By: Nina Campli, Assistant Editor of Student Life and Arts Photographer: Adam Oppegaard (’19)
On Sunday, Feb. 25 Civics Scholars Lauren Mastropierro (‘18) and Sydney Marciano (‘18) had their Senior Project in the Simon Forum. The event, titled “Day of Play and Networking,” was created by the pair to allow parents of children with special needs to make connections with other parents and organizations in the community of Madison and surrounding towns. Each child was paired with a “buddy,” or a student volunteer, so the parents could network. Marciano said, “It is an opportunity for children with special needs to have a day filled with fun while buddied up with a student from Drew that will make their experience here the best it can be.” In addition, Mastropierro explained the goal of the event, saying, “We wanted an environment where the children were able to be themselves, socialize with others and just be able to experience activities that they may not otherwise be offered.” She added, “Both Sydney and I are in the Master’s of the Arts program for Teaching and we have a passion for making sure each child has equal opportunities.”
Both Mastropierro and Marciano wanted to make sure that the parents knew they were not alone and that there were resources for them. They also wanted the children to just let go of stress and have a little fun. However, they also hope the student volunteers learned something. Marciano stated, “I want the volunteers to learn what it means to be involved with this community. I want them to see how amazing these kids are and how much they can impact their life, even for just a day.” Some of the volunteers were Civic Scholars, some a part of the Women’s Softball team, which Marciano and Mastropierro are also part of, and others were just students who wanted to participate in a volunteer opportunity. Stephanie Burns (‘21) said, “I know Lauren and Sydney from softball. I wanted to volunteer for the event because I volunteered for the Special Olympics last summer, and it really made the kids happy.”
To plan the event they had to create an agenda for the day, find volunteers and get children and parents to sign up. In addition they also had to find community organizations willing to participate at the event. Marciano said, “It was stressful at times, especially with finding volunteers, but it all worked out in the end. The events co-sponsors included Civic Scholars, the Drew MAT Program, EPOCH and Kids to Kids plus many others.”
Throughout the day the kids participated in many different activities such as face painting and crafts. They also had time to play with a big parachute and shoot some hoops. Meanwhile the parents had an info session and an opportunity to talk to the different organizations in the area about the resources they have to offer.
Overall, the event was a success with Mastropierro saying, “I was super pleased with the outcome of the event. We had way more people sign up then we expected. Our goal was 15 and we more than doubled that number by having about 40 children in attendance.” Marciano added, “We wanted to just reach a few lives and provide them with a fun day, but it definitely became so much more than that.”