Eleven students and one staff member from the College of Staten Island helped to make the world a better place last week by taking part in Habitat for Humanity’s “Building the Dream” event, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday was celebrated January 21.
Robert King Kee was instrumental in organizing the College’s contribution to the work, which took place at a 41-unit building at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. It is also the largest Habitat project to date, according to Kee. He adds that “the project is at the early stages of development so it was exciting to be a part of history in the making.”
Peter DeCrescenzo, a Junior at CSI, recalls, “Many of the students who participated in Saturday’s build had never used a drill, let alone cut through aluminum to help put up the walls in what is to become affordable housing. It is thanks to the Emerging Leaders Program that my fellow peers and I were introduced to this event and I look forward to future opportunities of service within the community.”
Fellow Junior Jose Saltos adds, “It was a great experience for me, because I had the chance to work with other student leaders. It also made me feel great about myself. Even though it was freezing outside, I didn’t feel the cold, not even for a second, because of the warmth of the people I was working with.”
Senior Charlene Morgan also appreciated the opportunity to lend a hand, stating “volunteering at this juncture gave me the opportunity to be of service to people from low-income communities to live in their own house. It was also a lot of fun working with friends and other student leaders from other schools and organizations.”
“We originally thought that we were going to be painting but we spent all day framing and putting up walls. It was quite exciting to see drills in the students’ hands,” explains Kee, adding that students were bubbling over with energy and enthusiasm.
Having worked with Habitat in the past, Kee, the Coordinator of Student Leadership Development with the CSI Office of Student Life, originally floated the idea of working with Habitat to students in CSI’s Emerging Leaders Program, a year-long program that develops and cultivates leadership skills. One of the goals of the program is to have students engage more actively in Student Life activities, such as Student Government and clubs.
Noting how this project benefits not only the future residents of Brooklyn but also the academic and social growth for the student builders, Carol Brower, Director of Student Life at CSI says “It is extremely rewarding and inspiring to see our students taking such an active role in service to others. What a wonderful reflection this is on CSI.”
When it was all over, the students “were all asking when we could do it again,” says Kee. As a result of CSI’s enthusiastic contribution to the Brooklyn project, Kee reports that Habitat expressed interest in working with CSI students again when it brings a project to Staten Island, perhaps as early as this fall.