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Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD)

Comprised of more than 40 public service programs, Student Programs for Urban Development is the largest student organization on campus, involving approximately 600 student volunteers who answer the Holy Cross call to be “men and women for and with others” in the surrounding Worcester community. At the heart of the student volunteer experience is the opportunity to build relationships with those who are marginalized through ongoing direct service throughout the academic year. The work we do ranges from serving meals and working at food pantries, to tutoring children and visiting elders in nursing facilities. 

We aim to facilitate meaningful service experiences in the Worcester community and offer valuable educational resources in order to help students think critically about the social structures of injustice and take action toward change.

We understand our service to those who are marginalized in terms of developing a relationship of solidarity. Therefore, participants in the SPUD program are expected to commit to the following:

  • Orientation program in September
  • Weekly service in a designated SPUD program
  • Regular reflections led by a student Program Director

For more information on volunteering for any of the following programs, please contact Marty Kelly.

See a need? Apply to start a new SPUD Program by filling out the SPUD Program Site application

SPUD Programs

After School Tutoring and Educational Opportunities 

Cambridge St. Family Shelter provides a safe and stable environment for families in need. Volunteers attend the site on a weekly basis and assist school-aged children with their homework and facilitate fun activities. Students create lasting relationships while serving as mentors for these children. 

Worcester Refugee  WRAP is an organization committed to assiting local refugees from Burma achieve sustainable self-reliance through mentoring, advocacy and providing material support needed. This SPUD site offers students the opportunity to work with the youth program to help them foster a supportive social network and discuss issues of health, leadership, goal setting, and more.

Holy Cross Tutors Children is a tutoring program for Holy Cross hourly staff members’ children. The program is run on campus and caters to any K-12 child’s academic needs. This program aims to give back to members of our community that help us every day here on campus. 

Quinsigamond Elementary tutors aid a teacher in the classroom during the school day. Many teachers have volunteers guide small groups of children in math or reading activities or ask volunteers to help with teaching new lessons.

Plumley Village Mentoring is a program for volunteers who are interested in becoming a tutor and playmate to a child at the Plumley Village After School Program. Volunteers can be creative in coming up with ways to help children learn school subjects and can enjoy bonding with kids over games and puzzles after their work is complete. 

Volunteers at the Marie Anne Center at St. Bernard’s Church teach an English as a second language program to learners with different levels of ability. While no knowledge of another language is necessary, your experience here will surely sharpen your communication skills and help you to develop meaningful relationships as you work through the challenges of teaching English.

Friendly House is an after-school program for children in grades K-5. Holy Cross sends volunteers to the Friendly House for two hours each day. On site, the volunteers help the kids with their homework, participate in different games, and work on arts and crafts with them. 

With the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, students have the chance to work one-on-one in mentoring relationships with Worcester elementary school students. Our mentoring partnerships include Girls Inc., the Boys and Girls Club, and Canterbury Elementary School. Students spend time with their “little” brother or sister doing homework, arts and crafts, and sometimes partaking in athletic activities. Students are able to build relationships with their “little’s” during their four years at Holy Cross. The commitment is approximately 1.5 hours per volunteer week. 

At Boys and Girls Club we mentor and tutor children of all ages. Volunteers work at the site Monday through Friday and are always doing something different. From teaching in the tutor center, playing basketball in the gym area, and dancing in the game room, the volunteers and the kids always enjoy their time spent together. 

Sullivan Middle School This new SPUD program seeks to provide a positive mentoring experience through a combination of academic tutoring and recreation in a school where 85% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The after school program takes place twice each week, and involves 25-30 middle school students.

North High School  and Burncoat High School AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) volunteers are trained to facilitate small group discussions (tutorials) where students work through subject matter they are having trouble with. This takes place within classrooms during the school day. 

Great Brook Valley's after-school program provides volunteers an opportunity to work with kids from ages 5-9 and help them with their homework. Volunteers are able to tutor kids who face challenges with English and math and provide different approaches to the subjects. After homework is completed, volunteers get to make one-on-one connections with the kids by playing board games, pool, catch, kickball, etc. 

Vernon Hill Tutoring volunteers assist teachers in the classroom setting during the school day and help to provide individual attention to students at this school close to our campus.

African Community Education pairs Holy Cross students with refugees of African nations who are now students in Worcester. Volunteers help students adjust to their new lives and serve as academic tutors, mentors, and role models. 

Pernet Youth Group is an after-school program for children ages 11 to 14. Pernet Youth Group volunteers strive to create a safe environment where they can provide homework help, develop activities, and work as mentors for Worcester children. 

For Pernet After-School, Holy Cross volunteers provide academic tutoring to students in grades K–5, as well as join them in recreational activities such as baseball, football, basketball, kickball, and sledding at Crompton Park. 

Salvation Army Tutoring is an after-school program for which Holy Cross students tutor children in grades 1–8 as well as engage them in sports and board game activities. 

The Nativity School Homework Center runs three afternoons per week in conjunction with the Nativity School of Worcester’s evening study program. Holy Cross tutors provide homework help and serve as mentors for the middle school boys. The one-on-one tutoring allows ample opportunity for the student and tutor to really get to know one another and form friendships within the school environment. 

Homelessness and Hunger Related Programs

Salvation Army Meals Soup Kitchen, SPUD volunteers work with the Salvation Army staff to prepare, cook, and serve dinner for the Worcester community each Sunday of the year. Men, women, and children are all able to come for a hot meal. Volunteers provide a significant role in the success of the soup kitchen by not only positively impacting the lives of those they serve but also benefiting from the experience themselves. Working at the soup kitchen is a positive way to interact with and build relationships with the marginalized within our community of Worcester.

Dismas House is a halfway house that aids in transitioning ex-convicts back into the community. This Holy Cross SPUD site does its best to aid in the transition by preparing meals for the residents at the house and sharing the meals together. 

The Mustard Seed is a soup kitchen in Worcester that offers a hot meal and hospitality to upwards of 100 people each night. While there, Holy Cross volunteers help to serve the meal, have a chance to interact with the patrons, and then clean the dining area at the end of the meal to prepare the room for the next day. Serving at the Mustard Seed is an invaluable experience to open volunteers’ eyes to the men, women, and children of the Worcester community. 

St. Paul's Outreach Food Pantry, located downtown Worcester, provides individuals and families with food assistance. At St. Paul's, Holy Cross students prepare the bags of food (close to 60 bags each visit), hand them out to guests, and stock the shelves in preparation for the next day. 

Focusing on Women

Visitation House is a non-profit shelter for pregnant women. Volunteers bond with the women through activities such as baking, board games, and pumpkin painting. Volunteers also help with chores around the house such as sorting donations.

At Abby’s House, volunteers staff the women's shelter while administering to the safety, comfort, and needs of the residents. Being part of Abby's House helps volunteers look beyond the campus of Holy Cross and engage in the Worcester community around us. At Abby's, a sense of mutual giving is prevalent because the volunteers give their time to staff the shelter, and the women give their stories and friendship in return. 

The Girls C.H.O.I.C.E. (Choosing Hope, Opportunities, and Independence through Careers and Education) program consists of both an academic tutoring component and a mentoring component. Holy Cross volunteers meet weekly with teenage girls from Worcester public schools who are selected by counselors and teachers as a result of the girls' demonstrated academic and personal success. Volunteers engage the girls in conversation and discussions around issues such as body image, bullying, college and career, stress management, and team building.

Healthcare and the Elderly

Blaire House volunteers interact with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients on a weekly basis who reside full-time at this location. From organizing a game of bingo to celebrating birthdays, the Blaire House offers a great opportunity to become better acquainted with the residents and more knowledgeable of Alzheimer’s. 

The Hope Lodge provides housing and support for patients undergoing treatment for cancer. Volunteers not only get a chance to learn about the experiences of these patients, but also become more aware of how cancer affects patients and families. 

At the Free Health Clinic, volunteers learn some of the basics of medical treatment while being able to see medical students and doctors in action. More importantly, however, volunteering at this site reveals how families lacking proper health care seek to access the services they need. 

St. Mary’s Healthcare Center volunteers make a weekly trip to this nursing home to be present to residents who may not have many visitors. In addition to playing games and having conversations, volunteers are able to build relationships that can be sustained over time. 

Parson’s Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, volunteers interact with residents and serve as a consistent source of support and presence for an elderly person who may not have frequent visitors. From simple conversations to activities with the residents, volunteers build relationships they can continue throughout their time in SPUD. 

“Grandkids” for Jesuits at Campion Center provides an opportunity for volunteers to visit with retired Jesuit priests and learn from their wit and wisdom. Many volunteers visit with the same Jesuit over the course of their time in the program, resulting in close relationships.

  Community Organizing is the “second foot” of social justice. The sites that comprise the rest of SPUD are charitable endeavors; these represent the “first foot.” Community Organizing attempts to go beyond charity to change the systemic issues that make charity necessary. Subsequently, the goal of community organizing is to ultimately make every SPUD site unnecessary. Together, charity and community organizing take the necessary steps toward social justice.

SPUD Community Organizers have the unique responsibility to represent both the college community and the Worcester community. To this end, they use relationship building to generate power by organizing people, and they work closely with local government and community leaders to realize systemic change. Community organizers encourage student participation in the Worcester community through civic engagement and connect the student body to social issues facing Worcester.