20 Years Strong, Plumley Village SPUD Programs Continue to Grow

The housing complex in Worcester has become a popular — and growing — volunteer site for helping youth
April 19th, 2019 by 

A Holy Cross student works with young students at Plumley Village
A Holy Cross student works with children at Plumley Village. Photo by Avanell Brock

Each week, dozens of Holy Cross student volunteers take a short drive across the city to continue a commute that started two decades ago. The students, members of Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD), make their way to Plumley Village, a large brick housing complex in Worcester, which has become a popular — and growing — volunteer site for helping youth.

Home to around 500 children and their families, Plumley Village partners with Holy Cross to help foster youth engagement through mentoring, tutoring and more. What began as a Boys and Girls Club extension more than 20 years ago has blossomed into three core Plumley Village SPUD programs, including new Homework Help and LUK Mentoring offerings.

Through the Boys and Girls Club, students work with the children who are Plumley Village residents, offering everything from homework tutoring to a game of foosball. “The best thing they get is a consistent presence in their lives that is solely there to help them with whatever they need,” says SPUD student leader Geraldine Connolly ’19.

The Homework Help Program has seen increased participation thanks to Holy Cross student leadership and partners such as Community Builders, a nonprofit real estate development company dedicated to improving quality of life at its properties. About 10 Holy Cross students volunteer for Homework Help, a drop-in center that runs Mondays through Thursdays. While it started off slowly, the program now has 40 children registered.

Seeing the children’s progress each week serves as a major source of motivation to keep the program going, says Kwame Marshall, Community Builders youth services coordinator: “Giving them leverage, helping them gain confidence and watching them grow academically is such a great feeling.”

Another newly formalized Plumley SPUD site is LUK Mentoring. Its partnership with Holy Cross was born out of a need for more volunteers beyond community mentors. The program pairs 16 female Holy Cross volunteers with 16 girls from Plumley — ranging in age from 7 to 14 — based on their interests and personalities. The goal is to form relationships, encourage healthy habits and foster self-esteem.

Clare Courcey ’19, LUK Mentoring SPUD student leader, says sometimes hearing about the challenges the girls are facing can be disheartening, but it fuels her involvement. “It makes me twice as E 20 Years Strong, Plumley Village SPUD Programs Continue to Grow motivated to go and be a good role model. I use every minute I get with [my mentee]; I provide the best advice I can to her,” she says.

One of the greatest gifts that stems from the programs is perspective for Holy Cross students and their young charges. “I think the Holy Cross students really help the girls see a different perspective,” says Hilary Amedy, LUK Mentoring Program coordinator. “Just encouraging education and letting them know that they’ve worked hard to get to where they are — that it’s possible for them to go to college.”

Volunteering can also be eye-opening for Holy Cross students, reminding them of the world beyond campus. “You want to make sure you’re not just thinking about the Holy Cross bubble,” Connolly says. “You want to be going out in Worcester and actually thinking about ways you can help the community, remembering you’re in a huge city and there is so much you can take advantage of.”


Written by Mary Cunningham ’17 for the Spring 2019 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

About Holy Cross Magazine
Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.

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