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Students Help Make Playground Dreams a Reality
Playground construction became a lesson on service, as Bentley students traded laptops and books for wrenches and shovels. On September 17, they worked alongside volunteers from Brandeis University, the Waltham Housing Authority, the New England Patriots, the New England Revolution, UnitedHealthcare, and organizers from national nonprofit KaBOOM! to build the play space at Prospect Hill Terrace low-income housing development in Waltham, Mass. The playground is part of the Bentley Service-Learning Center’s largest community partner initiative: a 5,000-square-foot community center at Prospect Hill Terrace.
“The community center will provide big-picture learning initiatives — afterschool tutoring, computer programming, job skill training, social enterprise skills, and more,” says BSLC Director Jonathan White. “And, of course, kids need a safe and healthy place to play, so this playground will not only provide that but also a place of pride for the community because the kids were the ones who designed it.”
For Bentley, White adds, Prospect Hill will offer a tremendous new community partner site for Service-Learning students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to the real world.
The community center, slated for completion in October, has become a vehicle for community partnerships. Bentley partnered with Brandeis University, the residents of Prospect Hill, and the City of Waltham, which provided a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).
“It was truly inspiring to see complete strangers working together so passionately in order to ensure the success of the project and to create one of the coolest playgrounds I’ve ever seen,” says Bentley senior Brian Shea. “This isn’t the end, though. Our hope is that this playground build is just the beginning of a long-term relationship between Bentley, Brandeis and Prospect Hill.”
In addition to providing opportunities for local community members, there is a broader goal: to establish a national model for civic engagement that will encourage universities to partner with each other, with local municipalities, and with local and national agencies to create successful initiatives for social change.
“It was truly inspiring to see complete strangers working together so passionately in order to ensure the success of the project and to create one of the coolest playgrounds I’ve ever seen. This isn’t the end, though. Our hope is that this playground build is just the beginning of a long-term relationship between Bentley, Brandeis and Prospect Hill.”
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.