Student Association

SA and RHA partner to help refugee center in Northside neighborhood

Daily Orange File Photo

The Northside area has gone through many changes over the years, but it has long been a neighborhood for immigrants and refugees.

UPDATED: March 7, 2017 at 2:40 a.m.

The Syracuse University Student Association and Residence Hall Association recently kicked off the Spring Into Action campaign, a series of five community service events to get SU students involved in the greater Syracuse community.

About 35 volunteers participated in the Saturday event, which took place at the North Side Learning Center, said BreeAnna Poshek, RHA’s director of civic engagement. Volunteers painted walls, cleaned up classrooms and engaged with students at the center. The event ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We only expected about 25 people to show up,” said Kelsey Fowler, SA’s chair of community engagement. “So many people volunteered that we actually ran out of painting supplies.”

The event was the first of several that SA will participate in as part of the campaign. The Spring Into Action campaign will give students the opportunity to volunteer at multiple organizations in the Syracuse area. While the exact dates of future events have not been finalized, Fowler said the campaign’s organizers plan to bring students to an animal shelter, a women’s center, an LGBTQ center and an environmental center.

The NSLC helps refugees — both children and adults — from around the world settle in Syracuse by offering English classes, financial literacy seminars and after-school homework help, according to its website.

Fowler said the center didn’t have the funds to repaint the walls in the classrooms, which were rundown after years of use, adding that the volunteers painted three classrooms at the center in bright colors to create a more welcoming atmosphere.

Fowler said she hopes to organize a return trip to the center in the coming weeks to paint three more classrooms.

The NSLC is located in Syracuse’s Northside neighborhood, where many refugees settle when they arrive in the United States, Fowler said. Many refugees that use the center are from Africa and countries that speak Arabic, Poshek said.

While the center is open to people from a variety of countries, Poshek said many of the refugees at the center speak Somali, Swahili and Arabic.

Fowler said the campaign grew off of the Impact Week events of previous years. During Impact Week, SA and RHA hosted community service opportunities during a weeklong event.

The idea behind the Spring Into Action campaign is to promote prolonged community service and sustained interaction with the community for longer than a single week each year, Poshek said.

Poshek said SA and RHA partnered to organize community service events in the past, but the majority of the events’ budgets were spent on transportation. This year, the campaign organizers used buses from the Shaw Center for Public and Community Service to transport volunteers for free.

Instead of spending money on buses, SA and RHA spent the budget on paint supplies, Poshek said.

Fowler said she hopes the Spring Into Action campaign’s future community service events will give students a better idea of the Syracuse community beyond the university campus.

“We’re not changing the face of the city, but it’s making a little bit of a difference in the day-to-day lives of people that need help,” Fowler said.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, a paraphrased quote from BreeAnna Poshek was misstated. Poshek said many of the refugees at the North Side Learning Center speak Somali, Swahili and Arabic. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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