Ninth-graders Juliana Carranza and Caroline Lober were complete strangers coming into Monday, but a day of community held by three Wilmington Catholic schools quickly changed that.
Carranza and Lober – students at Padua Academy and Ursuline Academy, respectively – were two of the 450 freshmen that experienced the second SUP Day Monday, which brought together the full ninth-grade classes of Salesianum School, Ursuline and Padua.
“It’s nice to have this experience because you get to learn about the other schools and then you get to be able to relate to each other on a different level that we don’t get everyday,” Carranza said.
Coming off the heels of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the day was focused on service and community, and how the young students can have an impact on the world around them.
This is the first year of the SUP Days – the first was in October and was based on based on the El Camino Pilgrimage, also known as the Way of St. James, which is a pilgrimage in Spain in which people walk hundreds of miles from all across Europe to Santiago, the traditional place where the apostle James is buried.
During the pilgrimage, strangers get to know each other and often leave their experience with new friends and shared memories.
“That was all about journeying together through different activities, building community and having that outreach,” said Maureen Ripsom McAleenan, the dean of academics at Ursuline’s Upper School, “and then today they’re back together to strengthen the bonds.”
After an hour-long morning Mass, the freshmen gathered at Padua for lunch and then broke out into groups to learn about, and discuss, the importance of service.
One of the main stations was at the gym, where a few upperclassmen from those schools gave personal anecdotes about their service history and how it impacted them and the community.
“That’s the most important part,” said Karen Duppel, director of campus ministry and family engagement coordinator at Padua. “They need to hear from their peers. They need to hear that they can be like that in the next few years, that this is attainable.”
It’s one thing for school leadership to preach these values to students, Duppel said, but it resonates on a different level when it’s their peers.
Also, she said, some students might not even realize that their friends or teammates have these amazing service experiences without having a day to really hone in on the topic and open the door to conversation.
Anuradha Dole, a junior at Padua, was one of the speakers in the gym who shared her experience and thoughts on giving back to the community.
“I urge you all to engage in service that leverages your individual gifts and talents,” she said. “Don’t do service for the sake of getting volunteer hours. Find service that connects to you.”
Tying in personal interests, skills and talents with the needs of the underprivileged is a great way to find meaningful ways to help others, she said.
She said it’s also helpful to get creative with service opportunities, and that there might not be an immediate effect of volunteering, but it is still helpful.
While one can immediately see the impact of cleaning a park after they’re done, she said, but there’s other times when the impact might not be felt for quite some time.
“Service is commonly viewed as sacrifice, and it is,” she said. “It is a sacrifice of your time and effort… but service will also be incredibly satisfying to both you and the people you are helping through your volunteering.”
The SUP Day embodies the values of all three schools, Duppel said.
“It’s pretty cool to connect with people and see different perspectives of students at the different schools and we also haven’t really been in the schools, so it’s cool to see what it’s like,” said Liam Hancox, a freshman at Salesianum.
His classmate, Dean Scanlon, said it’s great to meet new people his age and also build his peers up.
After the larger speeches in the gymnasium, the smaller groups broke off into different classrooms to discuss the speeches, get to know each other better, and make placemats for nursing homes and ‘thank you’ cards for active military service members.
“It’s nice to help people out and know you’re helping them out, and they don’t have to repay you in any way,” Lober said. “You’re able to help them without it costing them money and it’s awesome.”
The third installment of the three-school gathering will be SALSTHON held in March.
Based on the widely-adopted THON marathon from Penn State University, SALSTHON is an eight hour dance marathon through the night to raise funds for a local charity.
Last year, SALSTHON raised $243,791 for the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware, which helps families whose seriously-ill children are getting care at Nemours.
This year’s beneficiary will be announced later this week.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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