Building a bond with the Waltham community

Hannah Borgida and some of the supplies and letters she sent to Prospect Hill residents.Photos/courtesy

Left: Some of the items sent to Prospect Hill Kids Club participants. Right: Hannah Borgida '21 holds letters from the Brandeis-Prospect Hill pen pal program

Hannah Borgida ’21 is not about to let a pandemic impede her dedication to the Waltham community.

From her family's Connecticut home, Borgida is advocating for Waltham residents and has coordinated a pen pal program to help Brandeis student community-service volunteers stay connected with children in Prospect Hill Terrace, the city’s largest public housing community.

Borgida’s connection with Waltham began when she was a high schooler in the Brandeis Service Corps’ precollege program, now called the Service Leadership program. She spent parts of two summers volunteering at a day camp at Prospect Hill Community Center, which is staffed mostly by Brandeis and Bentley University student volunteers.

"I absolutely loved it. I got to know the kids and see how Brandeis was interacting with the Waltham community," she said. "It was a huge part of my decision to come to Brandeis."

Once Borgida came to campus as a Brandeis student, she wanted to continue the relationships she'd built at the community center, so she started volunteering with the Prospect Hill Kids Club, an afterschool program at the center that is coordinated by Brandeis students. This past academic year, she served as a student leader in the Waltham Group — Brandeis’ community service organization — managing and supporting the community partnership at Prospect Hill.

"It's been so great to see the kids grow and build connections with them over the years," she said. "It's been really special."

This past semester, Borgida took the Waltham Group Practicum course, where she learned about things like grant writing, risk management, volunteer engagement, and about how programs at Brandeis fit into the larger nonprofit world. For her final project, she developed risk management plans for Prospect Hill, and has started working with the board of directors there to implement some of those strategies.

When the coronavirus made it impossible for her to volunteer on-site at the community center, she started sitting in on meetings of the city’s Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee, which led her to co-lead an advocacy group to share information about city resources and help improve Waltham residents’ internet access. Borgida has been committed to learning from and supporting the Waltham community from the moment she arrived on campus, said Lucas Malo, director of community service at Brandeis.

“Hannah truly understands the pillars of Brandeis and the values of community engagement,” said Lucas Malo, director of community service at Brandeis. “We are thrilled to have her on board.”

Along with other student coordinators at Prospect Hill, Borgida also organized a pen pal program to keep student volunteers in touch with kids in the afterschool program and to share ways to stay active and occupied in an activity package. Student-led programming usually stops at the end of the academic year, but Borgida plans to keep the pen pal program going through the summer. The Service Leadership program that started Borgida’s work with the Waltham community is being offered virtually this summer, along with all other precollege programs, which have been modified to provide students with an immersive scholarly online environment to collaborate with faculty and doctoral students.

“Even if we have to be at home right now, it's so great, and so important that we're still listening and being a part of the community,” Borgida said.

Categories: Student Life

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