By Julia Maher ’23
Whether it is called “the Woo,” “the Heart of the Commonwealth,” or simply “Worcester,” the second most populous city in New England is certainly a fascinating place. Worcester is rich in history and diversity and has many attractions to offer, including restaurants, colleges, museums, and art. Although Worcester is an interesting and distinctive city, sometimes it is not appreciated fully, particularly by Holy Cross students. Since Holy Cross lies south of downtown Worcester and is relatively isolated, it is easy to separate Holy Cross from the rest of Worcester and to create an “us” versus “them” mentality.
Furthermore, since Holy Cross students spend most of their time on campus, the detachment is inevitable unless students make a conscious effort to engage with the community. Because of this distance, Worcester can be misjudged and underestimated by Holy Cross students. Instead of debasing Worcester, Holy Cross students should focus on its numerous positive attributes and use their position of privilege to serve and get to know the people of Worcester.
Although not all Holy Cross students have the same opinion of Worcester, many students have observed others talking poorly about the city. Some students believe that Worcester is inferior to Boston and that it does not offer much, but those statements could not be further detached from reality. Worcester has plenty to offer for Holy Cross students if they have an open mindset and actively seek out enriching experiences, like service. Most of the time, the students who speak poorly of Worcester probably have not made an effort to spend time in different places around the city. Most Holy Cross students have visited places like restaurants on Shrewsbury Street or the Shoppes at Blackstone Valley, but only some have actually immersed themselves in the culture of the city by serving through organizations like Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD).
Another common misconception that Holy Cross students have about Worcester is that it is an exceptionally dangerous city. Obviously, crime will occur in all cities, but Worcester actually has a relatively low crime rate compared to most cities, including my hometown, Tacoma, Washington. Tacoma and Worcester have comparable populations, but Tacoma has 13,965 crimes annually, while Worcester has only 5,620—less than half of the amount of crimes in Tacoma.
There are many positive aspects of Worcester, some of them including its rich history and diversity and wide array of attractions. Holy Cross students should focus on the unique qualities and opportunities that Worcester has to offer instead of their misguided perceptions.
The Holy Cross community can seem like a bubble that is isolated from the rest of Worcester. Holy Cross students should take advantage of diverse service opportunities to become more holistically educated people and experience the charm of the city. There are many experiences to encounter in Worcester besides dining and shopping.
Ultimately, as a Jesuit institution, Holy Cross emphasizes the obligation to serve the poor and powerless, and Holy Cross students should make an effort to develop a holistic understanding of Worcester through service. They should utilize their position of privilege and numerous opportunities to serve the less fortunate through organizations like SPUD. Serving and assimilating to Worcester can introduce enriching experiences that form well-rounded students.