By Meghan Sackman, Staff Writer
Student David Caiafa was Manhattan College’s representative of these qualities for the year of 2016.
There are 218 national winners of the Newman Civic Fellows Award annually and one of them is right here at Manhattan College.
The Newman Civic Fellows Award is awarded to college students who show motivation and initiative in service and leadership. It is awarded by presidents of colleges to students who portray these admirable qualities. The award is named after Dr. Frank Newman who dedicated his life to the idea of the individual having the power to make positive change using education and the concept of connectivity.
It all began when Caiafa entered Manhattan College as a part of the arches program. He realized that he would have to come up with a way to fulfill the required amount of community service hours for the arches program. Caiafa decided to combine his experience with sports and being a youth leader to help some of the local kids. He went to a local youth center on 163rd and 3rd street in the South Bronx. He realized there was a way he could guide these kids and help them find their paths.
“I started this workout meditation program at the Renaissance Youth Center where I go and do a workout with kids before their practice and then I sit them down and meditate with them,” Caiafa stated. He explained how other arches students heard about his work and asked if they could join him in his community service. That is how the program began to grow.
The program itself involves working out “like interval training….doing push ups, burpees, stretching out.”
After the physical part of the session, Caiafa helps the kids work on their mental health and guides them in certain mindfulness exercises.
“I’ll do a meditation session with them: deep breathing, visualization, relaxation and concentration before we go start for the rest of the practice,” Caiafa said.
Caiafa was more than a little surprised to receive the award. It was his freshman college writing teacher Kerri Mulqueen, Ph.D., who discovered that Caiafa was bringing other students with him and initiating this program. She suggested Caiafa to Catholic Services who then contacted him with the information necessary to apply for the award.
“I was shocked, really I didn’t even know about the award until then,” Caiafa said. “Basically there is a lot going on for these kids, a lot of home factors and their concerns are so much broader…things you may take for granted coming from a nice suburban area, things you don’t have to think about all the time they do.”
Caiafa believes that the work he does enables these kids to cope with their environments and learn how to make their goals and mental health a priority. “These kids come from a very high stress environment and something like deep breathing and mediation, visualization can give them the tools they need to step back and really connect with themselves and focus on what they love, what they want to do, and relax and get a chance to not be stressed” Caiafa said.
Caiafa spoke about how the project has benefited not only the kids, but his own life as well. He commented that the process and his work at the youth center has helped his transition in to college life immensely. “I don’t think my college experience would’ve been the same without all of the stuff I’ve been doing,” Caiafa reflected. “This feels like my community now.”