Breaking News
William Paterson University's Official Student-Run Newspaper

The Beacon

William Paterson University's Official Student-Run Newspaper

The Beacon

William Paterson University's Official Student-Run Newspaper

The Beacon

Honors College takes community service outside William Paterson University

The Honors College dedicates Saturdays to community service.
Students Camryn Rayfield, Sabriyah Satterfield-Ali, Solenni Gonzalez, and Jason Peralta stand in front of a shelf of beverages at the food pantry in Father English Community Center. Photo courtesy of William Paterson University Honors College

Jason Peralta knows what it means to go hungry.

The junior, who is studying environmental sustainability and public health, once went a few days without eating. He had to take a loan to cover his tuition last fall, and he would skip many meals each day because he didn’t have enough money to buy food.  

“I would starve myself every day throughout the school day,” Peralta said. “Since I was an athlete and had practice every day, I wouldn’t be able to eat until I got home at 7 or 8 p.m.”

 Throughout the semester, Peralta’s schedule became inconsistent, and it made him eat even less as a result of having to adjust.

“There would be some days where I wouldn’t eat at all because I would have to go straight into doing homework and studying when I got home,” he added.   

In the following semester, Peralta received a food grant called the Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) Grant, which allows first-year and transfer students to receive meal allowances from the University to address food insecurity for students with exceptional financial need.

“I had a meal plan for the first time ever and I was able to properly eat meals throughout the day,” Peralta said. “It was great being able to be fed last semester, and I’m so happy resources like this grant exist on campus.”

Today, as a member of William Paterson’s Honors College, he dedicates part of his weekends to helping those who have the same needs.

Every Saturday, students in the Honors College host a 2-hour Saturday service event at the Father English Community Center in Paterson where they pack bags, sort deliveries, and stock shelves.

Students working in the Father English Community Center take away more than just lessons in food distribution and packaging. For Carissa Ostolaza, a sophomore majoring in sports medicine, the experience has increased her level of gratitude and made her happy to actively make a difference.

“It is definitely a humbling experience to realize how truly blessed we are to have what we utilize each day,” Ostolaza said. “Being able to provide people with hope and knowing that we may be lifting burdens off a multitude of people’s shoulders is something I am extremely honored to be a part of.”

By working in Father English, Students not only support the efforts of the community center to provide food for low-income families, but they also exemplify civic engagement, which is part of the university’s mission statement.  

“The students’ work has been phenomenal,” said Jan Pinkston, the associate director of the Honors College. “I’m impressed by how hard they work, and I can tell they find it very satisfying to see how much progress they make.”

Pinkston organizes the civic engagement opportunities that the school provides for enrolled students. Students in the program are required to participate in seven hours of civic engagement every year, which can include food and coat donation drives, creating cards for senior citizens, and volunteering with other non-profits.

“Civic Engagement is one of the core values at William Paterson,” Pinkston added. “By participating in civic engagement, students acquire knowledge and skills while developing a greater social awareness.”

Barbara Andrew, dean of the Honors College, advocates for civic engagement involvement in the university as a way of forming relationships with the community and for students to develop essential career skills.

“Civic Engagement deepens our connection to our surrounding community,” Andrew said. “Volunteer work gives students additional opportunities to develop leadership skills, engage in community problem solving, and strengthen their interpersonal skills.”

Andrew added that she is “deeply impressed by these students’ commitment to the well-being of our fellow citizens” and is “very proud of their work.”

Food insecurity is present not just in Paterson, but also on campus where there are students who need help to afford many essentials.

To provide for those in need, WPU has the Pioneer Pantry, a free resource for all currently enrolled students that provides pre-packaged food, canned goods, and limited fresh foods. It also provides hygiene products, household necessities, and cleaning supplies.

“The goal of the Pioneer Pantry is to focus on food insecurity happening within our student community by supplying the students with basic needs to live in college,” said Amajanae Crumbley, the coordinator of the Pioneer Pantry. “We want to help the students in need of help.”

The Pioneer Pantry helped Peralta during the spring semester when he first heard about it. 

“I was going to the Pioneer Pantry every week,” Peralta said. “It gave me another meal to eat, and I have been so grateful that this resource exists for students like me.”

Students in WPU are encouraged by faculty members to volunteer in any food drive to give back to the people in their community. By providing food to families in need, students can develop an appreciation for what they have and how the campus has opportunities to perform civic engagement. 

For Peralta, it’s the impact of delivering food to families facing food insecurity that affects him. He finds it fulfilling to help others in the same circumstances.

“Not only does it feel great to give back, but knowing that you helped aid families gives me a boost to my self-esteem,” he added. “It feels great to leave at the end of the day knowing that you were able to help a child not go hungry.”

The Pioneer Pantry is located in Speert Hall, Room 135. It is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you are interested in volunteering for the Honors College, please email [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Rochelle Estrada, Contributing Writer

Comments (0)

All The Beacon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *