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Remote but Resilient, Students Still Seek to Serve


After life at Hamilton shifted from the Hill to scattered points around the globe, Community Outreach and Community Project (COOP) put out a call for remote community service volunteers, and some 100 students answered, more helpers than opportunities to help.

For economics major Rich Marooney ’21, tutoring a Clinton eighth-grader in pre-algebra was an easy commitment to make. If he could help one student even a little bit in these times, he was in. “You're worried about elementary, middle school, high school kids, across the country falling behind right now and what that's going to do for them the rest of their lives,” he says. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the campus shutdown, COOP Director Amy James and her four senior fellows have scrambled to devise remote community-service opportunities. “Even through all of this, the loss of their senior spring, complications with theses, postponed commencement, etcetera, they are still trying to give back to the community and leave a legacy for younger students,” James says of the senior fellows.

A dozen Hamilton students are tutoring local middle-schoolers, and four more are doing open hours when middle-schoolers drop in virtually with questions. Sixteen Hamilton students are tutoring high school students, and 10 who are mentors in the Sidekicks program for elementary students now meet virtually with their students.

Accustomed to being busy and involved, Hamilton students without their extracurriculars are looking for ways to be productive, says Senior Fellow Abby Rosovsky ’20, who coordinates COOP education service. The bumper crop of remote volunteers includes students who are first-timers working with COOP. “That was really special to see, I think,” Rosovsky says. “I think it speaks to the fact that Hamilton students are really involved in their academics, but they also really care.”

Maddy Totman ’20 volunteered for Sidekicks in the fall, previrus, and was paired with third-grader Jesse Amuso, 8, playing board games, sledding on campus, and doing other fun stuff. She likes being with people of different ages, including kids. Jesse's dad is John Amuso '94. His mom, Jessica Reynolds-Amuso, says they all miss contact with Hamilton students, especially Totman. Since the pandemic struck, she and her sidekick meet weekly via FaceTime. Totman is glad she reached out to him. “He talks about how he doesn't really socialize much, so having someone to talk to on the phone or on FaceTime is fun,” she says. 

Senior Fellow Renee Varga ’20 organized Hamilton students to write to children at the House of the Good Shepherd and residents of the Presbyterian Home in nearby Utica, and James and the fellows continue to look for ways for far-flung Hamiltonians to volunteer. When they do, it’s a two-way win.

During his early days at home after campus closed, Marooney felt a little helpless as he wondered how he could be part of the communal fight against COVID-19. The COOP email looking for volunteer tutors gave him an avenue, and he’s glad he signed on.

“We’re living through an extremely difficult experience right now. Collectively, globally, everyone has felt the effects of COVID-19 in some way, shape, or form,” he says. “While at home during the quarantine, you are often confronted with many difficult emotions to sort through.”

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