Spotlight on the Center of Community Service

Stories of Service

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ASB DIY Shirt Contest

Do you consider yourself to be a true DIY artist? Do you want to win a special prize? If so, stop by 172 Curry, pick up a 2014 ASB shirt and show us what DIY masterpiece you can make out of it!  Once you’re done upload a picture to twitter or Facebook and tag @nu_service! Prizes include mugs, pens and a mystery prize for first place!


Deadline: July 11th, 2014

For ideas and inspiration check out this great article:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/30-diy-ways-to-get-your-t-shirts-ready-for-summer

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Service Spotlight: Megan Fowler

I remember the first time I walked into the classroom where my Jumpstart team would be volunteering. I entered the room feeling nervous, uncomfortable, awkward, out of place but also surprisingly tall. Looking around I thought of the questions on my application concerning my experience with people of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. At the time it had been simple, sitting at my computer constructing appropriate responses about my non-discriminatory work ethic. But in that moment reality struck and I was floundering, unable to imagine anything that could possibly connect me with these children.

Reflecting back on those first moments now I can’t imagine why I had any doubt. These children were just delving into real conversations and learning how to express themselves. Their focus is playing, learning and occupying your attention. It doesn’t matter where they live, or the fact that when comparing complexions I worry that my paler-than-anything skin is actually see-through.  What matters is that I care about each of these children, and that Jumpstart cares. Many of these children have limited opportunities to establish meaningful connections with adult role models. My classroom now has twenty-two children, making it very difficult for teachers to supervise everyone and attend to individual needs. Jumpstart allows us to give these children personalized attention with trainings and activities that ensure every moment will focus on learning new skills and gaining confidence.

After a week my doubts vanished, replaced by energy and enthusiasm for Jumpstart. Rather than “What’s your name?” I am now greeted with hugs and shouts of “Megan!” Children who originally remained silent now start conversations, while the boy who always ran away now makes silly faces at me during naptime. When I see a child pointing at the illustrations in a book or identifying the letters in their name I am filled with hope for their future. Every day I watch the children grow, armed with the ability to read and conquer the world. This is reflected in the eagerness of my partner child as she reads the letters in her name for the first time, and in the pride of another as they write theirs. These small gestures are the beginning for these children, catalysts that spark the unlocking of their full potential. 

Though I don’t intend to become a teacher, my dream is to help others develop confidence in order to achieve their dreams. For now Jumpstart is actualizing this dream by conveying confidence through literacy. Reading opens countless doors of opportunity; beginning with imagination, progressing to exploration and forward from there. It is an essential skill that lays a foundation for success, no matter what path a child chooses. Every child, no matter their circumstance, deserves the opportunity of a quality education that teaches them skills, like reading, needed to reach their full potential. Every child can have an impact on the world, big or small; it is the right of every child to have their chance and thanks to Jumpstart these children and more will.

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Beyond Service and Service Learning

On Monday May 19th our team had the privilege of attending Campus Contact’s event, “Beyond Service and Service Learning” at the University of Connecticut. Our staff was able to participate in roundtable conversation with higher education officials from colleges and universities across all of the Northeast. Conversations revolved around the meaning of civic engagement, service and how to make service more accessible and relevant to students of all backgrounds.

Following a roundtable discussion we attended a symposium to honor Ehrlich Award Winner: Dr. Richard Battistoni, a Professor of Political Science at Providence College. Battistoni spoke about what he saw as the biggest challenges to the service-learning field and what community leaders must do to combat these issues. What followed was an engaging response panel highlighting the next big steps for community engagement in higher engagement.

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CEP Spotlight: Amy Zhao

As an inaugural end of year event, the Civic Engagement Program (CEP) held a CEP Carnival for students in the program. CEP students are required to volunteer 100 hours annually as a part of their scholarship.  Not only were there gift tables, a swag wheel, photobooth and piñatas, but there was also service and reflection activities that allowed participants to think about the service they completed over the year. The service station allowed students to make spring cards for the elderly and or to write letters to incoming freshmen who will participate in CEP. And did I mention the catering ordered from Qdoba and Popeyes? This was definitely a much needed study break for students while having a good time with the rest of the CEP students and staff.

 Personally, this event was a relaxing break from all the studying for finals and working on projects. I was able to spend some time reflecting on the best part of service this year I had this year. I tried out my luck at the swag wheel and pinned the tail on the husky. Being on different coop cycles, I was able to reconnect with other CEP students that I haven’t seen in a little while. This event came just in time, allowing busy students a chance to relax and to enjoy some delicious food. I can’t wait to see what other events CEP has in stored next year. 

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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