Search form

You are here

Food for the Poor Program at St. John’s Becomes Classroom for QCC Occupational Therapy Students

December 2022
  • OTA Students Taylor Murphy and Nick Depasquale
    OTA Students Taylor Murphy and Nick Depasquale
  • OTA students Hannah Waldron and Steven Naranjo
    OTA students Hannah Waldron and Steven Naranjo

At Quinsigamond Community College, educating students transcends the traditional classroom setting for second-year students in the college’s Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program.

On Wednesday, December 7, 2022, OTA students took part in hands-on learning with members of Worcester’s unhoused community at St. John’s Food for the Poor Program, located at the St. Francis Xavier Center in downtown Worcester. The group of 11 traditional age and non-traditional age students come from all over the region.  

“As occupational therapy assistant students at QCC, we’re trying to improve our understanding of the unhoused community in Worcester,” explained Rebecca Gervais, a mother of five from rural Connecticut. “It was really amazing to see that even when individuals are struggling and have very little, they are still really a community and do so much to support each other.”

The occupational therapy assistant students hosted various activities that fostered social participation and health management. The students set up stations at the Xavier Center that offered participants small first-aid kits, access to information on housing, food and health resources, as well as picking up a winter care kit.

The students did their homework, visiting the Xavier Center earlier in the semester to learn about the interests, needs and goals of the individuals who rely on the daily hot breakfast served at the center.

“As future practitioners in the field of occupational therapy, we’re learning to uphold the standards of our profession,” said Nick DePasquale, a father who currently works as a receptionist at Tufts Animal Hospital. “While working with the unhoused community through our community outreach program, we are honing our skills to sustain meaningful occupations, or activities, that members of our community engage in daily.”

This outreach event was part of the fieldwork that all occupational therapy assistant students must complete as part of their degree.

“In occupational therapy, we believe that simple classroom learning is not enough to prepare students, so we pair our course work with field experiences where we engage with the community to learn the occupational needs of different populations,” said Erin Connor, professor of QCC’s OTA Program.

Students in QCC’s OTA program at QCC attend classes at the college’s downtown campus on Federal Street in Worcester.

“We realized that we share this community with an increasing number of people who are unhoused – really we’re the ones coming into their neighborhood each day for school. As OTA students, we’re supposed to think about potential clients as whole people who engage in activities that bring meaning to their lives,” said Jonathan Dudley, a non-traditional preschool teacher in Gardner. “We realized we’ve got a lot to learn from our neighbors.”

St. John’s Food for the Poor program at the St. Francis Xavier Center serves over 500 meals a day, five days a week, all year long.

“We cannot thank you (QCC OTA students) enough for all your care for our friends and your efforts to help them (the food program participants),” said Father John Madden.