Civitas Initiative Engages Students, Encourages Social Justice

Jocelyn Buggy ‘22

News Editor

For many, the year 2020 has highlighted an unprecedented level of personal, community, and global need.  As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to uproot our previous perception of normal, we have been forced to confront a new reality.  This new reality, for many of the world’s most vulnerable groups, represents an increased level of need.  Beyond the pandemic, the events surrounding the murders of African Americans like Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery have raised questions about the political and social systems that our nation rests upon.  To meet and honor this historical moment, a planning committee of faculty and staff across multiple departments of Holy Cross launched the Civitas Initiative.

The Civitas website states the following: “Civitas has been designed to help students identify active learning experiences, opportunities for reflection, conversation, and engagement. It allows us to address concerns and consider the care we feel for others. It is a place to find strength and hope, and to celebrate community within Holy Cross and beyond. And certainly not least, it is a place for us to gather while physically apart.”  The initiative, which began as a 5-week educational Leadership Institute over the summer, has now expanded to connect Holy Cross students with virtual volunteering opportunities in Worcester and provide resources for those who want to engage in a deeper exploration of social justice.  

Students can use the “Take Action” tab on the Civitas site to search virtual volunteering positions with Worcester community partners.  The list includes opportunities pooled together from the SPUD, CBL, and Government and Community Relations offices that are looking for Holy Cross students’ involvement.  Individuals who are interested in serving with a particular community partner should read over the list and fill out the Interest Form that is linked at the top of the “Virtual Volunteering” page.  The “Take Action” tab also contains information about how students can register to vote and help others do the same.  There are links to organizations like the Worcester Voter Registration Initiative (WVRI), which aims to promote voter empowerment in the Worcester community, and the NAACP’s civic engagement program, which seeks to increase Black voter turnout.  

Marty Kelly, Associate Chaplain and Civitas Planning Committee Co-Chair, described the origins of the Civitas initiative to The Spire.  He said: “During the summer months, faculty, staff, and administrators across the College were invited to engage students creatively.  A priority for all involved was to create spaces for students to connect with one another and feel a sense of community, which was lacking for so many of us during the quarantine.  The disparities laid bare by COVID as well as the movement for racial justice which swept across the nation were pressing issues that we felt merited a forum for conversation and reflection.  The 5-week Civitas Community Engagement Leadership Institute was born from a desire for students to have community while also engaging the College’s mission and current issues of justice.  As the summer progressed into fall semester, and given the successful collaboration of people from many parts of campus, the offerings under Civitas have expanded beyond the 5-week Institute to include current virtual volunteer opportunities centered in Worcester.”To date, over 150 students have registered to participate in virtual volunteering opportunities.  On October 18, another 5-week-long Civitas Community Engagement Leadership Institute will begin.  Participants in this unique program will hear from speakers and engage in weekly conversations about mission, service, and social justice with small groups.  Registration for this program opens on September 28 and will close on October 12.  Students can visit or e-mail with any questions about both the Leadership Institute program and the Civitas Initiative as a whole.

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