Becca Constantine, Fairfield University AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, an inspirational presence on campus


Image: Becca ConstantineFairfield University’s AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers have been key to expanding the work of the Office of Service Learning, as well as other Center for Faith and Public Life initiatives.

For nearly the past year, the University has been fortunate to have as its VISTA volunteer Becca Constantine, a 2009 Brown University graduate from Florence, Massachusetts. She has brought to Fairfield an impressive body of service and volunteer experiences, as well as a 2011 Congressional Award Gold Medal, the most prestigious honor given to youth leaders from the United States Congress. Awarded to just five AmeriCorps Corporation for National & Community Service alumni, the recipients completed more than 125,000 volunteer service hours nationally and abroad.

Constantine has travelled across the country to serve in projects like Parks and People Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland; the Massachusetts Audubon Society in Westport, Mass.; and Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans. She also was deployed to work on disaster relief efforts during the Nashville floods of 2010, being called up by FEMA to help flood victims. In Ghana, she volunteered at an orphanage. In addition, she has held leadership roles such as captain of Brown Women’s Rugby Football Club.

With a resume like that, there is little wonder why Constantine has been such a valuable presence at Fairfield, where service learning is part of the fabric of learning. Housed within the Center for Faith and Public Life, the Office of Service Learning has a pedagogical approach that links academic study and community-based service so that each is strengthened and both are transformed.

Constantine has focused on developing a sustainable partnership between Fairfield and Cesar A. Batalla Elementary School in Bridgeport, Conn. The university and the public school collaborate on service learning courses to improve literacy outcomes for young students. She also has assisted on numerous other efforts, including a Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network (JUHAN) student service trip, for which she and eleven students traveled to Joplin, Missouri. There, they did hands-on disaster cleanup work during spring break in relation to the devastating May 2011 tornado. The goal of that trip was to put JUHAN's humanitarian mission into action.

Below, Constantine reflects on her life at Fairfield.

Image: Joplin Service TripQ: What has inspired you to live a life of service?

A: I serve because I can. Each of us in the Fairfield community has so much we can share with our University community, our broader community, and our world. Every action we take in service to others, whether holding a door for someone carrying a bundle of papers or volunteering full-time, is an opportunity to brighten the day and life of those around us. When we choose service to others, we make our community a more stable and interconnected place. We make our world a better place to pass on to the generations to come.

Q: Can you offer a snapshot of your role here at Fairfield?

A: As the AmeriCorps VISTA member in the Office of Service Learning, I have a range of service-learning-related responsibilities, but my primary tasks include supporting our community partnerships and working on our assessment system, looking at our feedback from faculty, community partners, and students and targeting areas for improvement. I have the pleasure of spending a few hours each week in the community visiting community partner organizations.

Q: Your work at Cesar A. Batalla Elementary School seems to be so rewarding.

A: I’ve especially enjoyed spending time at Cesar Batalla Elementary School helping support our literacy-focused service-learning students there. [In the fall semester alone], we had over 35 Fairfield students tutoring over 125 first- and second-graders in reading and writing.

Q: What experience will you most remember from your year here at Fairfield?

Image: Joplin Service TripA: An outstanding experience in my service year was traveling to Joplin, Missouri, with eleven students for an alternative spring break service trip. Some of the students had never been to the Midwest before; most had never seen the aftermath of a disaster on the scale of the May 2011 Joplin tornado. A highlight of my year was being able to participate in their experience of learning about and processing the disaster. I watched with pride as they stepped into leadership roles within their service, taking action on behalf of Fairfield University and the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network to serve in solidarity with the Joplin community.

Q: What would you say to young people to whom a life of service might be the furthest thing from their minds?

A: Each of us serves whether we intend to or not. Whether we take an hour to help a friend with homework or spend a month or a year volunteering domestically or abroad, all of us live lives of service. To be able to give intentionally of ourselves to our communities and to our world is a powerful gift; service is one of our greatest opportunities to change our world for the better.

Whatever you choose, no form of service is too small or too large. Be open to the needs identified by those around you and take one step today towards making our communities and our world a stronger place. Your life will be richer for the time and effort you give to others. Often when we serve, we gain the most of all in knowledge and personal growth.

Images: Fairfield University’s AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Becca Constantine volunteered at an orphanage in Ghana. She also led an “alternative spring break” service trip to Joplin, Missouri, a site of devastating tornadoes. Students helped the community there recover.

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

Posted on July 19, 2012

Vol. 45, No. 10