Spotlight on the Center of Community Service

Stories of Service

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MPF Partners with EPIC Leader

 On February 28th, MPF brought Empowering People for Inclusive Communities (EPIC) Leaders to campus for a workshop on “Understanding Ableism.” Trainers, Jeff and Ryan, educated the group on disabilities, ableism, mainstreaming, and inclusion. Fellows were also provided with tips on how to ensure their youth programs are inclusive for all youth. We look forward to working with EPIC in the future. For more information on EPIC, visit www.epicleaders.org

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Service Spotlight: Akiera Gilbert

Adventure Challenge, the volunteer site that I have worked at for the past semester and a half, is an organization that was founded in order to further assist children with special needs. Mentors (who are usually college students) are partnered with a child and their family, and both parties go through initial match meetings in order to see if the mentor is a good fit for the family, and vice versa. From there, the mentor and mentee establish a bond and work together to advance the child’s social skills, as well as their physical activity. I started working at Adventure Challenge because I hoped to go on to become a pediatric occupational therapist, so I thought that this would be an experience that would help expose me to my target demographic.

            I enjoy working with not only my mentee, as well as his family, week after week. We have developed a special bond, and not only was I able to understand more about a life that is drastically different from my own, but I was able to apply my Service-Learning experience to my classroom learning. This semester I am taking the Human Services Professions course with Professor Gardinier, and I have been able to apply numerous course concepts such as civic responsibility, and self-determination to my Service-Learning experience. It has been a joy to have a very different Service-Learning partner than my classmates, because I realized that although we are all working with organizations that have very different aims, we all connect our work and learn from one another’s experiences.

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Service Spotlight: Hannah Kilfoye

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I spent my spring break in the Dominican Republic, volunteering with a wonderful organization, Outreach 360… And I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my spring break any other way. I traveled with a team of 11 other Northeastern volunteers, and we spent the week teaching English to unprivileged children. More specifically, we worked with kindergarten, first and second graders, as well as a group of older kids. The crazy part was – only one person in my group was fluent in Spanish! The rest of us knew very minimal, elementary or conversational Spanish. Outreach uses the English immersion program, which means you can only use English in the classrooms. It’s proven to be very successful in teaching / learning English rapidly, especially with younger children. We were a little apprehensive at first, but it actually worked very well. The kids we worked with were wonderful, and incredibly smart! We made lesson plans with songs and gestures to make the material easier and they caught on to our lessons so quickly. They were easily using the phrases and words we had taught them by the end of the week. (They even were able to teach us some Spanish along the way.) It was incredible how easy it was to communicate without knowing the same languages—through facial expressions like smiling, and gestures like high-fives and hugs. We learned just as much from them as they learned from us. We really felt like we made a difference in their lives, and there’s no doubt they made a difference in ours.

A little background on Outreach 360: This organization believes education is the best sustainable solution to combat poverty and provide the children we serve with long-term opportunities to transform their own lives. Outreach 306’s vision is a transformed world in which every child is able to pursue a college degree or be gainfully employed upon reaching adulthood, and ultimately have the opportunity to live a life of choice.  The areas they serve in Latin America suffer from extreme poverty and social inequality. Many of the children they service were born into poor families and grow up in disadvantaged neighborhoods with limited educational opportunities. These children have limited educational opportunities, making it difficult for them to be accepted into university programs or receive training for skilled, well-paying jobs. Many could turn to crime or prostitution to survive. Through English Language Learning and Spanish literacy classes (as well as a variety of other services), Outreach hopes to provide these children with the tools they need to break out of the cycle of poverty and be successful in adulthood. Outreach requires the help of many amazing volunteers in order for their programs to be successful, as they hope to change the lives of thousands of children living in poverty. That’s where we come in! (Along with thousands of other high school and college groups.) Both my team and I had an incredible experience with the organization, whose mission is truly inspiring. The staff was an amazing group of people that have selflessly dedicated their lives to helping others. Even though everyone on our trip came from different majors and backgrounds, everyone had an equally educational and life-changing experience.

While I’d like to think my trip was the best one, I know the other trips had amazing experiences as well. This year, ASB sent out 16 different trips to both domestic and global locations. Volunteers worked with children and animals, built and fixed houses, saved the environment by cleaning rivers and fixing hiking trails, and more! Northeastern’s Alternative Spring Break program is an incredible way for anyone and everyone to get involved, travel, and make a difference in communities both in the United States and around the world. 

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Getting a Jumpstart: Maya

Before Jumpstart, I worked in infant and toddler care, a preschool, a kindergarten classroom, and with school-age children. I believe that teaching in all of its forms advances communities. Because of my experiences, I thought I recognized the full importance of education throughout the transition of these developmental stages. However, my realization was not finalized until I came across Jumpstart’s mission: “working toward the day every child in America enters school prepared to succeed”. When presented with the statistics of children who enter school not ready to succeed, I was shocked and disgusted. In today’s economy and society, education is of the utmost value. It is only right that every child be entitled to a quality education. The reality is, most children in poor neighborhoods are left behind, educationally, before they even reach kindergarten. Unlike most of my current classmates, I come from a predominately low-income area. Without my mother’s constant persistence of instilling the immense value of education in me, I would have fallen behind too. I would not be here, in a four-year university, following my dreams. That is why Jumpstart’s mission is so important to me. Not every child is fortunate enough to have a mother like mine. Currently, not every child has the tools to reach their dreams. They are missing someone who will give them that bump to success. Jumpstart is that nudge. Jumpstart wants to change the current situation. As an organization, it changes lives. I want to change lives, which is why I am a Corps Member today. 

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ASB: A Week of Travel, Service, and Cultural Immersion

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!

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New Semester, New Face: Stacey Anderson

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. 

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New Semester, New Face: Caroline Fried

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.

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Getting A Jumpstart: Jasmine McGhee

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.

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Amy Zhao: A Reflection on the King Day of Service and Leadership

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. 

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Spotlight on Service: Carro Hua

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. 

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Spotlight on Service: Brittney Hunt

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

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A Service Spotlight: Lauren Pamas

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

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A Service Spotlight: Caroline Korstvedt

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.

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New Semester, New Face

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!

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A Jumpstart Experience!

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. 

-Sonu Gandhi

Jumpstart Team Leader 2013-Present

Jumpstart Corps member 2012-2013