Cornelia Connelly Center
Connelly Middle School
New York City, NY

Caroline Erisman joined the CCC family in 2017 as the Center’s Executive Director. She quickly embraced the mission and teachings of Cornelia Connelly, focusing particularly on the notion of “Actions, not Words”. She took over CCC’s service-learning program and was instrumental in building the program into what it is now. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of our partner organizations are closed to volunteers. We are excited to resume our service-learning as organizations open their doors again in the coming months!

CCC’s Community Service Program (pre-Covid)
During the 2019-2020 school year, CCC began to work on creating long-term relationships with several local agencies. For example, both the 4th and 5th grade classes visited the Henry Street Settlement Senior Center, which is within walking distance of CCC. On their first visit, the 4th graders made hand turkeys with the seniors and played cards. The 5th grade girls entertained the seniors with songs from their Nativity Pageant and played bingo. The plan is to have the 4th and 5th grade classes visit the seniors at Henry Street at least three times each throughout the year. In addition, we plan to develop a system of reflection that will allow our students to fully consider how and why they are making a difference in their community. Over the next couple of years, our goal is to develop such a relationship with a local agency for each grade level at CMS.

In the fall of 2019, we developed a relationship with the Soup Kitchen operated by Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, the parish next door to CCC. Every Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the church prepares and serves a hot meal for local community members in need. Until March 2020 (when CCC and the Soup Kitchen were shut down because of the Covid pandemic), our students, families and staff participated once a month in the Soup Kitchen on a volunteer basis. In addition, CCC worked with the Food Pantry run by Church of the Most Holy Redeemer and collected canned food for Easter.

The Catholic Worker operates a place of refuge for homeless women at Maryhouse, located a few blocks away from CCC (at 55 East 3rd Street). During the Christmas season, the entire Connelly Middle School collected socks for these women and the Student Government delivered them to Maryhouse. In preparation for this collection and in order to create a context for our students, an employee at Maryhouse made a presentation at Morning Assembly about Dorothy Day, the Catholic Worker, and homelessness in New York City. CCC’s goal is to further develop this relationship and expand our involvement.

Caroline answered a few questions about CCC’s service-learning program!
  1. Why is service learning important to you?
    It brings me great joy to help others who are less fortunate. New York City has a growing number of people who aren’t able to pay their rent or put food on their table. It is a blessing to provide assistance to those in need, and it makes our city a better place.

  2. What do you hope our students will gain from participating in service-learning opportunities?
    Though many of our students come from backgrounds of economic hardship, CCC believes that all of our students have a duty to serve others who are less fortunate. These service-learning opportunities will empower our students, and provide them with the motivation to live a life rooted in justice, peace and compassion.

  3. What are you looking forward to pursuing as organizations open up again?
    Service learning is achieved when students are able to connect their direct service experiences to what they are doing in the classroom. As a result, in addition to continuing to implement direct, frequent and consistent service opportunities for our students, our goal is to develop a plan to incorporate these service opportunities into our curriculum.