Its that time of year again! While many Huskies will venture home or to warm climates to enjoy traditional college spring break activities, almost 200 will dedicate their week off from school work to helping others. From Unity, Maine to Memphis, Tennessee to Portland Oregon to the Dominican Republic & Nicaragua, 17 student-lead teams will head to Logan Airport this Saturday on their way to their Alternative Spring Break location.
These service-minded huskies will perform volunteer work ranging from helping at animal sanctuaries, to teaching English to children in Central America, to rebuilding houses in Louisiana, to cleaning the banks of the Mississippi River. With its largest program size to date, ASB continues to prove that Northeastern students are committed to giving back to their communities, no matter where those communities may be. Follow their journeys on social media with the hashtag #NUASB2014
For this husky, this is the fourth time around on ASB, but the first time as one of the two student coordinators. My name is Theo Matt, and along with my co-coordinator Hannah Kilfoye, I have been planning these 17 trips for almost a year now. It was great to be a part of the trip selection process this year, and getting to interview and train amazing team leaders for each trip just keeps on getting better! This year I’m headed to Myakka City, FL to the Lemur Conservation Foundation to learn more about these amazing creatures native to Madagascar, as well as to complete some great service projects! (Also to escape the New England winter a little bit…)
I’m especially excited this year because we are the first week-long service group that the LCF has ever hosted, and they are just so pumped to have us – excitement is extremely infectious!!
I hope everyone participating in ASB this year has an amazing time, and I can’t wait to hear their stories when we get back!
My first days here at Northeastern started with service. As a freshman last year I moved in early to complete one week of service as a participant in nuSERVES. It was an amazing experience and I hope this coming summer, August 2014, I can be a team leader. Here, over a year later, I am in the Center as the Co-Op office assistant for the Service-Learning Program. It’s been amazing working in the center; I am gaining a whole new perspective on service than I did as a Corp Member for Jumpstart. Now I know how the office runs, and I see a lot more of the behind the scenes steps to provide all the wonderful service programs Northeastern has to offer.
Currently as a Co-Op for Service-Learning, I am assisting my supervisor Lisa Roe with the logistics of the program, communicating with community partners, coordinating with the Teaching Assistants, etc. I hope to be able to contribute to the functionality of the program and envision steps for the program to improve and expand. There has been a lot of growth for Service-Learning in the past few years. This semester alone Service-Learning is in 7 colleges, which is very exciting. Personally I would like to see Service-Learning branch out into other departments, which is what the team is working very hard on now.
I look forward to the semester when I can have Service-Learning in one of my Political Science classes and participate in Generation Citizen to help children learn about government.
Coming in as the Center’s second-ever CEP co-op, I had some pretty large shoes to fill. The Civic Engagement Program is at its largest ever with over 900 students involved, including myself. My first month of work has been a whirlwind of tasks, but my main jobs include approving students’ timesheets and answering questions from them about their service. Most of the time I’ll be logging hours for a student who forgot to include them on a timesheet, answering questions about what does and doesn’t count for CEP hours, and other odds and ends around the CEP office. Although my interactions with students are brief, I’ve felt that over the past month my work has been rewarding. I’m already learning a lot and I can attribute that to my service experiences in the past.
I arrived at Northeastern in fall 2012 already with a background in service. My high school had a service requirement of 80 hours each year for juniors and seniors, half of which had to come from a partner organization. I spent those two years as a teaching assistant in a 3rd and 4th grade class at the Newcomers School, where immigrant students spend one year learning English and acclimating to the way American schools operate before transitioning to their districted school. After arriving at Northeastern, I was placed at Viet-AID for my CEP service, which built off of my previous service experience. Twice a week I would go to Fields Corner in Dorchester and help out in Viet-AID’s after school program. At the beginning I floated around, working with students of all grade levels, but eventually I found that I connected most with the 4th and 5th graders. I’d do homework help with them and then run a one-weekly book club. I would also tutor the youngest students (Kindergarteners and 1st graders) individually with supplemental reading activities.
As much as I wanted to return to Viet-AID for my second year at Northeastern, I also wanted to expand my experience and get something a little different onto my resume. After coming home from an eye-opening Dialogue of Civilizations program on Bali and a city-hopping, family-seeking trip on Java, I decided that I needed to get some different kind of service under my belt. I ended up with an unpaid arts administration internship at Urbanity Dance, a nonprofit dance company and school with a variety of community programs targeted at BPS students, incarcerated youth, Parkinson’s disease patients, and more. Working at Urbanity 16 hours per week, I got to see the administrative side of a nonprofit organization working in a field that’s been a hobby my entire life: dance. I got some experience with grant-writing, digital marketing, and community programming as well as getting more comfortable with simple administrative tasks such as talking on the phone on behalf of Urbanity and following up with Urbanity’s community by email.
By the time I started applying for my first co-op position, I was surprised by how much I had learned through my service experiences. When I was offered the CEP co-op, I took it knowing that I could use my positive experience in the program to help make the program a rewarding experience for more students. While co-curricular service had been a tremendously rewarding experience for me personally, I have also seen how the service requirement can feel like an extra burden for some people and they consequently don’t have a good experience with it. After a month of working in the CEP office, I’ve discovered that this range of attitudes toward the service requirement will always exist. Over the next few months, I hope to use my position here to improve the program however I can so that more students can discover the value of community service and civic engagement, even if I am just one minute of an overscheduled student’s day.
A reflection by Jasmine McGhee, Jumpstart Corps Member
If you had told me six months ago, back in August before my freshman year began, that I would be spending fifteen hours a week in various classrooms across the city of Boston trying to prepare preschool aged kids to enter kindergarten, I wouldn’t have believed it. As much as I have always loved kids, my original goals when coming to college included prestigious internships and research opportunities, not educational reform. However, during my first month of school, I found myself drawn to the red shirts with Jumpstart emblazoned across the chest, and the potential for change that they represented. And so, on an early morning in October, I found myself arriving at my nearby train station, clad in one of those same shirts, simultaneously uncertain and excited.
Eventually, my team and I arrived at a local community center in Dorchester, still rubbing the sleep from our eyes and squinting in the sunlight as we climbed the front steps, anxious for our first day on the job. But, when the bus finally arrived, only two kids walked in, Israel and Javon, both of whom had already passed through the program the year before. It would be two more weeks before we would have more than two kids. Over the next few months, our struggles with attendance were coupled with struggles over speech impediments, language barriers, and behavioral issues. In the cases of some of the children, it seemed like we would never be able to make an impact, oftentimes because they just didn’t come enough. Sessions were disjointed- we had to repeat units, which caused my team to fall behind schedule. And, when it was time to pause session for Christmas break, we found out that we would be losing a whole group of children. No one knew what to expect for the new year.
However, on the second week of January, when we returned to session, many of our children did return. And they were different. Maxuel was calmer and more engaged during Circle Time, Brandon remembered our names, and all of the children were excited to sing and read and play. All of a sudden, it felt as though hope had reentered the room, because my team and I could see the changes that we had helped to make. Looking around the room, I could remember why I had been drawn to Jumpstart in the first place- for the possibility of making a change, of bettering a child’s life.
Of course, sessions weren’t simply smooth sailing after break. Last Friday, we learned that Israel, who was back in Jumpstart for his second year, wouldn’t be returning to session anymore. Israel had been a leader for the other children- he always knew what was going on, and his enthusiasm was infectious. Everyone felt like crying that day, proving how Israel had made just as much of an impact on us as we had made on him. But, watching him wander out the door, it occurred to me that because of Jumpstart, he would be ready to adapt and succeed in the new school that he would eventually be attending. And, as sad as it was to see him leave, it occurred to me that in April, all of our other children would move on too, on to formal preschool or kindergarten. The important thing was that each and every one of our kids ended up like Israel by the time that day in April arrived: enthusiastic, excited, and with all the skills necessary to succeed. And I, as a Jumpstart Corps member, am committed to making that happen.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Community service is one of the many ways to make a difference in the lives of others. Participating in community service was a big part of my high school experience and it definitely carried over to my experience here at Northeastern. This year marks the second year in which I have participated in MLK Service Day. The day kicks off with a motivational speech and then breaking off into groups to participate in leadership or teambuilding workshops and hands on service projects. This year I participated in painting no-slip socks for hospitalized children and making cat toys. Doing small hands on service projects may not have an immediate impact on the community. But in the end, these end products will put smiles on faces and help the community in need and that is what service is about. MLK Service day carries the message that everyone can take time off his or her busy schedules and put a smile on someone else’s face. Find service opportunities in the areas that you are passionate about and see what difference you can make in the lives of others.
Carro Hua, serving at Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (Viet-AID)
I am Carro Hua, currently serving as the High School Leadership Coordinator at the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (Viet-AID) right here in Fields Corner! I recruit, train and support our high school youth who volunteer to help our after school students with their homework and support teachers during academic and enrichment activities. I also run our Peer Leadership program where I engage young people to think critically about their communities through community engagement, social justice and leadership workshops. I love being at Viet-AID for its intergenerational space where I have the opportunities to work with a wide age range of youth from first graders to high school seniors.
Brittney Hunt, serving at Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MassCOSH)
My name is Brittney Hunt and I am currently serving at MassCOSH Teens Lead at Work Program. TL@W is a peer leadership program that educates young people about their safety and rights in the workplace. Since beginning my service year at MassCOSH, I have had the chance to work with amazing, diverse, and socially engaged young people. It has been extremely rewarding to see young people learn the power in their own voice.This year, my service project is focused on helping peer leaders with college access and healthy living. We have attended college fairs, workshops, and are currently planning a college tour during winter break. The past three months have flown by and I am excited to continue my journey at my service site.
Brittney Hunt (second from left) with MassCOSH youth on a college visit to Northeastern University
Lauren Pamas, serving at Sportsmen's Tennis & Enrichment Center
I relocated to Boston, MA from Jacksonville, FL to join the MPF family and serve at my host-site Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Program. Sportsmen’s Tennis Club (now Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center, STEC), the first African-American non-profit tennis club in the country, in one of Boston’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods knows that quality tennis instruction and interaction with caring adults develop well-rounded young citizens, and, through tennis, Sportsmen’s began to identify and fill gaps weakening youth, families and community.
I’m serving in Sportsmen’s Learning Center with the “Ready Position” after school program. Ready Position is a comprehensive after-school academic program operating Monday-Friday from 3-6 pm with a focus on literacy and math for youth in grades 1st through 5th. In my role, I create and implement a math curriculum focused on incorporating tennis with math to have a more tangible, fun experience with learning math, increase MCAS scores, and make sure the youth who are not taking MCAS are at the math level they should be according to their grade.
Lauren (in blue MPF t-shirt. 1st row) with her youth at STEC
Caroline Korstvedt, serving at Girls’ LEAP
I am the current AmeriCorps Massachusetts Promise Fellow serving at Girls’ LEAP. After interning with Girls’ LEAP during the summer of 2012, I was absolutely thrilled to be able to return as a Mass Promise Fellow and continue working with this organization that I’ve grown to love and appreciate so much. My service project involves a combination of teaching in our Girls’ LEAP self defense programs, overseeing and managing our Teen Mentor Program, and researching sustained youth engagement strategies. The part of my job that I enjoy most is teaching in programs and workshops. It gives me a chance to connect with many local youth of all ages, as well as the opportunity to work on a team with our Teen Mentors and college-aged Teaching Women.
Today is my fourth day working as the co-op for the Center of Community Service. While there is certainly plenty of work to do, I am extremely excited about all of our upcoming events and service opportunities. We have two events coming up in less than 10 days: The Spring Volunteer Fair which will be held in the Curry Indoor Quad on Wednesday, January 15 from 1-4 and the MLK Day of Service and Leadership which will be at 9 am on Monday, January 20th in the Curry Student Center. I am happy I have a job where I can work towards providing local organizations with the help they need. I’m also excited to put my leadership skills to the test when the Husky Volunteer Team program begins on January 27th. While I have not taken part in the program myself, I think it’s a great thing. The program gives students the chance to team up and volunteer weekly at organizations that provide services and aid that the community is in need of. I strongly urge all students to apply for Husky Volunteer Team (deadline Friday January 17th).
As the new person in the office, I still have a lot to learn but I am excited to step into Dana’s shoes and leave my mark on the Center of Community Service. And if you’re ever looking for service opportunities or just someone to talk to, come visit Anna and I in our office in 172 CSC!
You can explain what Jumpstart is and the logistics of the program to a number of people, but it still doesn’t encompass the feeling you have when you see your partner child write for the first time or recognize the letters in his or her name. The feeling is indescribable because I know that it was my work that made a difference. The relationship I nurtured with these children is the reason why they trusted me enough to come in often during the week and have conversations with them no matter how silly they were. Although I am a physical therapy student, Jumpstart began to define who I was, because I had the opportunity to serve my community and be more aware. Before Jumpstart I had participated in a number of volunteer experiences, and always heard about how this fundraiser would help this cause or my time and services helped this facility to improve its efficiency. To be able to actually see that difference is a whole other story. The time a corp member puts in when committing to Jumpstart is nothing compared to the developmental effects they leave with a child in the long run. I knew that if I did not return to Jumpstart, that piece of me would be missing. After I saw that Antwon began to write his name without any difficulty and Lauren’s reading comprehension was excelling, it validated all those hours I put towards materials, and afternoons I sat in training. That was the moment it all clicked. The great thing about Jumpstart is it allows ordinary people like myself to take on a leadership role that will only help in the future whether I decide to go into education or not. So I came back to amplify my experience by helping others see the difference they could make in the community too and facilitate the development of more than two children. It does not take someone special or particularly skilled to make that difference. Jumpstart reminds me of this everyday as it integrates a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and interests that people have, but at the same time, share a common ground of passion.
Jumpstart Team Leader 2013-Present
Jumpstart Corps member 2012-2013
As a senior in Human Services in the Child Intervention and Treatment course, being a service-learning student at United South End Settlements (USES) has been a wonderful learning experience. USES is a non-profit organization in the South End of Boston that is “building strong communities by improving education, health, safety, and security of low-income individuals and families in Boston”(http://www.uses.org/). I work in the Children’s Art Centre, which is a weekly one hour art exploration class that promotes early literacy and language acquisition. The goals are to foster community interaction, self-expression, and the development of skills through hands-on arts education for children.
My role as a service-learning student at USES is to be an activity assistant to the Art Centre’s Coordinator and the Preschool Arts Enrichment Teacher, Helen Schroder, who is also a Northeastern alumnus. The class that I am working with is a group of preschoolers who range from age 3 to 4. My basic tasks include setting up the classroom before the kids get there and cleaning up after they leave. While I am in the class, it feels as if I am just playing and doing fun art projects with the kids, but when you take a step back you can see the purpose for everything that they are doing. For example, when the kids first come in they have circle time where they have to find their name-tag and put it on a numbered list on the wall, promoting name and letter recognition. Every session they always have access to clay, art journals, and painting, which helps develop their fine motor skills. This, and all of the other activities they do in art class, teaches them how to negotiate large and small group work which develops their social and emotional skills.
The work that Helen does at the Children’s Art Centre is beyond amazing and inspiring. She not only has incredible passion for what she does with the children, but provides remarkable support for the service-learning students that she hosts. First, the activities and curriculum that Helen has created for these children has so many specific learning goals, which will ultimately better prepare them for kindergarten, and teach them important life skills. Every activity that the children do has been thought out to increase learning opportunities for the children, which she has also been able to make fun and interesting for them. Helen is not only helping making these children’s lives better, but in the long run, is helping the community as well.
As one of her service-learning students, she is constantly checking in with me to make sure that I am actually learning and getting something out of this experience. Anytime I have had a question, or needed help with the children or anything else, she took the time to sit down and talk one on one with me. For example, in the beginning I had a hard time knowing when to say to say no to the students, or how to break up conflicts between them. Helen has been so approachable that I was able to talk to her about it and she gave me advice and let me take on a bigger authority role, which let me build my own leadership skills. Furthermore, she wanted to be able to give her service-learning students the best learning experience she could that she went as far as to get our class syllabus so she could cater to our learning goals in class.
Working at a non-profit, let alone at one with limited resources can be a tough job, but Helen seems to find a way to still be amazing at it. While not having the ability to hire more people can be looked at as a limitation, Helen has the skills to use the resources that she has been given and turn it into a positive. She is not only getting extra help for the class, but she is providing an unbelievable learning experience and community understanding for students.
As a first year CEP student, I was extremely nervous to see the choices that I would be offered, and if they would be able to relate to me. My name is Shannon Croatto, and I am an Engineering Student at Northeastern. Many of my concerns were relieved when I was at Northeastern over the summer, because I was able to learn a lot about the different partners that are offered to all CEP students. Being an engineer, most people would think that I live a rather structured lifestyle where I plan every step of the way from now until the day I turn thirty. Maybe the stereotype is a little bit right, because I do have numerous ideas about where I want to go in life, but the true question was which placement would shed light on the different directions I was looking to travel? I took weeks to analyze the possibilities of different sites, thinking about pros and cons, locations, and how I would be able to successfully contribute to both the organizations and my own career pathway. After much deliberation, I chose to give my time and effort to Math*STARS, working at one of the city’s local middle schools.
I chose this site because of the values it instills in young children, my own personal experiences, as well as the ability to influence young children as I had once been. Working with Math*STARS allows the tutors to assist in not only mathematics but all school subjects, proving the value in education to children who may not be inspired by school just yet. It also helps that I come from extremely similar situations to most of the children who are overcoming their own obstacles, allowing me to connect with them on a deeper level than educational and creating a strong relationship that will allow me to openly show them how hard work will pay off. My hopes for my first year at this placement is to use my own history to show the young students why they should be excited and dedicated to their educations, using myself as proof that they will be able to get somewhere despite the cards they are dealt. These truly wonderful students must be the reason that numerous tutors continue their journeys at Math*STARS for years, because it will truly be hard to let go of once the time comes. Until then, I hope to keep building math skills with the students, inspiring them to persevere, and showing them how an education can make a difference every day!
Volunteering at the Boston Rescue Mission with my Husky Volunteer Team has been so rewarding and phenomenal so far. Although it was confusing to help run the kitchen smoothly the first day – we did not know where to store the pots and utensils, the Boston Rescue Mission family was very welcoming, and willing to teach us the ropes. We are always learning new tasks and given new responsibilities since there are so many aspects to preparing and serving food to the homeless community. It always amazes us how quickly time passes by! One of the most interesting features of our service is that we are constantly meeting and working alongside people from different walks of life that we would not have crossed paths with otherwise– international students from Bunker Hill Community College, and Boston University, as well as former drug users. I look forward to what the rest of the semester holds for our time at the Boston Rescue Mission.
-Lei (Michelle) Zhao
Entering my third year of Northeastern, I really wanted to get more involved in community service. After serving with City Year through the co-op program, I decided to get involved in two amazing community service programs at Northeastern; Jumpstart and the Service-Learning Program. Through Jumpstart, I was able to lead and build strong relationships with my team of 6 corps members. We really enjoyed reading and playing with the students in our preschool classroom. It was amazing to see the transformation they made in their reading and social abilities throughout the course of the year. It was truly heartbreaking to say goodbye to them, at the end of the service year. Through the service-learning program, I was able to TA the Global Experience class, a social justice class offered to Northeastern’s international students. Placing students with community partners across the Boston community helped me feel like the university is making a strong positive impact on the city. Checking in with community partners and seeing my students’ progress through the semester made me feel more passionate about community service and increased my knowledge of all the wonderful non-profit organizations based around the Boston area. The Center of Community Service has so many wonderful service programs and opportunities that any student can get involved in. Working with these community service organizations has transformed my college experience and made my time at Northeastern worthwhile and fulfilling.