By Julia Acquavita ’22
Many students at Providence College often find themselves wanting a job during the academic year, but struggle with landing a position off campus. What these students may not know is that there is a program here on PC’s campus that helps students apply and get hired for these highly contested off-campus jobs.
This program, led by Melissa Mardo, program coordinator for the Feinstein Institute for Public Service, is called the Community Work-Study Program. This program allows for students to apply for and receive jobs in the Providence community that range from education to food accessibility.
Mardo says that most students tend to take jobs in the area of education, where they get the opportunity to work with children at schools such as Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School, North Providence Youth Center, and Saint Pius.
Mardo also said students have worked for organizations that are involved in food accessibility, such as Farm Fresh Rhode Island and Chefs Feeding Kids.
Eddy Vasquez ’20 has been involved in this program throughout his career at PC. For the past three years, he has worked in partnership with Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School.
When asked what he has learned while working at Robert F. Kennedy, Vasquez claims that he has “learned how to interact with people of different ages whether it is adults, children, or toddlers,” which is an important life skills that will allow him to build connections with all kinds of people.
Vasquez also enjoys the fact that when working with these students and teachers, he knows “[he’s] actually helping these students’ lives.”
There is no transportation provided by the school for students who have these work-study off-campus jobs. Mardo claims, though, that five sites, are within walking distance, and PC students have access to the RIPTA with their PC cards, so getting to a designated job is still essentially free.
Mardo also emphasized that by walking or taking the RIPTA you are “engaging with the Providence community, and connecting with people who live in the area.” This way students get the chance to learn the nearby area and the neighborhoods that make up this city.
After all, according to Mardo, “The whole point of these off-campus jobs is for students to get off of campus and start to feel like the city of Providence is their home, too.”
Through these jobs and partnerships, students are able to connect with the community and build relationships with their places of work and the people that work there.
Mardo explained that the community work-study program has become fairly competitive over the past few semesters since the program is federally funded and can only take 70 students.
Lately, the program has been getting more attention from students because, as Mardo would say “students are the program’s best advocates” since they end up spreading the word about the program and what it has to offer. The more students interested, the better!
Mardo also mentioned that she runs another program for students that have participated in the community work-study program, called the Community Work-Study Planning Committee. This committee runs on a volunteer-basis and offers a chance for students who have worked in the community to provide feedback to Mardo and other students about their experiences.
Mardo elaborated that the committee allows “students to feel more connected with each other and brainstorm ways to revamp or improve the program in the future based on their own experiences.” Students will be able to voice what they would like to see happening in the program, and Mardo is all ears.
Also, Mardo wants to be able to talk with students about the environments in which they are working, answering and addressing any questions they may have. In this way, they are able to discuss and reflect on their work in the community.
Lastly, if you do not have work-study included in your financial aid package, there are several other ways to get involved in off-campus jobs through Campus Ministry, FriarServe, and the Office of Citizenship (for commuter students).
You can still get involved and volunteer through these organizations. For more information about the Community Work-Study Program or Global Service Learning Program, students can contact Mardo at email@example.com.