Sacred Heart partners with Bridgeport’s North End

Making an impact on the community is a fundamental element of Sacred Heart University’s mission. The institution prides itself on community service impacting people locally and throughout the country and world.

The focus has also always been very much on the surrounding community, and that continues to be the case with the North End Partnership. The program has been created by Sacred Heart students and faculty with the assistance of Bridgeport Councilwomen Michelle Lyons and AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia and City Council President Thomas McCarthy.

“The idea behind the project is to expand Sacred Heart University’s community service in Bridgeport to the North End, which just so happens to be our own backyard,” said Sacred Heart’s Cory Rivera, the community service chair for the class of 2016.

The idea initially came from a conversation among Sacred Heart’s President John Petillo; Lyons; Matthew Kaye, director of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning; and Jacqueline Kelleher, education professor and chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

The ultimate goal of the program is to promote and encourage a relationship with North End residents, particularly the elderly and disabled, and to assist them in various simple outdoor tasks and everyday living.

The partnership’s kick-off event took place in April when student leaders Rivera and Melissa Martin joined Lyons to distribute flyers in the North End promoting the partnership and offering discounts to Sacred Heart events for residents.

The partnership will continue during the university’s Community Connections week before the start of classes, when students will distribute the 2013-14 brochure. The goal is to encourage residents to visit Sacred Heart, explore the programs available — many of which are offered free of charge — and get to know the university’s students and faculty.

This year’s brochure describes discounts on concerts, plays, sporting events and more. It also describes some of the many free lectures that will be offered to the local community throughout the year. The events range from musical presentations by Sheena Easton and Elvis Presley Jr., to a theatrical performance of Chicago and a discussion with Joan Crawford’s daughter, Christina. North End residents will also receive half off tickets to most Sacred Heart home sporting events.

“This year, we will be celebrating Sacred Heart’s 50th anniversary with a variety of exciting programs and events,” Petillo said. “For example, alumnus Kevin Nealon will be here during homecoming to present a comedic benefit performance. There will be free lectures on a variety of topics through the year, and we very much hope that our neighbors in the North End will be here often to help us celebrate.”

The partnership is also working to solidify the connection between residents and students by gathering the names of individuals who need the most assistance in the North End area. Beginning in the fall, groups of students will be ready to go out and perform services for those in need.

“Whatever we can do to encourage the relationship between the North End and SHU students will be considered,” said Lyons of the program going forward.

“I really think this project has the potential to help change the lives of the individuals who reside in the North End simply by having the Sacred Heart students be there for them,” Rivera said.

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