Cranford Resident Begins College Career With Volunteer Program

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Valerie Podbelski, a resident of Cranford, was among 150 students in Providence College’s Class of 2016 to spend the first days of college participating in the college’s 22nd annual Urban Action program. The freshmen, along with 25 upperclassmen leaders, volunteered in Providence, Kent, and Newport counties in Rhode Island on Aug. 26 and 27.

In Providence at Neutaconkanut Hill Park, students painted rails, built a kiosk, prepped a meadow for an upcoming Philharmonic concert, and spread wood chips on multiple trails. In Middletown, they cleaned up walking trails and coastal areas at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. In East Greenwich, at Pat’s Pastured Farm, students cleared brush on trails, removed fences, and cleaned a local cemetery.

Urban Action was initiated by Providence College students in 1991, with 17 students volunteering the first year. Since then, more than 3,100 freshmen have participated, with many returning as leaders.

The goal of the program is to provide incoming students with an opportunity to make a positive difference in Providence, a community they will be calling their “home away from home,” and the area beyond.

Past projects have included collaborating with the Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy and Providence’s Parks Department to improve city-planted trees and restore city parks, clearing brush and preparing fields for a new organic gardening project at the Urban Edge Farm, and conducting a cleanup at the City Arts! building.

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