Volunteers Team Up With Fifth Graders to Create Comic Strips

The Civic & Community Engagement Center introduced a new service trip, the Christopher Barron Comic Book Project.

“Volunteers will be asked to help the fifth graders translate what they imagine in their heads to getting it on paper, and finally turn it into a real comic strip,” said Brandon Martin, coordinator for civic engagement and student leadership programs at CCEC.

Students going on this service trip will be volunteering with “Christopher’s Comic Book Inspirations,” an eight-week program that allows three different fifth grade classes to participate in a one-hour workshop with comic book creator Alex Simmons, who will assist the children in writing, designing and publishing their own comic strip. Each child’s comic strip will be included in an annually published comic book.

The program is taking place at School 21 in Paterson, N.J. for eight weeks from January through February on Thursday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon.

“Students going on this service trip can really expect to gain a lot,” said Michael Magovern, student coordinator for CCEC. “It’s amazing to see how much making a comic book can do for a child, whether simply to help a child expand their imagination or provide a therapeutic release for stresses the child feels out of school.”

The project is a flagship program of the Christopher Barron Live Life Foundation, a non-profit organization inspired by the memory of Chris Barron, son of Suzanne Barron, the organization’s president.

Chris passed away at 9 years old from leukemia. His incredibly imaginative and loving personality inspired the organization, which strives to offer underserved children unique opportunities.

“It’s very rewarding when one of the kids finally get something they were struggling with and their face lights up with a smile ear to ear and you know that you helped make that happen,” said Magovern. “However, with others you can really see the stresses of the child’s life showing through their comic, and you can immediately see that just putting it on paper took a weight off their shoulders.”

The program is only eight weeks long and will end in late February, but CCEC hopes to recruit volunteers to help with the duration of the program in the fall semester.

“I am looking forward to the completion of the program so that we can see the comics,” said Martin.

In addition to a published comic book, the project also results in a rewarding experience for the children and volunteers.

“It is a truly rewarding experience working with these kids,” said Magovern.

For more information on the Christopher Barron Live Life Foundation please visit christopherbarronlivelife.org.