|HAC Volunteer Coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin (left), HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi (third from right), and HAC Board Member Paul Melville (far right) with Cornell University’s Alicia Yang (from left), Piragash Swargaloganathan, Crystal Pascal, Luna Oiwa, Keenan Ashbrook and Sean Allen.
At the beginning of last month, six Cornell University students spent four days learning about the importance of journaling, how to play the ukulele, and the basics of African dance and drumming, alongside HAC clients.
It was all tied to Cornell’s alternative spring break; for the past 13 years the Ivy League college has sent a small contingent of students to Cape Cod to learn about HAC’s work while helping to further the agency’s mission. This year the group took part in a collaborative learning process with clients at HAC’s Hyannis office as well as two of its family shelters, Carriage House in North Falmouth and the Village at Cataumet.
“Your questions and interest in HAC really invigorated the staff in ways we could not have predicted,” HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi told the group at their farewell dinner. “I really feel like the future is bright with you in it.”
That sentiment was reciprocated by the students who left impressed with the dedication and compassion that HAC staff showed towards their work. “Just seeing the passion for the work and the joy your staff has for helping people with knowledge, professionalism, and a warm heart is so inspirational to me,” Cornell freshman Alicia Yang said.
Trip leader Piragash Swargaloganathan, a sophomore at Cornell agreed, saying that the time spent at HAC was proof that people can affect positive change by pursuing a career in the social services.
The students said the specific workshops they took, from journaling to puppetry to playing the ukulele, had practical implications that could be applied to HAC’s programs. The group used puppets, for example, as a mechanism to teach children to read at the Village at Cataumet. “We found it was a bridge where we can go into their world,” Alicia said.
The ukulele, freshman Luna Oiwa said, “is an incredible stress reliever” and connected the Cornell students with the clients at Carriage House, as they came together, singing and strumming in harmony.
These specific moments spoke to a larger and more important lesson – “that we are all equal beings,” Piragash said.
“All the things we do are really universal,” something that freshman Keenan Ashbrook said he and his classmates learned through the journaling workshop taught by former Cape Cod Community President Kathleen Schatzberg.
Mary Wilson, who led the puppet workshop, also hosted the students with her husband at their Marstons Mills home. “I was able to witness a community come together,” she said of the week spent with the students. “Thank you for doing something for nothing. You are inspirational, thoughtful and socially-minded. I didn’t really know what I was expecting, but I’ve been so incredibly impressed with you.”