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Computer advocate Joe Mannarelli

Joe Mannarelli

Joe Mannarelli

These days, you can’t do anything without access to a computer or the internet. Many people take these tools for granted, or fail to realize how truly important they are in everyday life. That’s where Joe Mannarelli comes in.

A Notre Dame High School alum from Des Plaines and a senior at DePaul University, Mannarelli is a volunteer through the university at Computer Literacy In Our Community.

CLIC is a project of A Safe Haven Foundation, a 120-day transitional shelter for homeless adults and children that provides residents with the skills they need to be able to live on their own, work at a job and succeed in life.

Mannarelli’s ties to CLIC date back to his freshman year at DePaul. He was always interested in computers, so he decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in interactive media through the College of Digital Media. After studying abroad in Italy, he decided to minor in Italian, which he soon changed to a double major.

In addition to a rigorous course schedule, he was required by the university to do community service his freshman year. He found out about CLIC through the DePaul Community Service Association, a group of 20 student-run organizations that serve neighborhoods throughout Chicago.

Since the winter quarter of his freshmen year, Mannarelli has caravanned along with half a dozen other students once a week to A Safe Haven Foundation at Roosevelt Road and Damen Avenue in the North Lawndale community area of Chicago.

This school year, Mannarelli has served as a co-coordinator for the program, which helps residents at 10 computers in the onsite lab. The DePaul students conduct mostly one-on-one sessions, bringing a personal touch to their lessons in basic computer use.

Mannarelli and his fellow CLIC volunteers help residents get back on their feet by offering them basic computer knowledge, which is absolutely essential in the job search as well as the work world. “In this day and age, you need a computer no matter what you do,” Mannarelli notes.

CLIC team members help residents learn how to use a mouse, set up e-mail accounts, and create a resume. They even help children learn how to type using computer games. “We really try to keep it at a one-on-one session so that the resident can absorb and grasp the information,” Mannarelli explains.

Mannarelli is proud to use the computer knowledge he has gained through his studies at DePaul University for the greater good. “We work with 10 to 20 residents of A Safe Haven each week,” he explains. It’s great to see their progress, and that they are able to use their new computer skills to get a job.”

Not only is Mannarelli volunteering at A Safe Haven Foundation, he is advocating for the residents back on campus. He meets weekly with the other DCSA co-coordinators, and conducts one advocacy event each quarter.

This quarter, Mannarelli led a bake sale that raised funds to purchase flash drives for the residents. He also uses social media such as Facebook and Twitter to show the DePaul community what the organization is up to, and to get them more involved.

As Mannarelli closes out his senior year, the biggest challenge is convincing other students to fill the void. “Generally, there is an initial challenge to get students to volunteer. We average six to seven DePaul CLIC students a week, but we can always use one or two more,” says Mannarelli.

That’s why CLIC has worked social media into their outreach. “We want to break out of the small service community here at DePaul and reach out to all students involved in volunteering in their community, even if it is not with DePaul,” Mannarelli says.

Mannarelli’s commitment to service goes beyond his involvement with CLIC. He volunteers with University Ministry and coordinates altar servers for the 9:30 p.m. Mass on Sunday. He is also devoted to his heritage, and is in the process of applying for dual citizenship with the Italian consulate.

“My family is from a small town of 550 residents called Montenero Val Cocchiara in the province of Isernia,” says Mannarelli. “I have been back to Italy three times in the past few years.”

He plans on pursuing a career in computer technology when he graduates. “My skill set is in computer literacy, developing social media branding and graphic design,” Mannarelli explains.

Whatever path he decides to take, his service efforts during his college career have made him a role model for future DePaul students.

To learn more about A Safe Haven Foundation, visit www.asafehaven.org.

To learn more about community service at DePaul, visit http://studentaffairs.depaul.edu/ministry/dcsa.html.

About Alanna Chiefari

Alanna Chiefari is a 2007 graduate of Saint Mary's college-Notre Dame. She has been writing for Fra Noi since the winter of 2011 and is absolutely thrilled to feature young Italian-American adults who are off to a great start. Alanna has been working as a client associate on a wealth management team for Merrill Lynch since May of 2007. In her spare time, she loves exploring Italian culture by reading books, trying new restaurants and meeting Italian Americans who are benefiting the community. Follow her on Twitter at @LannaDionne.