PARK CITY — Teresa Querciagrossa and Jeremy Dela Cruz, sophomores at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind., are earning service hours by volunteering for Holy Cross Ministries Summer School Program at McPolin Elementary School in Park City. They also volunteered for the Saint Olaf Ladies of Charity.
The six-week summer school program in Park City provides low-income children with recreation activities as well as art, science, reading and math. The program is also sponsored by the Park City School District and the City and County Library and Recreation Center.
"The purpose of the program is to keep the kids engaged in learning throughout the summer so they stay focused and don’t lose interest in learning," Querciagrossa said. "This summer McPolin Elementary came up with themes so last week we focused on art and this week we are doing science experiments such as baking soda bombs with vinegar and eggs and rockets with Mentos and Diet Coke."
Holy Cross College requires its students to have a service internship. Querciagrossa is volunteering for the Park City program because the president of Holy Cross College recommended the program, she said, adding that, because she was home schooled, being in a classroom is quite different for her.
"This has been fun as well as teaching the students something useful," said Querciagrossa, who grew up in California. "We also volunteered with the Saint Olaf Parish Ladies of Charity at the Center of Hope during their annual garage sale, helped fill food boxes, delivered food and helped sell tickets for their annual July 4th BBQ. I really liked doing the non-profit work because it helps people in need."
Dela Cruz, also from California, is an incoming second-year seminarian at the Old College Undergraduate Seminary run by the Congregation of Holy Cross Fathers. He is volunteering with Holy Cross Ministries to observe how the Holy Cross sisters live as well as work with kids, to learn how to teach and conduct a classroom, he said.
Dela Cruz was baptized Catholic but said he didn’t grow up in a very religious environment.
"We would go to Mass and pray the rosary now and then, but I began to feel as though I was an atheist," he said. "I thought religion was superstition."
In his freshman year of high school, Dela Cruz began to read the Bible and enrolled into sacrament preparation classes to receive his First Communion and Confession. He was confirmed his junior year in high school. He was taking his religion so seriously that he decided to research the priesthood and found a website run by teens for teens discerning the priesthood. He became the site’s press and publicity manager.
After stating on the National Merit Scholar test that he was Catholic and interested in philosophy and theology, the Holy Cross fathers invited him to a come-and-see weekend.
The Holy Cross fathers’ emphasis on education, their spiritual life and the fact that the order is modeled after a family attracted him, he said.
"I come from a family that has been separated by divorce," he said. "I saw my family struggling at times. Holy Cross provides a stable family in that all the priests and brothers treat each other with a strong sense of paternity and belonging."
Dela Cruz will major in French studies and would like to be a Holy Cross missionary. "I helped translate the Alliance for Catholic Education survey, which found that schools in Haiti don’t have windows or adequate lighting and the Catholic priests help pay teachers to keep the schools alive," he said.