On Saturday, April 29, Working for Worcester will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a city-wide service day. During the last five years, the project designed to promote city pride and provide necessary improvements to Worcester’s recreational spaces and schools, has raised more than $500,000 in capital, invested more than $1 million in the city in resources and services, mobilized more than 5,000 volunteers, including 3,500 from nine area colleges, and renovated more than 100 sites across the city.
“When we launched this project from our dorm room in 2012, we had no idea where it would lead us,” says Jeff Reppucci ’14, co-founder and executive director of Working for Worcester. “We quickly discovered that Worcester is a city with a contagious sense of community and an abundance of passionate civic leaders, generous corporations, and community organizers willing to support young people through mentorship and partnership. This city has profoundly touched our lives, and I am so happy to see this project thriving into its fifth year.”
Working for Worcester has an advisory board of 14 community leaders including City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. and Superintendent Maureen Binenda. “As someone who was there for the beginning, I’m astounded to see how much Working for Worcester has grown over its five years — from an idea to a movement,” says Augustus. “Thousands of children across our community have brand new playgrounds and revitalized learning spaces thanks to the efforts of thousands of volunteers. It’s inspiring to see the impact that a few dedicated young people can have on a community.”
The major sites for this year include the Rice Square School and the Vernon Hill School, where volunteers will be creating STEAM rooms, a new nationwide initiative that incorporates art and design into STEM subjects. These rooms give students the ability to be creative and flexible problem-solvers, to explore different ideas and to communicate well with others.
At the Rice Square School, student volunteers are partnering with Unum to convert a basement storage room into a multipurpose STEAM room and install a new playground. At Vernon Hill School, volunteers will partner with AbbVie to convert an old locker room into a new multipurpose STEAM room.
“As we began planning these spaces, our goal was to make sure that they embodied the spirit and curriculum of each school,” says Bowen Lee ’17, co-chair of the project and soon-to-be fellow at Nativity School of Worcester. “That is why we put so much emphasis on the collaboration between college students and their site contacts. Vernon Hill’s room will be heavily science-based while Rice Square’s space will be geared towards arts-and-design. The difference in the two STEAM rooms is remarkable and a testament to the creativity of our student-leaders and community partners.”
“Unum is proud to support Working for Worcester and we look forward to build day every year,” shares Steven Joseph, Working for Worcester board member and SVP of Individual Disability Operations at Unum. “It’s a day when we come together as a city, roll up our sleeves and create fun, safe spaces for our kids to play and learn. This year we’re excited to help Rice Square school transform a basement storage space into a STEAM lab. This lab will provide an environment for students to have fun while gaining critical science and technology skills.”
This year, Working for Worcester is also partnering with PlayWorks, a non-profit organization and AmeriCorps program that works with schools to maximize the potential for children to learn and grow through play. “At two of our sites, St. Mary’s School and Worcester Arts Magnet School, PlayWorks is advising our site leaders and providing them with a program-based playbook to assist them in engaging with the site,” says Lee. “PlayWorks is helping us think about the effect of our work on recess conduct and culture; we hope to help them build a presence in Worcester.”
The annual kickoff rally will be hosted at the City Hall Common, with registration beginning at 8 a.m. All volunteers will depart for their sites at 10 a.m. The group currently has 600 volunteers and hope to have 1,000 volunteers by the build day.
Working for Worcester has been featured in numerous local and regional media outlets and in 2014 was showcased on “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” during its “Making a Difference” segment.
Experience last year’s build day below:
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