Finding joy in helping a neighbor

A hard, urgent knock on the door and two consecutive door bell rings may raise alarm for those of us living in an off campus house. For my six housemates and me, it is merely a sign that my fifth grade neighbor and her third grade sister are home from school and want an ice pop.

They moved into the house next door just before the start of the fall semester and after only two short weeks, they were able to identify which of us was home by the color of cars in the driveway. Whether we liked it or not, they wiggled their way into our busy schedules. For them, we were the cool college girls next door; for us, they were the chance to be kids again.

When Novel, the girls’ older brother and high school freshman, decided to shoot some hoops on our backyard court, Jess Imhof, senior captain of the varsity basketball team, didn’t hesitate to school him in a game of  “horse.”

When fifth grader, Wilmaris, needed help with her homework, Michelle Kent, senior elementary education major, put her skills to the test and tutored her in math. Wilmaris returned the favor by tutoring Caitlyn Seamster, senior women’s & gender studies major, with her college level Spanish.

Becca Florczyk, senior journalism major, reluctantly parted with a box of her favorite childhood books so they could be re-loved by the girls next door.

Sara Owen, senior varsity softball player and health & exercise science major, decided to put her throwing arm to the test by infiltrating Wilmaris’ birthday party with a barrage of water balloons. As we all ran screaming from an angry mob of 10-year-olds, it was hard to determine who were the adults and who were the kids.

Time and time again, off campus students are encouraged to maintain good behavior and to not piss off the neighbors. And we know too well that many Ewing residents will look for any excuse to rat out disruptive, obnoxious student homes to campus police.Less often do we hear about students from the College positively impacting their “hood,” but maybe that’s because the chance has never presented itself. For this small street off Green Lane, we now have the chance to do something big, and with the help of the student body, we can undoubtedly rise to the occasion.

A few weeks ago, Wilmaris was diagnosed with Leukemia and will be battling weeklong stays in the hospital to undergo chemotherapy treatment. This news was more than heartbreaking to us. She is no longer just the girl next door; she is a part of our lives, our daily routines, as if she is one of the housemates herself. As a result, we have to do something. My housemates and I will be running a series of fundraisers to assist Wilmaris’ family in paying off her medical bills.

The success of the fundraising depends upon the efforts of the College community alone. We ask that you keep your eyes out for bracelets and T-shirts with the slogan “Nobody Fights Alone,” as well as donation based yoga and Zumba classes that will be held on campus. If you would like to contribute in any way or want to share fundraising ideas, please email me at occhipi2@tcnj.edu. Thank you!