Waterbury, Conn. - Naugatuck Valley Community College celebrated the opening of the campus’s first Inter-Faith Center on Mon., Dec. 9 with a gathering in remembrance of the young lives lost at Sandy Hook and a brief ribbon cutting ceremony. The event easily filled the Center, which is housed in the second floor corner of Technology Hall in Room T601, with a diverse crowd of students, religious figures, staff and community members.
“Being able to have this kind of center on campus is beyond exciting,” said student Anna Verdosci, a member of the President’s Circle and president of the Newman Club, the Student Government Association’s only formally established faith-based student group. “At community college we’re often so focused on our long- and short-term goals. Having this here makes it much easier for students to stay and center themselves.”
The Club’s faculty advisor Peter Cisek and biology professor Joseph Faryniarz developed the concept of the Inter-Faith Center shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
“Newtown happened and we had to make a space for students to gather in,” explained Cisek. “It brought attention to the fact that we had nowhere on campus for students to go.”
Husband and wife Lindsay and Glenn Kaminsky, both horticulture students, felt the event brought something significant to the campus life.
“Seeing all the faiths coming together – it was truly amazing,” said Lindsay. “It brings us closer together as a school.”
Her husband Glenn served as the Red Cross response manager for Sandy Hook at this time last year and was responsible for initiating the staff response and leading recovery for 73 days straight.
“This was a chance for me to finally start to bring closure to that,” he said.
Three speakers traveled from the Greater Hartford area, joining Dr. Sandra Valente, NVCC professor of psychology and a member of the counseling team at Sandy Hook Elementary School to talk about the role of spirituality in coping. They included Imam Refai Arefin, Assistant Imam of the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford; Rev. Michael Dolan, chaplain for the Connecticut State Police, Trinity College and the University of Hartford, as well as a first responder to Sandy Hook; and Rev. Scott Solberg, pastor at Wethersfield Evangelical Free Church.
According to Dan Matthews of the Campus Ministry Office for the Archdiocese of Hartford, it was a good opportunity to emphasize the role religion plays in education.
“With special regard to today’s event, it was a reminder to all one year after that terrible day that shook the world and the conscience of our nation, that we’re all vulnerable,” he said. “No matter what you believe in you can’t have a well-rounded education without religious literacy. This room is a concrete manifestation of the importance of religion for all college students.”
“Our country was founded on religious tolerance,” said Justin Rinaldi, SGA treasurer and first semester business major. “Today reinforced what our school stands for in this country.”