Innovative program provides ‘New Directions’

Jessica May

The first weeks of college are often overcrowded with a medley of activities, club registrations, interviews and meetings.  A variety of opportunities are presented as a means to promote campus spirit, involvement and, in the case of Villanova, ministry.

Ministry strives to promote Augustinian values through the involvement of its students and faculty.  However, it can sometimes be difficult to encompass members from all aspects of the Villanova community in particular service experiences. 

This is where Brian Bozzo steps in. 

A senior mechanical engineering major from Long Island, N.Y., Bozzo has spent the last two years at ‘Nova involved in the Bigs and Littles program.

Bigs and Littles provides inner-city children with a positive support system through one-on-one contact with older mentors. 

As the former president of Bigs and Littles, Bozzo, along with seniors Whitney Pailin and Mike Wagoner, has decided to take this program a step further.

The result is New Directions, a new, self-thriving organization centered at Saint Charles Borromeo Church in Southeast Philadelphia. 

Dealing primarily with high school students, New Directions is essentially a continuation of the Bigs and Littles program.

“We want this to be almost an ‘extension,’ meaning we want the kids from Bigs and Littles to graduate into this new program,” said Bozzo.

In addition to providing students with an opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of a high school student, New Directions allows personal interaction with faculty as well. 

The program involves six outings per semester for mentors and high school students, each of which is designed to promote positive social and learning environments. 

The first month’s outings support interaction through one-on-one activities as well as various social events for students and their mentors to enjoy together. 

The second month introduces a professional development seminar that is designed to “encourage students to think of college as a serious option,” Bozzo said.

The seminar is the element that sets New Directions apart from other Campus Ministry organizations, since it involves a series of presentations that are given by University professors who volunteer to help with the program.

The professors who volunteer for New Directions come from all disciplines. This allows the high school children to gather as much information about potential career options.

“If a high schooler voices interest in a certain aspect of education, say nursing, then we would go to a professor in that department and have a presentation created that gives more information about that particular field of study,” Bozzo said.

This not only allows the professors to use their educations and backgrounds in diverse ways, but also promotes a welcoming atmosphere to the students being mentored. 

By allowing this personal interaction between the high school students and the faculty, New Directions extends the Villanova community beyond its borders.

“I think we have a lot of resources here at Villanova,” Bozzo said.  “But it is important to burst that ‘Villanova bubble’ and experience the surrounding culture.  It extends a sense of spirit as well as positivity.”

Through instilling a sense of hope and optimism, New Directions presents teenagers with an opportunity to change the course of their lives.  For more information, e-mail [email protected].