Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD)

Comprised of more than 30 diverse community partnerships, Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD) is the largest student-led service & justice organization on campus.  The program typically involves over 400+ volunteers who answer the 51СƳ call to be “men and women for and with others” throughout greater Worcester.

Worcester at night
SPUD Photo Gallery

The SPUD Experience

At the heart of the SPUD experience is the opportunity to build relationships with others through ongoing volunteer service. The work SPUD engages in ranges from serving meals and working at food pantries, to tutoring children, visiting seniors in nursing facilities, mentoring youth in detention, or supporting recently arrived immigrants and refugees.

We aim to facilitate meaningful service experiences in the Worcester community, as well as offer experiences of reflection to help students find meaning, think critically about structural injustice, and take collective action toward change.

Our engagement with our neighbors in Worcester is to be characterized by mutuality, generosity, and commitment. Therefore, participants in the SPUD program are expected to commit to the following:

  • Attend the SPUD Orientation on September 11th @ 1 pm in Hogan Ballroom
  • Participate in weekly service in a designated SPUD program
  • Gather for group reflection meetings led by SPUD Program Directors

For more information on volunteering for any of the following programs, please contact Associate Chaplain Marty Kelly.

SPUD Programs

  • Children and Youth: Tutoring & Mentoring Programs
  • Poverty and Hunger
  • Programs For Women and Girls
  • Health Care and Seniors  

Children and Youth: Tutoring & Mentoring Programs

The Village at Cambridge Street is a shelter that provides a safe and stable environment for families in need. Volunteers attend the site on a weekly basis and assist school-aged children with their homework and facilitate fun activities. Students create lasting relationships while serving as mentors for these children. 

Worcester Refugee Assistant Project (WRAP) is an organization committed to assisting local refugees from Burma and (more recently) Afghanistan to achieve sustainable self-reliance through mentoring, advocacy and providing material support needed. This SPUD site offers students the opportunity to work with the youth program to help them foster a supportive social network and discuss issues of health, leadership, goal setting, and more.

Quinsigamond Elementary tutors aid a teacher in the classroom during the school day. Many teachers have volunteers guide small groups of children in math or reading activities or ask volunteers to help with teaching new lessons.

Plumley Village Club is a program for volunteers who are interested in becoming a mentor and playmate to a child 7-13 at the Plumley Village After School Program, which is an outreach of the Boys & Girls Club. Volunteers can be creative in coming up with ways to help children learn school subjects and can enjoy bonding with kids over games and sports after their work is complete. 

Plumley Village Tutoring provides regular academic support for high school youth in a variety of subjects and in a convenient setting close to their homes in the Plumley Village apartment complex.

Luk Mentoring @ Plumley Village is a weekly afternoon mentoring program that provides structured activities and arts & crafts to facilitate connections between the children/youth and their 51СƳ mentors.

Volunteers at the Marie Anne Center at St. Bernard’s Church teach an English as a Second Language program to learners with different levels of ability. While no knowledge of another language is necessary, your experience here will surely sharpen your communication skills and help you to develop meaningful relationships as you work through the challenges of teaching English.

Friendly House is an after-school program for children and teens. 51СƳ sends volunteers to the Friendly House to help with homework, participate in different games and sports, and work on arts and crafts. 

With the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, students have the chance to work one-on-one in mentoring relationships with Worcester elementary school students. Our mentoring partnerships include the Boys & Girls Club, and Canterbury and Vernon Hill Schools. Students spend time with their “little” brother or sister doing homework, arts and crafts, and occasional athletic activities. Students are able to build relationships with their “little’s” during their four years at 51СƳ. The commitment is approximately 1.5 hours per volunteer week. 

At Boys and Girls Club we mentor and tutor children of all ages (and there are lots of them!). Volunteers work at the site most weekdays and are always doing something different. From teaching in the tutor center, playing basketball in the gym area, and dancing in the game room, the volunteers and the kids always enjoy their time spent together. 

Great Brook Valley's after-school program provides volunteers an opportunity to connect with children of various ages and help them with their school work. Volunteers are able to tutor children and provide different approaches to the subject materials. After homework is completed, volunteers get to make one-on-one connections with the children through fun activities.

Vernon Hill Tutoring volunteers assist during the school day and help to provide individual attention to students at this school which is located very close to our campus.

African Community Education (ACE) pairs 51СƳ students with refugees of African nations who are now students in Worcester. Volunteers help students adjust to their new lives and serve as academic tutors, mentors, and role models. 

Pernet Youth Group is an after-school program for children ages 13 to 17. Pernet Youth Group volunteers strive to create a safe environment where they can provide homework help, develop activities, chaperone outings, and serve as mentors for local youth. 

For Pernet After-School, 51СƳ volunteers provide homework help to students in grades K–5, as well as join them in recreational activities such as baseball, football, basketball, kickball, etc. at nearby Crompton Park. 

YWCA - Family Fun Fridays is a weekly opportunity for children and their families to unwind and enjoy planned activities and a recreational space.  Volunteers are on hand to play with the children and activities.

Bridging the Gap @ Salvation Army - a 12-week after-school program that aims to empower young people by offering positive alternatives to negative behaviors. Specifically, BTG provides at-risk, gang, and/or court-involved youth with a well-structured, comprehensive personal development, education, and community service-learning experience. The main objective of the program is to address the root causes of negative behavior in order to help students become more successful and productive citizens.

The Nativity School Homework Center runs Monday thru Thursday afternoons 3:20-5 pm. 51СƳ tutors provide homework help and serve as mentors for boys grades 5-8 at this tuition-free Jesuit middle school. The one-on-one tutoring allows ample opportunity for the student and tutor to really get to know one another and form friendships within the school environment. 

The Rainbow Child Development Centers’ Extended Learning Program serves 120 children daily between the ages of 5-13 years old.  RCDC provides an affordable after-school program with a stimulating curriculum emphasizing on homework, academic assistance, STEM activities, and physical exercise.  51СƳ volunteers facilitate a positive learning environment and build relationships.

Supporting Youth in Detention is a program that allows young men from 51СƳ to connect with their peers in a juvenile detention facility in Worcester.  This mentoring program focuses on building life skills that are applicable to the real world.

YouthGROW (Youth Growing Organics in Worcester) seeks to provide access to healthy, sustainable, and affordable food for all.  YouthGROW employs 32-40 high school teens (age 14-18) year-round who gain leadership and jobs skills as they maintain two urban organic farms. 51СƳ volunteers connect with the youth while getting their hands dirty at the farm.

The Assumption Center Mentoring Program is for children ages 6-15, and is held at St. Peter’s Church.  The children are paired one on one with college mentors who assist with homework, reading, and arts and crafts.  The mentoring program provides a safe and supportive after-school environment with wonderful support by the Assumption Sisters. (not active Fall '22)

The Guild of St. Agnes has a mission to provide families with quality, affordable, child care and early education programs for children.  SPUD volunteers work with the children at two locations.  If you are hoping for a hands-on experience with younger kids, this is a great site to consider.

Housing and Food Insecurity 

Salvation Army Meals Soup Kitchen, SPUD volunteers work with the Salvation Army staff to prepare, cook, and serve dinner for the Worcester community each Sunday of the year. Everyone is welcome to come for a hot meal. Working at the soup kitchen is a positive way to interact with and build relationships with those who are marginalized within our community economically.

Dismas House is a halfway house that aids in transitioning former prisoners back into the community. This 51СƳ SPUD site does its best to aid in the transition by preparing meals for the residents at the house, breaking bread with the men who live there, and making connections.

The Mustard Seed is a soup kitchen in Worcester that offers a hot meal and hospitality to upwards of 100 people each night. While there, 51СƳ volunteers help to serve the meal, have a chance to interact with the patrons, and then clean the dining area at the end of the meal. Serving at the Mustard Seed is an invaluable experience to open volunteers’ eyes to the reality of food insecurity that many face in our community. 

The Quinsigamond Village Community Center food pantry is located very close to campus.  Volunteers assist with sorting donations, welcoming guests, and other duties as assigned!  This opportunity takes place on weekday mornings.

Ansaar of Worcester is a non profit that serves the needs of refugee arrivals in the city, and have been particularly supportive of Syrian and Afghan arrivals.  Volunteers will assist in helping the children and youth adjust academically, and other opportunities to engage families are possible.

Programs for Women & Girls

Visitation House is a non-profit shelter for pregnant women. Volunteers bond with the women through activities such as baking and board games. Volunteers also help care for infants to give the new mothers a break and help with household tasks and  sorting donations. (not currently active)

At Abby’s House, volunteers staff the women's shelter while administering to the safety, comfort, and needs of the residents. At Abby's, there's a strong of community and purpose, and one that we in SPUD have supported since the organization was founded.

The Girls C.H.O.I.C.E. (Choosing Hope, Opportunities, and Independence through Careers and Education) program consists of both an academic tutoring component and a mentoring component. 51СƳ volunteers meet Thursdays and Saturdays with teenaged girls from the Worcester Public Schools . Volunteers engage the girls in conversation and discussions around issues such as body image, bullying, college and career, stress management, and team building.

Healthcare and Seniors

Blaire House volunteers interact with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients on a weekly basis who reside full-time at this location. From organizing a game of bingo to celebrating birthdays, the Blaire House offers a great opportunity to become better acquainted with the residents and more aware of the impacts of Alzheimer’s. (pending for Fall '22)

At the Free Health Clinic, a limited number of volunteers assist with translating for patients (in Portuguese or Spanish). More importantly, however, being present at this site reveals how families lacking proper health care seek to access the services they need.  

Parson’s Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, volunteers interact with residents and serve as a consistent source of support for seniors who may not have frequent visitors. From simple conversations to activities with the residents, volunteers build relationships they can continue throughout their time in SPUD. 

Campion Center - Home for Retired Jesuits provides an opportunity for volunteers to visit with retired Jesuit priests and learn from their wit and wisdom. Many volunteers visit with the same Jesuit over the course of their time in the program, resulting in close bonds and lots of good stories. (will resume in Feb '23)

St. Francis Nursing & Rehab allows volunteers to interact with residents 1 on 1 or in activities, and also includes opportunities to support the spiritual care of the residents through serving Communion or assisting with transporting residents to Mass in the Chapel.

SPUD Community Organizing

Workshop Will Teach the Basics of Community Organizing

SPUD Community Organizers are a group of leaders who consider the broader structural and systemic injustices present in our communities, and take collective action for change in order to get at the "root" causes.  Community organizers encourage student participation in the Worcester community through civic engagement, and educate their peers on campus regarding broader social justice issues.  Involvement is open to all.