Santino Rosanova was a high school senior at DeMatha Catholic High School in 2007 when he began looking for a way to fulfill his volunteer service requirements for graduation. He looked in his community and found areas that could improve services to the residents of Hyattsville. This led to a weekly service project that still continues today.
Santino identified a lack of social contact with the senior and disabled population in this area in Prince George's County.
Friendship Arms is a 150 unit apartment building of subsidized housing. The residents of this building face daily challenges that are not often pleasant. The greatest challenge has been to engage the male residents of the building. Santino decided on the simple approach and committed to two-hour visits with the residents twice a week.
Santino's efforts have been met with overwhelming acceptance. Twice a week, male residents of the building meet in a common area and enjoy each other’s company. They play cards, checkers and dominos.
Santino and the men bond and challenge their skills at the various table games. What has happened since the inception of this project is truly wonderful. The men laugh with each other; they discuss sports, politics and other world issues. Santino has brought these men out and engaged them in life.
Daniel Richards, the Resident Services Coordinator for the building, has consistently praised Santino for his dedication. Mr. Richards has noted that long after Santino leaves for the day, the residents linger and continue with the game) and continue to talk.
Santino has built a level of trust amongst a population that is often quite skeptical. It is because of that trust Santino was tackled with re-designing the community work-out room. By moving tread mills to face windows, creating a weight lifting area and really thinking about making the room more efficient, Santino has created a fully functional space for residents.
Santino has been successful in recruiting others to join with him by bringing fellow students on his visits. He has make special efforts to address issues of diversity and bridging generation, economic and social gaps.
If attitude makes the difference between getting tasks done and making them fun, Santino is the epitome of great attitude. He inspires his peers and those around him to make a positive impact on his community. He has created a model service project for high school students to follow.
Santino enjoys the strong support of his family, team mates and the extended family of Hyattsville residents. Santino’s innovative approach to leadership and meeting community needs resulted in him being nominated for the Prince George's County 2008 Volunteer of the Year Award.