Alumni Notes
Written by: Janna Besant, ’10

A Passion for Community Service

Life after college graduation can be both scary and confusing. Many graduates find themselves grappling for a sense of purpose and a place of belonging, trying to answer the question “Where do I go from here?” For Lacey Howcroft, ’09, the answer was clear. With a heart for others and desire to help those less fortunate, Howcroft decided to join Americorps, a choice influenced by her experience at Niagara University.

“I absolutely loved that Niagara is so big on community service,” Howcroft says. “I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s after-school program for two years. That alone gave me the incentive to want to do more for my community.”

Howcroft also went on two service trips with BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ), a campus ministry program that brings students to urban or rural areas in the United States and the Republic of Panama to serve the poor in those communities.

One of those trips was to Bedford-Stuyvesant, a Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood. During her stay in Bed-Stuy, Howcroft roomed at St. John the Baptist Parish and participated in several service projects, including rebuilding a local church, volunteering at a mobile soup kitchen, and assisting at a school for underprivileged children.

“In Bed-Stuy, I got to see how the less fortunate live and how they are often forgotten by the government and by society as a whole,” says Howcroft. She spent the majority of her time assisting with the prekindergarten class at St. John the Baptist School during the day and at an after-school program in the afternoon. She grew close to the children during her week there, and they grew very comfortable with her.

“Those children were the most amazing, kind children I have ever met in my life. Yet for being only 4 years old, many of them had seen and dealt with more violence and poverty than any person in America should ever have to see or deal with,” she says. “They gave me the incentive to want to help other children like them and try to make this country a better place for children to live.”

After Howcroft left Bed-Stuy, she stayed in touch with both the parish and several of the children she met, even going back to visit the school. “The BASIC trip to Brooklyn in January 2008 was the deciding factor for me to join Americorps,” she says.

Howcroft served as a member of Americorps from October 2009 through July 2010, based in Sacramento, Calif. After her training, which took place the first month, she completed four projects with her team of 11: restoring a summer camp for children on Vashon Island, Wash.; working as a mentor and tutor for children at an elementary school in South Sacramento; building a house through Habitat for Humanity in Gray, Louisiana; and rebuilding and restoring some of the public schools in New Orleans that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

“Americorps affected my life in a positive way. I was able to travel and do things that I never would otherwise get the chance to do,” Howcroft says. “It has also made me much more aware of the social problems that exist in this country, specifically homelessness. There is a very large and visible homeless population in downtown Sacramento and it is very disheartening to see. It’s frustrating because I want to help everyone that I can, but at the same time I am happy to know that I am helping at least some people.”

With her Americorps assignment complete, Howcroft is hoping to obtain a job as a counselor for an inner-city elementary school or residential group home for children in San Francisco before pursuing a master’s degree in social welfare.

“My dream is to open my own recreational center where inner-city children can come to feel safe, get help with homework, be surrounded by positive role models, and have the opportunity to just be kids,” she says. “NU helped me decide to do this because the school is focused on service work, which is something I am very passionate about now.”