SHU rugby players volunteer to help school children read

Members of Sacred Heart University’s men’s club rugby team have been helping Bridgeport elementary and middle school students develop their reading and writing skills at Horizons at SHU.

Horizons at SHU is a nonprofit enrichment program that aims to keep low-income Bridgeport children academically and socially engaged during the summer and on weekends during the school year. Horizons’ mentors work with students in first through eighth grade who are not reading and writing at their appropriate grade level.

Rugby Coach Ray Peterson got his team involved with the program after he decided giving back to the local community that most, if not all, of his players call home is important. “As a team, we looked at a few other opportunities to give back,” Peterson said. After discussing a couple of ideas, the team decided to get involved with Horizons.

“When we started volunteering, Coach Ray said that we would get more out of it than the children, and I kind of thought that it was a cliché. However, after just two weeks, I can say that I enjoy every second with them,” said senior Joseph Cutrone, a rugby player.

Graduate student Ellis Badger, another rugby team member, was excited to participate, as he saw the program as an opportunity to prepare him for his professional career while developing relationships with local students. “Personally, I love helping people. I’m in school for occupational therapy, where I will be helping people every day. I have volunteered every week since we began reading, and I love every minute of it. I plan to go every week until the program is over,” Badger said.

Thom Pesce, acting operations director at Horizons, said he is pleased the rugby players are volunteering. “We know firsthand that Horizons has a tremendous impact on the students. It’s great that the rugby players recognize the program’s need in the community. We appreciate their willingness to volunteer and make connections with the students, who enjoy having them as mentors.”

For more information on Horizons at SHU or volunteer opportunities, contact Pesce at