East Catholic seniors help 'My Sister's Place'

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Mon., Jun. 13, 2011
East Catholic High School seniors Holly Havens, Casey Horan, Stephanie Ternullo, Kelly DiStefano and Giuliana Zaccardelli established a donation drive project to help My Sister's Place.  Photo by Martha Marteney.
East Catholic High School seniors Holly Havens, Casey Horan, Stephanie Ternullo, Kelly DiStefano and Giuliana Zaccardelli established a donation drive project to help My Sister's Place. Photo by Martha Marteney.

East Catholic High School has a long history of promoting community service with its students. Service learning is a requirement for the students, including involvement in STRETCH, an acronym for Service that Requires Engaging the Compassionate Heart.

Five seniors of the recently-graduated Class of 2011 decided to initiate a Kingdom Project. “It’s a service opportunity for students to create their own service projects,” explained senior Stephanie Ternullo, of Tolland.  Ternullo and fellow seniors Kelly DiStefano, Holly Havens, Casey Horan, all three from South Windsor, and Tolland resident Giuliana Zaccardelli developed a program to donate items to My Sister’s Place, a safe house for homeless women and children, located in Hartford.

“My number-one thing has always been women and children and domestic violence,” said Havens. The five seniors seem to agree that the project was Havens’ idea, although they were all fully-involved from the beginning. The girls were already friends or teammates on the swim team, and started working together on service projects their junior year. Zaccardelli noted that the group started working together on service projects at Catherine’s Place, a transitional home for women in recovery. 

“I’ve never had a group do it [volunteer] on-going like they did,” said Jennifer Fauderg, volunteer and donations coordinator at My Sister’s Place. The students coordinated donation drives at ECHS every month. “The way they did it was great, because it was what we needed for the next month,” added Fauderg. “They spent so much time on it.”

“We definitely have the support of our school,” said DiStefano, both in terms of the school administration and the student community. The monthly or even bi-weekly donation drives often resulted in a car-load of items to be delivered to My Sister’s Place. A particularly successful drive was for baby-related items, such as diapers, in response to a need identified by the women at the shelter.

“I’ve definitely been motivated to keep service a part of my future,” said DiStefano. She plans on studying nursing at Boston College.

Ternullo said she has always wanted to be a lawyer and has more recently decided to pursue criminal law, rather than corporate law. “I would not have felt that way without going to East Catholic,” she said. “You have an entirely different outlook on life.”

Although the Kingdom Project did not necessarily help her decide on a career path, Horan said it affected “how I want to live my life and reach out to others.”

“It actually helped me with deciding on my career,” said Havens, who plans on majoring in human development and family studies. 

“We built such a strong relationship with them [the women at the shelter],” explained Havens, “that we couldn’t just leave them.”

The project will continue next year, led by the younger sisters of Horan and Zaccardelli.

“Doing service has a big impact on your life,” said Zaccardelli.


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