Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD)

Comprised of more than 40 diverse community partnerships, Student Programs for Urban Development is the largest student organization on campus, involving over 500 student volunteers who answer the Holy Cross call to be “men and women for and with others” throughout greater Worcester.

group of Student for Urban Development leaders posing for photo

Community Engagement Night 

Monday, Sept. 6

Offering opportunities through Student Programs for Urban Development, Community-Based Learning, and Community Work-Study

Location: Hogan Ballroom

Register to attend either Session #1 at 6 p.m. or Session #2 at 7 p.m.

The SPUD Experience

At the heart of the student volunteer experience is the opportunity to build relationships with others through ongoing direct service throughout the academic year. The work SPUD engages in ranges from serving meals and working at food pantries, to tutoring children, visiting the elderly in nursing facilities, playing basketball with youth in detention, or being present with those in hospice.

We aim to facilitate meaningful service experiences in the Worcester community and offer resources and reflective experiences to help students think critically about structural injustice and take collective 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.

SPUD Programs

Children and Youth: Tutoring & Mentoring Programs

The Village at Cambridge Street is a shelter that 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 Assistant Project (WRAP) is an organization committed to assisting 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.

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 After School is a program for volunteers who are interested in becoming a mentor and playmate to a child at the Plumley Village After School Program, which is an outreach of the Boys & Girls Club. Volunteers can be creative in coming up with ways to help children learn school subjects and can enjoy bonding with kids over games and sports 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 sports, 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 and Quinsigamond Elementary Schools. Students spend time with their “little” brother or sister doing homework, arts and crafts, and occasional 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 (and there are lots of them!). 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 SPUD program seeks to provide a positive mentoring experience in a school where 85% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The program takes place during school and allows for lots of interaction.

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 that they are finding difficult. This program takes place within classrooms during the school day. 

Great Brook Valley's after-school program provides volunteers an opportunity to connect with children of various ages and help them with their school work. Volunteers are able to tutor children 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 which is located very close to our campus.

African Community Education (ACE) 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, chaperone outings, and serve as mentors for local youth. 

For Pernet After-School, Holy Cross volunteers provide homework help 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 where Holy Cross students tutor children in grades 1–8 as well as engage them in sports and board game activities. The program is located on Main Street in Worcester.

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. 

The Rainbow Child Development Centers’ Extended Learning Program serves 120 children daily between the ages of 5-13 years old.  RCDC provides an affordable after-school program with a stimulating curriculum emphasizing on homework, academic assistance, STEM activities, and physical exercise.  Holy Cross volunteers are present to facilitate a positive learning environment and build relationships.

Ascension Parish Afterschool Program serves students from the Union Hill school (K-6), and provides them with a safe place to play, have a snack, enjoy the company of Holy Cross and other volunteers, and make progress on their homework and academic learning.

All Saints Youth Program consists of a Friday evening program called TGIF which provides a safe environment for children to enjoy a meal and activities in a neighborhood downtown.  Holy Cross volunteers have been working with this program for years, and it is a great way to start your weekend off on a positive note.

Holy Ballers is a program that allows young men from Holy Cross to connect with their peers in a juvenile detention facility in Worcester.  “Ballers” go weekly to play basketball, share a meal, and have mentoring conversations with the young men in detention.  The program focuses on building life skills that are applicable to the real world.

Woo Kids! Takes place on Sundays after services at Concordia Lutheran Church in the Main South neighborhood.  SPUD volunteers connect with the children of this diverse church community, which includes many immigrants from Liberia.  Over time volunteers will see lots of familiar faces on Sundays as they connect with families just a few miles from campus.

YouthGROW (Youth Growing Organics in Worcester) seeks to provide access to healthy, sustainable, and affordable food for all.  YouthGROW employs 32-40 low income high school teens (age 14-18) year-round who gain leadership and jobs skills as they maintain two urban organic farms. Holy Cross volunteers connect with the youth while getting their hands dirty at the farm.

The Assumption Center Mentoring Program is for children ages 6-15, and is held at St. Peter’s Church.  The children are paired one on one with college mentors who assist with homework, reading, and arts and crafts.  The mentoring program provides a safe and supportive after-school environment with wonderful support by the Assumption Sisters.

The Guild of St. Agnes has a mission to provide families with quality, affordable, child care and early education programs for children.  SPUD volunteers work with the children at two locations.  If you are hoping for a hands-on experience with younger kids, this is a great site to consider.

Poverty 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. Everyone is welcome to come for a hot meal. Working at the soup kitchen is a positive way to interact with and build relationships with those who are marginalized within our community economically.

Dismas House is a halfway house that aids in transitioning former prisoners 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, breaking bread with the men who live there, and making connections.

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. Serving at the Mustard Seed is an invaluable experience to open volunteers’ eyes to the reality of food insecurity that many face in our community. 

Programs for Women & Girls

Visitation House is a non-profit shelter for pregnant women. Volunteers bond with the women through activities such as baking and board games. Volunteers also help care for infants to give the new mothers a break and 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. 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 aware of the impacts of Alzheimer’s.

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, being present at this site reveals how families lacking proper health care seek to access the services they need.  

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 bonds and lots of good stories.

Power of Presence is a student-initiated hospice program that provides accompaniment to those who are receiving end-of-life care at UMass Memorial and UMass Medical. Students are sometimes called on short notice at the families’ request if they wish to have someone present with their loved one and when they are at home or unavailable. 

Social Action Has Two Feet!  

Community Organizing is the “second foot” of social justice. The majority of our activity in SPUD involves 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 change.

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 educate the student body regarding social issues facing the people of Worcester.