St. Ray’s for Boys restores program offering students new opportunities

St. Ray’s for Boys restores program offering students new opportunities
St. Raymond’s Christian Service Program 11th graders at Van Cortlandt Park, where the students plant trees, rake the trail, and cut down overgrown vines damaging trees.
Photo courtesy of Damien Carparelli

The revitalized St. Raymond High School for Boys Campus Ministry Program is offering students opportunities to help improve the quality-of-life in their community.

The Christian Service Program encourages and teaches students the importance of service and under program coordinator Damian Carparelli, its resurgence has made quite an impact on students offering a fun, challenging and rewarding experience.

“When these guys are out there, they do really good work and it’s meaningful,” said Carparelli, who has been director of the program for a year. “They enjoy helping people.”

Under the program, seniors visit community schools such as St. Raymond’s Elementary School and St. Helena’s Elementary School from 3 to 6 p.m. tutoring kids.

“It was fun helping little kids with their homework,” said 12th grader Andres Almeida, who helped at St. Raymond’s Elementary after-school program. “I enjoyed helping the younger generation and my community.”

Juniors are tasked with cleaning up Van Cortlandt Park every Friday, preparing the ground for the springtime and planting trees, Carparelli said.

Sophomores pick up their gloves and head out to Orchard Beach cleaning up the park before the cold season and after, while the freshman class spends time at Pelham Bay Park planting trees and cleaning up garbage.

It was an enjoyable time for 11th grader Nelson Prevost and 10th grader Justin Abreu cleaning up the park.

“We cleaned out the tennis courts and bagged all of the leaves so the park looked great,” said Abreu, who visited Pelham Bay Park.

For Carparelli, who has been teaching at St. Raymond’s for 17 years, the restoration of the program was a big task at hand and a fulfilling job, he said.

“You have to wear many hats when it comes to the service program. I have to organize basically everything. I am in touch with principals in the Bronx, the Parks Department and Van Cortlandt Park on a weekly basis. With the kids, I’m making sure they’re on buses and doing their work going on trips with them.”

Additionally, St. Raymond hosts an animal food and toy drive during the month of October; the donations are then sent to animal shelters.

During the Thanksgiving drive, canned goods are collected and delivered to the Mercy Center, and kids receive presents from the Christmas toy drive in partnership with the 161st Merchants Association.

Carparelli is hoping to start a fund-raiser for students who are interested in Unearthed Travel, which offers ministry students the opportunity to travel to other countries such as Asia and Africa to build libraries in communities that need it.

“My goal is to make sure this is very successful,” Carparelli said.

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