When Sam Koroma moved from Sierra Leone to the United States, he did not expect ever again to participate in community service. He had gleaned from U.S. television shows and movies that his future home has no poverty.
The reality in the U.S. proved different Now, with the help of a scholarship, he is returning to community service.
Koroma shared his journey back to community service with the Dwight Central Management Team on Tuesday evening as he accepted its support for his first year at Albertus Magnus College.
“It took me a year to realize that belief was wrong. I was walking home and saw a group of people waiting at the church on Chapel Street. I stopped for a second to see what was going on and saw that they were being given food and coats,” Koroma said.
The next day, Koroma asked his school about community service requirements. Since then, he has built picnic tables for the New Haven Land Trust, fixed a shelf for a food pantry and met his Dwight neighbors by helping to clean up trash.
The management team was looking for this kind of initiative and civic engagement when they selected the winners of their annual scholarship. This year, they raised $1,000 through a raffle to split between two scholarship winners.
Both winners are seniors at James Hillhouse High School. The other winner, Amia Lott, is the second female winner in the history of the scholarship, Chairperson Florita Gillespie pointed out.
Lott helped establish Recycled Justice at Hillhouse this November. The group takes recycling from designated bins at the school to be redeemed. The income generated is then shared with the homeless and resources for the homeless, Lott explained.
The school system does not currently recycle much consistently except cardboard.
“This project changed me for the better,” Lott said. “Being part of something like this can change your views of the world outside and how difficult it can be to live day to day.”
Lott plans to attend Eastern Connecticut State University in the fall and hopes that future generations of students will keep up Recycled Justices program, she said.
“I want to applaud you for coming up with such an imaginative project,” said neighbor Patricia Wallace. “This is an example of how change can begin right where you are.”
The alders on the call, including Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker-Myers, promised to help Lott install official recycling bins, rather than the homemade ones the club has been using.
“We are very happy and proud of both of you,” Gillespie said.
The management team also awarded the prizes to the raffle that funded the scholarships on Tuesday evening.
Neighbor Curlena McDonald announced the winning numbers. Many of those who had purchased raffle tickets were not present on the call, so McDonald continued to call new numbers until the winners could claim their prizes.
Yale New Haven Health’s community outreach coordinator Andy Orefice won two of the three prizes, or a total of $40. Orefice has won the raffle many years in a row.
“This is rigged,” said Dwight Alder Frank Douglass, who was vying with Orefice again this year.
At the end of the call, Orefice donated his prizes to Dwight’s annual book drive fund.
“I’ll try again next year,” Douglass said.