As the partnership between Cabrini College and Norristown moves into its fourth year, the Wolfington Center invited a national expert on partnerships between colleges and poor cities to share his own knowledge and experience with campus-community affiliations.
Brother Raymond Fitz, the former president of the University of Dayton in Ohio and now a professor of social justice, helped launch a partnership between the University and their local city of Dayton 15 years ago.
Fitz was the Wolfington Center’s first annual Scholar-Activist-in-Residence. Fitz spoke at and attended multiple events held on campus, all in the hopes to strengthen Cabrini’s relationship with Norristown.
“I thought the partnership between Cabrini College and Norristown was extremely exciting. It’s diverse enough, but focused enough to make a great experience. Norristown has all the elements that students need to learn about urban life in America,” Fitz said.
While at Cabrini Fitz met with faculty, students and members involved directly with the Norristown partnership. He was also given a guided tour around Norristown and the specific areas where the Cabrini community can be found.
A majority of Fitz’s stay was spent sharing his own experiences with integrating Catholic Social Teaching into the University of Dayton’s curriculum and being a resource for Cabrini’s own partnership.
“Cabrini is on a real good track. You just have to keep learning and thinking about the issues and reflecting. The students must keep integrating their experiences with the partnership or while in SEM 300 into who they are as a person,” Fitz said.
Students who are actively involved with the partnership were invited to dinner with Fitz on March 26, where they were able to share their own experiences, what they are learning and how they are making a difference while working in Norristown.
Tara Kelly, senior exercise science and health promotion major, is one of the students involved with the Youth Empowerment Program, that teaches and empowers high school students about health and wellness and opens them up to cultural experiences they might not get otherwise. Kelly is from Norristown and has seen first hand the changes in the community in the last few years.
“It’s great to just open the doors of Cabrini to the high school students, and say you can work towards something and you can come here one day,” said Francine Clement, senior exercise science and health promotion major, who volunteers with the Youth Empowerment Program.
Jessica Zawrotny, junior psychology major, helps run the Team Motivators Program, which works with seventh and eight grade students from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Norristown.
Through her meetings with the students she is able to inspire and excite them about college and their future dreams. Zawrotny accredits experiences like the Team Motivators Program and other volunteer opportunities at Cabrini College to her growth in faith and close relationship with her family and friends.
Fitz believes that the students must see their dedication is helping the neighborhoods and school where they are working to make an impact in their own lives. A successful partnership must have the student learning aspect and the community must grow from the experience as well.
“With the new curriculum students will not just have a presence in Norristown but they will get to have continuity. In whatever profession they get into, they will be able to help reduce some of the inequalities in our society,” Fitz said.