BY BECCA KARPENKO
What does it mean to have a solid foundation? In terms of engineering, a structure can’t stand without one. With a good foundation, however, a house can stand forever, providing a safe haven to those who live in it.
At St. Norbert College, every aspect of campus is built upon the foundation of communio. However, there are a unique group of houses that have a special foundation embracing communio. These houses are collectively called the Theme Houses and each house is a unique reflection of the students living in it.
At the core, Theme Houses give students an opportunity to creatively practice communio by living with students who share common educational endeavors or co-curricular interests. In addition to this, Theme Houses also give students a chance to impact the greater campus community. Interest in these houses are high, so students who wish to apply work together to develop a solid and specific mission upon which their house is founded on. In the past, this has included examples such as a house dedicated to taking care of the SNC garden or a house of student athletes on the football team who have volunteered at the YMCA Y-night program.
This year, five women on the hockey team have decided to make service the foundation of their house. These hockey players volunteer every Monday for about an hour at Cornerstone Community Center’s All Skate program. Within this program, kids of various age and skill level sign up to learn how to skate. Each resident of this theme house is matched with a group of kids that they teach for six weeks. Mckenzie Mazzolini, the student leader of the theme house, says this long-term relationship with the kids is one of the most impactful parts of the program.
“Sometimes you’ll be working with a kid one-on-one and they think they can’t do it. Finally they perfect the skill, and you just see the joy and happiness when they realize, ‘Yes, I can do this,’” Mckenzie explains.
When Mckenzie and her roommates, Brianna Kelly, Reaghan Chadwick, Lexi Pyykkonen, and Kenna Farrey, first decided the possibility of living in a theme house, they weren’t sure which theme to pursue. After getting guidance from a professor, they realized that they needed to go after a mission that they were passionate about. Although they had an interest in many community partners, a theme house based around just community service did not match their gifts with the needs of the community. As a result, the women decided to set their house foundation on something they were passionate about and did almost every day: hockey.
“I loved the idea of having the house stand for something and having a meaning behind the house,” Mckenzie says.
Since then, the women have learned a lot about living together and serving together.
“I get to see them every day and we all do service together. That makes a really big difference. Other theme houses don’t do it all together,” Mckenzie says. “And it would be really different if we all lived in different dorms across campus.”
The women have definitely learned a lot from living in this Theme House.
“You learn a new type of patience working with kids. When you’re on the ice, it’s a different type of patience,” Mckenzie explains. “In a session that just ended there was a three year-old who cried every single day. By the end, he was skating away.”
Some students considering living in a Theme House next academic year may be worried about the long-term time commitment interfering with sports and academics. However, Mckenzie explains that the service is not too hard to accomplish every week.
“It’s only an hour. You can even do it on the weekend. It’s pretty easy to fit in, you just need to be mindful of the time,” Mckenzie says.
Many other SNC students are also living in Theme Houses during this academic year and are serving at community partners in Brown County such as the Boys and Girls Club, St. Vincent de Paul, the YMCA, ASPIRO, the Aging and Disability Resource Center, and Life’s a Stitch.
For students considering living in a Theme House next year, there will be an informational meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 29th at 2:00 p.m. in Mulva 101. The Theme House application for the 2017-2018 academic year also opens on that same day. For more information, contact Eileen Honish (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the Residential Education and Housing Theme House page.