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Student Organization reaches out to high school students in Hartford

By Molly Miller
On February 25, 2014

There are many organizations at UConn that give students a chance to help others in their community. One organization that helps students develop their own leadership skills as well is HOLDUP!, or Husky Outreach for Leadership Development, Understanding and Pride.
Members from HOLDUP! travel to a high school every week and hold workshops for students on topics ranging from peer pressure and group dynamics to diversity and values.
Currently, students are traveling to East Hartford High School, Bulkeley High School and Hartford Journalism and Media Magnet School to work with the same group of high schoolers every week for about an hour.
"We really get to make relationships and get to know them as individuals," said public relations and marketing committee head Nicole Lorenzo, a 6th-semester health care management major. "Week after week they realize new things about themselves."
One of HOLDUP!'s main focuses is making high school students aware of their options after high school. Every spring, the organization invites every school that it works with to come to UConn for a campus tour, lunch in a dining hall and a presentation called "Life After High School."
"We get them to get excited about applying to college," Lorenzo said.
Lorenzo said that the main goal of the organization is to make high school students feel empowered.
"These kids don't get a lot of recognition for what they do on a day-to-day basis," she said. "We empower them and let them know that they have leadership potential."
However, Lorenzo said it's also crucial that student volunteers are aware of the high schoolers' particular needs and concerns.
"A lot of the students have very difficult home lives and backgrounds," she said. "We have to be very cognizant of how we act and how we present ourselves."
Lorenzo said that members of the organization at UConn get to develop their own leadership skills by creating their own content for the workshops.
Although the organization has been able to accomplish a lot with its 40 volunteers, Lorenzo said that it is finally reaching the point where it has a hold of what its tasks should be.
Lorenzo said she would also like to see more students entering the organization's selective application process, which begins early in every fall semester.
"If you become involved in this organization, you're definitely going to be a leader," she said. "You're going to be involved not only in the students' lives, but with our group."
With an organization constitution in the works, Lorenzo said that HOLDUP! is on its way to being more formal and organized. She said that she hopes to draw some of best leaders on campus into the organization.
"We're looking for diverse applicants from all majors," Lorenzo said. The more people that apply, the more possibility there is to get more qualified applicants."
In the long-term, Lorenzo said the organization is also looking to reach out to more high schools around Connecticut.
For more information on HOLDUP!, students can visit the organization's website at

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