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University Students Find Joy in Bringing Happiness to Others


Posted 12/11/2015
Posted by Sophia Olsen


 Jacqueline Heatter ’18, plays with some of the pre-schoolers at the University's annual holiday party.

Jacqueline Heatter ’18, plays with some of the pre-schoolers at the University's annual holiday party.

 Kathryn Clifford ’18, says making these pre-schoolers happy brings a lot of joy into her life.

Kathryn Clifford ’18, says making these pre-schoolers happy brings a lot of joy into her life.

Alumnus Don Gamsjager ’10,  first played music for this party when he was a first-year student and now he returns every year to play for the kids.

Alumnus Don Gamsjager ’10, first played music for this party when he was a first-year student and now he returns every year to play for the kids.

Alexandra Coury, associate director of the Women's Advancement Initiative at the University, portrays the character Elsa from "Frozen" to the delight of the pre-schoolers in attendance.

Alexandra Coury, associate director of the Women's Advancement Initiative at the University, portrays the character Elsa from "Frozen" to the delight of the pre-schoolers in attendance.

There is nothing more rewarding than making a child happy or providing new warm winter clothes to someone who is homeless. This is the feeling several University students experience each year as they volunteer at one of the many community service activities that the University organizes.

“Giving back to the community and seeing people smile makes me really happy,” says communication major Jacqueline Heatter ’18, who is involved in several community service activities with her sorority, Sigma Delta Tau. In early December, Jacqueline and her sorority sisters volunteered at the annual preschool holiday party, where approximately 150 children from three different schools in Hartford came to campus to meet Santa and Elsa from the movie “Frozen.”

This annual holiday party started as a small tradition 20 years ago, when Delois Lindsey, assistant vice president for student development, went out to local preschools to talk about various holiday traditions. She then started inviting the preschoolers to campus for a holiday celebration and, over the years, it has grown bigger and become a campus tradition with different departments, staff, and students offering their help and support. Alumnus Don Gamsjager ’10,  first played music for this party when he was a first-year student and now he returns every year to play for the kids. 

“The event unites the campus and helps build strong ties to the community,” says Lindsey. She notes that it is also a great experience for the student volunteers because they get to be a part of giving to others and learn more about themselves in the process.

For health science major Kathryn Clifford ’18, community service activities have had a huge impact on her life. Through her volunteering experiences, she has managed to overcome a difficult phase of her life, when she was bullied because of her race. 

“Being a part of something good and making people happy makes me happy,” says Kathryn. This year, she participated in the preschool holiday party and  donated a gift to the University’s angel tree, in which the campus community is encouraged to buy a present from a wish list made by children from the South Park Inn (a homeless shelter) and the Village for Families and Children (which helps families overcome emotional and behavioral challenges). In the spring, Kathryn takes part in the University’s alternative spring break, when students spend their week off from school performing a community project.

“Volunteering is all about understanding the people you are helping and taking their problems to heart,” says Kathryn.

The angel tree and the holiday party are just two of many ways the University’s students, faculty and staff give back to the community during the holiday season.

  • The Physical Therapy Student Association held a mitten drive for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
  • Mortensen Library has a mitten tree for Hands on Hartford (a nonprofit organization that serves Hartford’s neediest residents in the areas of food, housing, and economic security).
  • Women Against Rape and Sexual Assault held a clothes drive for the residents of the My Sisters Place shelter in Hartford.
  • The Department of Athletics holds an annual food, toys, and clothes drive that allows student-athletes to provide help to the community during the holiday season.
 Jacqueline Heatter ’18, plays with some of the pre-schoolers at the University's annual holiday party.

Jacqueline Heatter ’18, plays with some of the pre-schoolers at the University's annual holiday party.

 Kathryn Clifford ’18, says making these pre-schoolers happy brings a lot of joy into her life.

Kathryn Clifford ’18, says making these pre-schoolers happy brings a lot of joy into her life.

Alumnus Don Gamsjager ’10,  first played music for this party when he was a first-year student and now he returns every year to play for the kids.

Alumnus Don Gamsjager ’10, first played music for this party when he was a first-year student and now he returns every year to play for the kids.

Alexandra Coury, associate director of the Women's Advancement Initiative at the University, portrays the character Elsa from "Frozen" to the delight of the pre-schoolers in attendance.

Alexandra Coury, associate director of the Women's Advancement Initiative at the University, portrays the character Elsa from "Frozen" to the delight of the pre-schoolers in attendance.