October 4, 2023

Volunteering for American Youth

By Sonya D. Lavett

Ursula Marchese does not think of herself as a superhero. She doesn’t have a fancy title – or a cape. She is a mom, a hard worker and a student who is pursuing an MBA with a concentration in project management. However, she does have one thing that makes her super: a passion for helping the children in her community. Ursula and Son

Raleigh, North Carolina, is similar to many communities in the U.S. It’s filled with businesses, churches, families, parks and schools. The leaders of Raleigh hope that its children will all do great things as adults. They hope its younger generation will eventually invest in their community and continue building a better and brighter place for those coming up behind them, just like Ursula.

Ursula Children 1

Raleigh was a beacon for Ursula and her son. She was inspired by the programs she saw and now spends time each week with the fourth and fifth-graders at her church, the ones who have trouble sitting still and being quiet. Ursula  calls them her “funky bunch.” Some of the children are diagnosed with ADHD and other disorders.

Staying quiet does not come easily for some of these children, so Ursula and other caring adults provide fun activities for the children so their parents can attend church service without disruption.

In the summertime at the community pool, Ursula grills burgers and hot dogs for the children, keeping a watchful eye on them and providing the kind of attention that many of their parents cannot offer, simply because they are hard at work throughout the day. Ursula understands that feeding children and talking with them so they know that someone cares will go a long way in keeping many of them out of trouble – and Ursula enjoys every moment with them.

Many times, children have behavioral, emotional and medical issues which cause them to behave in a disruptive manner. Their self-control is limited and if an adult repeats the same phrases, “sit down,” “be quiet,” and “stop it,” the children internalize what they hear so often. They may begin to think of themselves as “bad” for creating frustration for the adults, which only drives the behavior to become worse.

Ursula encourages the children in her group at church and in her community to be themselves. When she misses a day, they all ask for her and earnestly wonder when she will be coming back. They love the attention and kindness that she gives them.

“The small groups promote a sense of security and belonging, some much needed attention, interaction with other kids and adults and good citizenship,” Ursula says. Ursula Children 2

Some of the activities include dance, play, jumping around, storytelling and anything that does not involve sitting still. The children find their own way to participate and feel that they are a part of something. Ursula creates a space where they feel wanted.

The work that Ursula does in her community of Raleigh may not be recognized as anything spectacular, but to the children she spends time with, and for the parents who are provided a small break, Ursula’s investment in these children means everything.

What are you doing in your own community to make it better? Share your CSU alumni or student story and inspire others by emailing the Alumni Association at