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Hundreds participate in CommUniversity Day

Molly Madden | Monday, April 6, 2009

Approximately 700 Notre Dame students and 500 members of the South Bend community took part in the first annual CommUniversity Day Saturday, said outgoing Student Senate Social Concerns Committee chair Michelle Byrne.

“We had a lot of students doing service with members of the community,”” Byrne said. “I think that was the biggest sign that the event was successful – the community members and Notre Dame students were there and working together.””?

CommUniversity Day, organized by Notre Dame’s student government, was dedicated to bringing together members of the Notre Dame and South Bend communities to perform service together as a cohesive unit.

Projects began in the morning and some went on for the whole day, with Notre Dame students and community members holding Easter egg hunts for local children and cleaning up area parks. The day culminated with a picnic at the Robinson Community Learning Center.

Byrne said there was a lot of engagement from the Notre Dame community.

“There were so many organizations and clubs that had service projects that they had wanted to do and this day gave them the opportunity to engage in them,” Byrne said.

Senior Francesca Pennino helped to organize and supervise a scavenger hunt for students from St. Adalbert, a South Bend grade school where she has been tutoring kids for more than three years.?

“I was told about CommUniversity Day and was asked if I wanted to do something with the St. Adalbert kids,”” Pennino said. “I know a lot of the kids pretty well and I thought that this would be a great opportunity to expose them to college.””?

The 30 students from St. Adalbert participated in a scavenger hunt that broke them into groups led by Notre Dame students and took them all over campus.

“It was a great way for them to look at college and know that it isn’t something that is for somebody else; college is for them too,” Pennino said.

The St. Adalbert students had to do tasks that involved knowledge and also ones that were meant simply to be fun.

“Not only was it an opportunity for these kids to be exposed to education, but they also had a great time just being silly,” Pennino said. “And really, as Notre Dame students how often do we have the opportunity to run around campus and do cartwheels with kids for a few hours?”?

Senior Allie Minnis also participated in CommUniversity Day by helping to restore the mural that is on the side of the Robinson Center.

“The mural on the side of the center is made of wood panels and a lot of the panels were rotting,”” Minnis said. “Fifteen of us, including workers from the Robinson Center and kids who go there, took down some of the old panels and replaced them with new ones that we had painted.””?

Minnis said the greatest part of her day was being able to work with the children who benefit from her actions.

“The kids were so excited that they got to help improve something that was a part of their lives,”” she said. “And we were actually working with the kids instead of doing a service for them.””?

Working with the community, and not just for them, was one of the aims of CommUniversity Day, Bryne said.

“We didn’t want this to be a ‘service’ day,”” Byrne said. “We really wanted to be in a relationship with the community.””?

Byrne said the enthusiastic participation from Notre Dame students coupled with the passionate response from the community makes her hope that the event will occur again next year.

“I feel like CommUniveristy Day was a real milestone in the way that we relate to the community,” she said. “There are plenty of things that need to be fixed, but I feel like the overall groundwork has been laid out for a successful event in the future.”