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ND students and local children celebrate fall

Marisa Iati | Sunday, November 6, 2011

Students from Notre Dame and families from the South Bend community celebrated autumn together at Sunday’s Fall Festival in the LaFortune Student Center Ballroom.

Senior Erika Hansen, student government’s Community Relations chair, said the festival was a chance to invite children and their parents who live in South Bend to Notre Dame’s campus.

“The purpose I think first and foremost is to have kids come in, celebrate fall, have fun, but also, as the Community Relations Committee, we’ve heard in the past that oftentimes community members don’t feel invited to Notre Dame’s campus,” Hansen said. “We hope this is a day for people to come and visit and enjoy campus and enjoy interacting with the students.”

At the festival, student volunteers helped local children make paper turkeys, color, decorate cookies and play games.

About 40 children attended, Hansen said.

Sophomore Cal Belden, a volunteer at the Fall Festival, said the children enjoyed the event.

“It seems like the kids [had] a good time,” Belden said. “I definitely think all the activities are catered for them, which is nice.”

Mishawaka resident Claire Shely said she appreciated the event, but thought more people would have attended if it had been held outside and advertised more extensively.

“I recognize a lot of people here from ECDC [Early Childhood Developmental Center on campus], so I don’t know how much of the community it actually brought in,” Shely said.  

Still, engagement between the University and the greater South Bend community has improved in recent years, she said.

“I think Eddy Street Commons has brought a lot of the community and Notre Dame together, so I think things have already become better since that’s been developed,” Shely said.

Sophomore Iona Hughan, a volunteer, said to further connect with the South Bend community, the University should utilize local organizations like the Robinson Community Learning Center.

“They have all the contacts, so if we publicize through them, we can make that connection,” Hughan said.

South Bend resident David Hipskind said members of the Notre Dame and South Bend communities need to converse more about how to build a stronger community.

“It would be great for the leaders of the South Bend community to get together with some of the developing leaders that study at the University to talk about what makes a community function well in this time,” Hipskind said.  

Belden said he thinks the relationship between the University and the South Bend community could still improve.

“I just think it’s difficult because, as a student, I’m worried about getting my homework done and hanging out with my friends and the other things I’m involved in, so that doesn’t leave a lot of time to reach out to the surrounding community,” he said. “It’s hard to make it a priority. It definitely is important.”

Hansen said she was pleased with the turnout at the Fall Festival.

“I think it was the right amount of kids,” she said. “No one had to wait for anything. I think it’s kind of a fun time, too, because we don’t get to hang out with kids very much.”

But she said she would like to advertise the event more in the future.

“I really meant to advertise to different faculty [and] especially the Graduate Student Union, but I think we had a good turnout regardless,” Hansen said.

Student government plans to hold a similar, Christmas-themed event in early December, Hansen said.

“This event will be a collaboration of Notre Dame student government and student governments from other campuses in the area, including [Indiana University South Bend] and Ivy Tech [Community College of Indiana], and we’re really looking forward to it,” she said.