Fairfield University student and staff member honored by state of Connecticut with 2009 Community Service Awards


Image: Jocelyn Collen and Jennifer DeBrincatFairfield University student Jennifer DeBrincat and staff member Jocelyn Collen were honored with 2009 Higher Education Community Service Awards by the State of Connecticut Department of Higher Education and the Connecticut Commission on Community Service.

The awards are presented to college students and staff to honor their service to communities. State Higher Education Commissioner Michael P. Meotti and William R. Dyson, chair of the Connecticut Commission on Community Service, presented five awards this year at a ceremony held at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

DeBrincat, of Tobyhanna, Penn., a senior majoring in accounting at Fairfield's Dolan School of Business with a minor in English, was honored with an "Individual Community Service Student Award" for founding Fairfield Volunteer Corp (FVC).

Area non-profits in need of volunteers started contacting DeBrincat soon after the organization's inception last year. She's recruited Fairfield University students to volunteer at about 25 events to date. "So far, we have helped at clean-ups, auctions, fairs, walks and fundraisers. We have had approximately 80 students attend at least one of our events, and I hope that as the years go on the word will spread about the group and more students will participate."

Among the organizations FVC has lent a hand to are Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood, St. John's Episcopal Church, Penny Lane Thrift Store, Groundwork Bridgeport, Connecticut Point In Time Homeless Count, and the Thomas Merton Family Center. A volunteer job at the Norwalk Boat Show resulted in show organizers donating $900 to the St. Charles Food Pantry in FVC's name just in time for Thanksgiving.

Jocelyn Collen, of Bridgeport, an administrative coordinator for Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life and the Center for Catholic Studies, received a "Special Award" for mentoring University undergraduates in their community service work.

She helped oversee two Fairfield Campus Ministry trips to Jamaica in recent months in which undergraduates helped at a hospice and worked with impoverished children who have been weighed down by gang and drug violence.

A 2006 Fairfield alumnus who majored in Religious Studies, Collen was inspired to work with society's marginalized while a mission volunteer on a University service trip to Ecuador. "I experienced poverty, and it changed the way I look at the world. I met people there who were working with the poor, and I knew that would be part of my life's work, too."

Raised in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., Collen said her parents have been great inspirations. They are intellectual property lawyers who founded Life Project for Africa, a grass roots organization providing health, homes and education for orphans in Africa. In September, Collen will begin to pursue a master's in divinity degree at Boston College. "All that I've learned at Fairfield is meaningless if I don't act on it."

This year, 23 Connecticut colleges submitted 52 nominations to be considered for the 2009 community service awards. Recipients were selected based on their ability to create projects which distinctly help individuals or community groups; incorporate originality and unique approaches to community service; substantially raise student participation; and address community problems.

Also honored this year were Southern Connecticut State University student Khadijah Abdullah for her work on raising awareness about AIDS and HIV; Collegiate Health Services Corps, a preventive healthcare education program at the University of Connecticut; and "Do It Day," a project supported by Trinity College that helps community organizations in Hartford.

Image: Jennifer DeBrincat and Jocelyn Collen

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 21, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 314