The Meelia Center for Community Engagement supports the mission of Saint Anselm College by preparing students to be ethical leaders and informed citizens who contribute to a more just community and world. The Meelia Center accomplishes this by promoting, organizing and supporting volunteer service, community-engaged learning, civic engagement and the development of student community leadership.
Students, faculty and staff can volunteer with community agencies and schools that serve children, people experiencing homelessness, the elderly, people with emotional or developmental disabilities, those with mental illness, incarcerated individuals and people recovering from substance abuse, just to name a few. Each semester, over 100 students commit two or more hours per week at over 50 local agencies. The Meelia Center arranges community placements based on volunteer skills and interests, and assists with transportation as needed. New initiatives are launched nearly every year to respond to student ideas, or community needs that are brought to our attention. In addition, the Meelia Center runs Access Academy which provides on-campus educational programming for high school students in Manchester who identify with groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Course are taught by trained and supported student instructors, who are sometime joined by faculty mentors.
The Meelia Center also supports community-engaged learning on campus. Community-engaged learning is an educational strategy that applies important course concepts through significant engagement with the community that is aligned with faculty defined learning goals. Each semester more than 250 service-learners engage in the community where they learn their course concepts more deeply, strengthen their professional skills and clarify their goals for the future. Each year community-engaged learning is integrated into at least 10 academic departments and 30 courses, from Nursing, Education and Psychology to Computer Science and Theology.
Students can also volunteer for occasional projects and special events such as the Valentine’s Day Dance for individuals with developmental and emotional disabilities, annual Children’s Holiday Festival, elderly food delivery, food drives, college shadowing days and others. The Meelia Center works closely with student organizations and residence halls to help connect groups of students wanting to get involved with agencies in need of assistance.
The Meelia Center keeps pace with student initiative and community requests by encouraging and developing student leadership. The Center employs over 90 student leaders (mostly work-study students) to help recruit, place and support volunteers and community-engaged learners, teach Access Academy courses and run community events. In fact, the Center engages some veteran leaders in staff management positions where they support Meelia student staff and serve as colleagues with the professional staff. Much of this coordination is done right from the community agency, with student leaders serving clients directly and coordinating the service of their fellow students. The Center prepares coordinators with the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective leaders.