North Light & Villanova: A match made in Manayunk.

North Light & Villanova: A match made in Manayunk.

The North Light Villanova Alliance (NOVAL) began in 2003, spearheaded by the late John Kelly and former Executive Director Irene Madrak.

NOVAL is an innovative partnership that couples the resources of a major university with the needs of a direct service, neighborhood based community center.

“A university is the perfect example of resources and minds at work,” says Meghan Dietzler, Director of Campus Ministry Local Service at Villanova. “We shouldn’t only be supporting ourselves.”

The NOVAL partnership touches all aspects of North Light’s programming and can benefit our students and families throughout all seasons of their lives.

Our Villanova volunteers work with our KidZone students, even during a pandemic, to offer educational and emotional support. NOVAL students also work with our children to teach them important life skills that they can carry with them, like when RUIBAL came to the facility to teach kids how to prepare quick and nutritious meals. The College of Nursing develops health-related programming to share with our students, from dental care to mindfulness.

The Villanova involvement doesn’t stop once a child ages out of KidZone. They are active participants in our College & Career Development programs, from college visits to assistance with applications and information about financial aid.

“The first time we did a college visit we had about 5 kids,” said Mary Beth Avioli, a North Light Board Member who is instrumental in the NOVAL relationship. “The last one we did before COVID was up to 60 kids. It was amazing!”

Villanova also supports our Emergency Services Program through food collection and donation. Whether it be the Greek Week canned goods drive or our holiday programs, the NOVAL partnership affects many members of our community. Last year, Villanova donated over 250 meals, from appetizers to desserts, to our program participants.

NOVAL isn’t just limited to our targeted services. Representatives from the Villanova College of Engineering have helped North Light with capital projects, like the HVAC system. Students from the School of Business are currently working with our strategic planning committee to fine tune the newest North Light Strategic Plan.

This relationship is truly reciprocal.

“NOVAL allows our students to get out into the community,” says Meghan. “They form that deeper connection with people outside of the University and bring that energy back to campus.”

“[It] redefined ‘service’ for me, says Katherine Dzwonczyk, a former NOVAL volunteer.  “Prior to this program, I often thought of ‘service’ solely as grand acts and big sacrifices. I had seldom interpreted ‘service’ as small acts, [like helping a student with their homework.] Spending time with the students each week was very impactful, as it encourages trust and promotes reliability in the developing relationship.”

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