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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI fraternity shows local community it CARES

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 1, 2005 -- "It’s like revisiting," said Sigma Phi Epsilon Vice President Brian Burke. "It makes you think ‘I miss recess and snack time’‚" Burke said of the University of Rhode Island chapter’s recent participation in the after-school homework clubs for South Kingstown Connecting All Resources for Educational Support (SK CARES).

The fraternity’s involvement is the first step in a plan to have the URI students’ read Dr. Seuss books to local elementary schools. Why Dr. Seuss? Because he was a Sig Ep brother. But there is also genuine enthusiasm for the cause that sparked their involvement.

"Sigma Phi Epsilon puts out a quarterly magazine, and in one of the issues, I read about a chapter that was doing something similar--volunteering at local elementary schools to help with homework and tutor. It seemed like a lot of fun, so we looked into SK CARES," said fraternity brother Chris Jablonski of Monroe, N.Y.

"We definitely have a positive influence," said Burke. "It really makes a difference to [the students] and they can relate to college students more than they can relate to adults. The goal is to reach out to the community. It’s something maybe college students aren’t normally doing, so we were hoping we could separate ourselves from the mainstream."

And separate themselves is what they have done. In the year they have been on campus, the Sig Ep brothers have helped raise money and build a playground for South Kingstown’s Hazard School in memory of Matthew Siravo, son of a URI Sig Ep alumnus, who died from complications with epilepsy. They have also participated in campus clean-ups, run a hypnotist show to raise money for Alzheimer’s disease research (one of the brothers is a professional certified hypnotist), and more recently raised money for the Katie DeCubellis Fund during Philanthropy week at URI.

SK CARES is a nonprofit educational organization comprised of parents, volunteers, teachers, and local businesses that focuses on mentoring, enrichment, improving literacy, and enhancing school-to-career connections. The University of Rhode Island is a major contributor of volunteers to every aspect of SK CARES, including literacy development, mentoring, and academic enrichment.

Literacy development includes classroom volunteers, after-school homework clubs like the ones in which Sigma Phi Epsilon participates, America Reads, and Rhode Island Reads.

SK CARES also has a successful Mentor/Tutor Internship program called MTI@URI with student participants who serve as positive adult role models and whose goals are to keep younger students in school and improve their self-esteem, attitude toward school, attendance, and academic performance.

“South Kingstown CARES is very grateful for all the URI volunteers, “ said Midge Kahn, the agency’s co-interim executive director. “We have students and professors as well as staff from URI involved in all of our programs. It’s especially important to highlight their efforts because this month is R.I. Mentoring Month.”

Kahn said some URI professors and staff are participating as mentors but more our needed. “Many of our children have been waiting months to participate in the mentoring program. Our URI students are invaluable to the classroom MTI program and in our homework clubs. We are looking to expand our homework clubs into all seven South Kingstown elementary and two middle schools in the future.”

Kahn said URI students are becoming the bedrock of the program.

“To learn about the personal rewards and the importance of volunteering as a college student will be gifts that these students will carry with them throughout their lives,” Kahn said.