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First-year students feed the needs of community

group photo
Students in the First-Year Initiative (FYI) program present Kathy Cartagena of
Family of New Paltz with a check for $1,120. The money was raised during
a food drive the students held in late April. Photo submitted

A group of students completed their first year at New Paltz by collecting a recordbreaking amount of food donations for Family of New Paltz, the lead crisis agency in Ulster County.

As part of their participation in the First-Year Initiative (FYI) program, more than 100 students collected approximately three-and-a-half tons of food during a food drive held at the Shop Rite and Stop and Shop stores in New Paltz, April 20-22. The students also collected $1,120 in cash donations.

Kathy Cartagena, program director of Family of New Paltz, said her volunteers are still stocking shelves with the food collected by the students. She said this year's FYI drive yielded the largest donation she's seen.

"No one does a food drive like the FYI students," she said.

Emily Spilman, complex director of Esopus Hall, and FYI resident mentors Monica Ayers '08 (English), Jessica Bonelli '09 (Communication Disorders) and Rachel Williams '09 (Elementary Education/History) led the drive by organizing students who made signs, served three-hour shifts at local supermarkets and sorted food.

The students participated in the drive as part of a one-credit, mandatory psychology course - Self, Community and Citizenship - taught by Robin Cohen-La Valle, associate dean of students, and Tonda Highley, director of the Career Resource Center. In addition to the food drive, FYI students participate in Relay for Life and complete a three-hour community service project at a local organization throughout the year.

"The opportunity to meet people in the New Paltz community really informs the students' experiences with service learning," said Cohen-La Valle, who is also director of the FYI program.

Donations to the Family of New Paltz Food Pantry benefit the southeast quadrant of the Hudson Valley, which includes towns such as Rosendale and Plattekill.