No rest this month for Rider students

A group of Rider students and alumni will spend a portion of their winter break volunteering at school and orphanages in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

By:Kate Herts Special Writer
   For college students, the month of January usually means a hiatus from the rush of campus life. Some students get jobs, some travel, and some revel in the comforts of home.
   For a select group of students from Rider University, January is spent traveling to Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, giving back to underprivileged children through a student service learning initiative. The Rider students arrive in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica today (Thursday) and will remain there until Jan. 18.
   Bruce Evans Jr., of Lawrenceville Road, started the trip to Santo Domingo in his senior year at Rider. Mr. Evans graduated from Rider in 2001, but continues to coordinate and lead the trip. This will be his fourth year.
   Mr. Evans is the associate Catholic campus minister at Rider, and the trip was first launched through Rider’s Catholic Ministry and the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Community Service in conjunction with the nonprofit Orchid Foundation of Brigantine.
   Nine Rider students will travel to two orphanages in the Dominican Republic, the Hogar Escuela Armando Rosenberg Home and School serving 3,000 children in Sabana Perdida and the Escuela Ave Maria, an orphanage for 150 children and a school for pre-kindergarten to high school students.
   This year, the group will be repairing the orphanage’s roof and install a new a new water filter system, Mr. Evans said. Students will also teach English and conduct sports camps
   As the community service chairman of the Black Student Union and the Multicultural Center, Mr. Evans said community service is an important part of his life. He benefited from it as a child, and if possible he will always give back, he said. "I’ve met a lot of nice people through doing this," said Mr. Evans. "They’re like an extended family. They show true dedication. I’m so glad to be a part of this."
   The volunteers also develop a bond with the children.
   Ariana Iacono of Shirley Lane graduated from Rider in May with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and elementary education. She recalled that during her second trip, the Rider students delivered numerous pallets of food to the orphanage.
   "It’s really cool to see the kids faces after something like that happens," said Ms. Ionoco. "We go back the next year and they’re so excited to see us. These are very proud people, proud of their heritage and their culture. Even though they have less than us, they make the best of it. That’s what keeps me going back. Those kids appreciate what we’re doing."
   The Rev. Nancy Schluter, Protestant chaplain at Rider, and Don Brown, director of the university’s Center for Multicultural Affairs and Community Service, designed the international program curriculum that places a great emphasis on service learning. Prior to going abroad, students attend seminars and complete readings that discuss Jamaican culture and service learning theory. During the trip, they keep a personal journal, from which they document and evaluate their experiences for a final project, usually a paper.
   Jacqueline Jones of Trenton, a senior finance and marketing major at Rider, will be traveling to Jamaica for the first time. She says that everyone at the Rider Chapel is committed to service, and has a desire to participate.
   Students will stay at the United Theological College in Kingston, and will work with residents at the Pringle Home for Children in St. Mary’s Parish and the Iono School in Ocho Rios, Jamaica both under the sponsorship of The United Church of Jamaica-Grand Cayman.
   Edward Whittle, a senior at the Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton Borough, hails from Kingston. Mr. Whittle is a theory composition/piano and education double major, and serves as senior class president. He will be the first Westminster student to go on the trip.
   Mr. Whittle will be teaching music at the Pringle Home, a school for children in kindergarten through 10th grade.
   With such a diverse age range, his challenge as a teacher, will be to keep everyone involved, Mr. Whittle said.
   Jennifer Thackray of Ewing, a senior elementary education and fine arts major at Rider, will be traveling to Jamaica for the third time as a program intern.
   "The kids at the home grow really attached to you," said Ms. Thackray. "And you grow attached to them, too. That’s what I like about this trip, is that I get to work with the kids."
   Nicole Amato of Lawrence, a junior elementary education and psychology concentrator, and Lindsay Amato of Lawrence, an elementary education and fine arts major, will also join the trip.
   Donations may be sent to Catholic Campus Ministry, c/o Father Bruno Ugliano, Rider University, 2116 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648. Checks should be made payable to Catholic Campus Ministry. For more information on the Orchid Foundation visit the Web site at