, who attended an orientation in April, are required to do reading and writing during their eight weeks in Camden and attend three discussion sessions in the fall. The program is a 3-credit, elective course in theology.

Pozolo, a Michigan native majoring in biology and Spanish, calls her experience “a wonderful opportunity.” For several years, she said, she had been looking for a program that would allow her to help others like she is now doing in Camden.

Her work includes assisting the parish office staff in serving residents who come needing food or other help; working with the school’s kindergarteners and upper-grade students; and spending time at Francis House, a center for those who have or are affected by HIV/AIDS.

Pozolo also mentioned the “good mutual relationship” she and Adams have with the community. Some residents have invited them into their homes and shared meals with them.

“I’m grateful to be here,” she said.

Adams, a Missouri native, double majoring in History and Peace Studies, works at Francis House, and with school development director Lori Springer, helping her with paperwork and other tasks.

“We step in whenever we see a need,” Adams said.

Pozolo and Adams are just two of some 255 Notre Dame students working in 150 sites sponsored by the university’s local alumni clubs. These clubs, along with the James F. Andrews Scholarship Fund and other special scholarship funds, give a $2,300 Social Concerns Scholarship to students at the completion of their summer experience and academic requirements. Room and board is also given to students.

Living in a house just three blocks away from St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Pozolo and Adams see possibilities of what their work can achieve.

“Seeing hope in the community is real exciting,” said Adams. She noted that the more interaction the students have with the community, “the more we see service as a two-way street.”

Reverend Jud Weiksnar, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua, is also a graduate of Notre Dame (1979) and is happy with his alma mater’s program, in allowing his parish and community to benefit from the hard work and dedication of current students.

“As an alumnus, I am so pleased that they are doing something like this.”

With about two weeks to go, the two students from South Bend have made a difference, but realize there’s still so much they can do for Camden.

“When you really love something, you want to be doing it,” Adams said. “That’s exciting. We are living out the theology we learn about.”