In the fall of 2012, Holy Cross junior roommates Jeff Reppucci and Derek Kump decided that they wanted to step outside their campus gates and learn a bit more about the greater city of Worcester, MA—a city that, despite being the second largest in New England, can feel like it's far removed for many of the 35,000+ college students who call Worcester home every year. Being college hockey players, Reppucci and Kump’s natural connection to the community was through sports. They visited recreational spaces like parks and schoolyards, but found spaces that were either non-existent or in serious disrepair. Thus, the inspiration for Working for Worcester was born: Reppucci and Kump launched an organization dedicated to mobilizing college students to improve recreation infrastructure and opportunities within neighborhoods across the city.
IN THE 6 WEEKS LEADING UP TO THE FIRST “BUILD DAY” ON APRIL 20TH, THE 8 HOLY CROSS STUDENTS WERE ABLE TO ENGAGE MORE THAN A DOZEN CORPORATIONS TO RAISE $60,000+, REACH 6 AREA COLLEGES TO RECRUIT 500+ VOLUNTEERS, AND COLLABORATE WITH ORGANIZATIONS TO PLAN 12 EXCITING COMMUNITY RENOVATION PROJECTS.
The alignment of the community’s resources towards the common mission of improving recreation spaces for kids sparked a movement which to date has raised and invested close to $1,000,000 into the community, mobilizing 4,000+ volunteers to renovate 100+ community spaces and schools. The project, which began with mere college-student optimism, is currently in its sixth consecutive year, still mobilizing partners, raising hundreds-of-thousands of dollars, and putting thousands of volunteers into the community. Beyond new recreation infrastructure, the project has fundamentally changed the way that local citizens, government, and businesses connect with and view college student citizenship, catalyzing more opportunities for students to engage with previously unexplored neighborhoods and see Worcester as a home, rather than as a mere area code. Working for Worcester’s story goes to show that when seemingly unrelated groups in a community commit to a common mission and share resources, even a small group of wide-eyed college kids can spark a movement that effects visible, tangible change across an entire city.
REPPUCCI AND KUMP LAUNCHED AN ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO MOBILIZING COLLEGE STUDENTS TO IMPROVE RECREATION INFRASTRUCTURE AND OPPORTUNITIES IN NEIGHBORHOODS ACROSS THE CITY.
As Reppucci and Kump brought the idea to campus leaders, friends, and local advocates, the vision for W4W picked up momentum and grew with the addition of every enthusiastic college student. Soon, they were leading a small team at Holy Cross; meeting in a dorm room at all hours of the night; and working to build partnerships, connect with worthy sites, and engage donors. After a few months, the team had connected with wonderful community sites such as South High School and the Worcester Youth Center to design renovation projects like a new playground and a first-rate dance studio. The vision also grew to a citywide service day to mobilize everyone from corporations to college students to create these spaces in one giant day of community service and pride. The date was set for April 20th, but by mid-February, the team found itself with only a few thousand dollars raised through grassroots donations and roughly 100 committed volunteers. They had no corporate sponsors and were struggling to connect with the right local leaders. At the end of February, thanks to inspiring connections with leaders like the Mayor’s Office and the United Way of Central, MA, the W4W team found themselves in front of boardrooms at some of Worcester’s major businesses and civic groups. The vision proved strong enough to rally the community. In the six weeks leading up to the first “build day” on April 20th, the eight Holy Cross students were able to engage more than a dozen corporations and raise $60,000+, recruit 500+ volunteers from six area colleges, and plan twelve exciting community renovation projects like playgrounds, community gardens, schoolyard basketball courts, and many more. The ultimate execution was a powerful moment for the students of W4W, college citizenship, and the city as close to 700 people descended onto the W4W kick-off rally and then wielded shovels, hammers, and brushes to get to work for the kids!
TO DATE, COLLEGE STUDENT LEADERS HAVE RAISED AND INVESTED OVER $1,000,000 INTO THE COMMUNITY, MOBILIZED 10,000+ VOLUNTEERS TO RENOVATE 100+ COMMUNITY SPACES AND SCHOOLS.