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The spirit of community remains strong at Western

Various organizations and teams on campus have joined together in paying respect and offering service to those affected by the Newtown tragedy in December, proving that community togetherness can prevail even in these times of sorrow.  

Ana Marquez-Greene Music Scholarship Fund

Our own music professor Jimmy Greene and his wife Nelba Marquez-Greene lost their daughter Ana Marquez-Greene in the massacre. Within days, at the Marquez-Greene family’s request, Dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts Dr. Dan Goble arranged with the WCSU Foundation Office to create a music scholarship for incoming students. To date, the Ana Marquez-Greene Music Scholarship Fund at Western has raised more than $55,000. Donations have been sent in from 32 states and one province in Canada. With more than 475 gifts received, the scholarship fund grows each day.  With this scholarship and continued donor contribution, the memory of Ana Marquez-Greene as well as all the other victims will never fade.

 26 Songs for 26 Souls

“Divinely Inspired” is what Western student Rachel Armour '14 would call her plan to help people heal from this tragedy.  Armour, a music student, took immediate action in trying to help people heal from this tragedy.

 “One morning when I was conducting my beautiful children’s choir, I had the revelation that nothing could be more healing then the sound of innocent and wonderful voices of children," she said. "That’s when I started planning the concert featuring area children choirs, and from there, everything kind of fell into place. I knew I wanted to have a song dedicated to each of the victims, and that’s where “26 Songs for 26 Souls” came from.”

The concert was held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Waterbury. With the help of sophomore student Timothy Nott '15, the concert was able to include musical performances as well as a commemoration for recognizing first responders.   “Rachel wanted to expose the powerful healing qualities that music has," Nott said.  "I appreciate her mission and uncanny ability to relate to those going through tragedy.”

Exceeding both students’ expectations, “26 Songs” was a testimony to how resilient people can be. “What moved me was how all of the groups came together to sing for one cause,"  Rachel Armour stated.  "It was like the children were ignited by a fire or sparks of joy that day, and to see that innocence is still alive and vibrant in the hearts of our young, was very moving for everybody present.”

Looking back, Armour said, “Music can heal where words fail, and I am so honored to have been able to organize the beauty of what transpired at this benefit concert.” All monetary funds collected will be donated to the Ana Marquez-Greene Music Scholarship Fund.

 The Student Nursing Association            

What began as a small collection for flowers, turned into a generous tribute to Autism Speaks Foundation, in honor of Anne Marie Murphy, by the Student Nursing Association. Fellow nursing students Britany Barrow '16 and Christine Russo '15 received word on Sunday, December 16, that one of their fellow classmates had lost his mother in the Newtown shootings.

“We were only going to collect a few dollars to send flowers to the family but when it was requested that money be donated to Autism Speaks Foundation because the student’s mother worked so closely with special needs children, we immediately turned to sending out a mass e-mail to the entire student body the following Monday morning,” Barrow said.

Along with collecting from the WCSU community, the students asked family, co-workers and neighbors for donations as well. By January 21st the organization had collected a total of $1,185 to be mailed to Autism Speaks. The young women were amazed by the amount of generosity for the cause.

“Even though all of us have the simple connection of being just classmates, it was incredible to be able to do this," Barrow said. "And for all the donations, it was and still is heartwarming to see how selfless people can be during a time of so much hurt.”

 The Education Club

The university’s Education Club has been collecting General Mills box-tops for years to help a needy school. In the past, box-tops have been used to buy new books, computers and other resources the school lacked. This year, the club has decided to donate all proceeds from its August to April collection season to Sandy Hook Elementary. The club hopes that students and faculty will take advantage of the various collection boxes throughout campus so that the elementary school can receive aid for the fall 2013 school year.

University Resident Assistants

Awareness has been another great outcome brought to campus by resident assistants of Pinney Hall on the university’s Westside campus. RA’s Christine Mitchell-Robinson and Megan Kellogg organized a program to promote the “Sandy Hook Promise.” The SHP website explains," “Sandy Hook Promise” is committed to making Newtown remembered as the place where we came together both as a community and as a nation, and decided that we must do everything we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.”

The Promise focuses on providing financial assistance and services support for as long as it takes each affected individual to heal. The site encourages all who visit to make the pledge by signing up online.

Mitchell-Robinson and Kellogg have campaigned in their residence hall and on campus since the beginning of the semester, encouraging each student to take the online pledge, research the corporation or donate. Mitchell- Robinson stated, “We wanted to do something that benefited the town as a whole. The Promise also has such a beautiful message of promoting love in a time of grief and initiating conversation on ending violence in schools.”

The two students will continue their program of promoting SHP and collecting donations until the end of February. For more information visit Sandy Hook Promise.

The Women’s Softball Team

The WCSU softball team came together during the university’s winter break to play in a tournament where all proceeds went to the Sandy Hook Support Fund.

“20 Angels in the Outfield Tournament,” was held at Fast Pitch Nation in Bloomfield on December 26. The tournament consisted of 58 teams of all ages and skill levels. Western was one of the few college teams invited to play in the tournament and although their eight person team won, each player understood the tournament was about much more than a victory.

Freshman pitcher Jessie Rocha spoke highly of the team’s dedication to participate. “Our team is built around helping others, so this was perfect for us, Rocha said. "Being able to do something so special for a town in need by playing a sport we all love, is something that will stick with us for a lifetime.”

Rocha’s father, owner of Fast Pitch Nation, came up with the idea for the tournament. “20 Angels in the Outfield” raised nearly $21,000.

Softball Coach Heather Stone and her team are committed to continual efforts that incorporate softball and service for those affected by the tragedy. “We are hoping things really take off," Stone said. "Our team will also be selling support bracelets for the student survivors and wearing embroidered patches in honor of Sandy Hook.”

The Women’s Basketball Team

The Women’s Basketball team has dedicated is 2012-2013 season to honoring those lost in the tragedy as well as providing service to youth survivors.

Coach Kimberley Rybczyk and her team have reached out in a number of ways to show Newtown that their team and Western Connecticut will always be there to lend a helping hand. “Each home game, we collect donations so that we will be able to make a donation to the Ana Marquez-Greene Music Scholarship Fund," Rybczyk stated. "We also wear black t-shirts with the number 26 on the back to represent the 26 lives lost on that horrific day.”

Perhaps the most significant act of generosity, the team also had the opportunity to spend time with Newtown Youth Academy during the days following the tragedy. The team worked and played with the children of Newtown. As long as they are needed, the Women’s Basketball Team will continue to volunteer.

Sigma Chi Fraternity

Sigma Chi Fraternity has been working endlessly to give back to Newtown and make a positive impact within the Western community.

Specifically, the organization bought 5,000 wristbands and establish an order website within 24 hours of the tragedy.  “We wanted to create an international campaign by reaching out to not only our local community, but the Sigma Chi Fraternity at-large throughout the United States and Canada,” Sigma Chi President James Heffner '13 said.

To date, the organization has raised more than $4,000 for the Newtown Youth Academy and is still receiving orders. Additionally, Sigma Chi has also been working with the Department of Music to host a semi-formal benefit dance. The event will feature live entertainment from the WCSU Jazz Ensemble and free food. The proceeds will go toward a charitable organization that supports the Sandy Hook community.

Heffner and his brothers are strong advocates of community service. “It is incredibly important to recognize that we are part of a larger community and that no matter how small the contribution, you make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

The benefit dance will take place on February 9th. Community members interested in the dance should visit the university’s Calendar of Events for more information. Those interested in learning more about the wristband fundraiser should click here.

We know other efforts have been initiated as well. Though we cannot change or explain the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary, it is important to understand that positive things are being done not only at Western but across the nation. This university takes pride in its devotion to community togetherness and will continue to give back in whatever way possible.

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