nuSERVES is a week-long volunteer program for first-year students at Northeastern run by the Center of Community Service.Students move on to campus one week early and are introduced to Northeastern and to Boston through community service. The theme of nuSERVES 2013 was Service in the City, where students focused on all the different issues facing the Boston community, from education, health, hunger, poverty, and the environment.
I first became part of nuSERVES last summer after co-oping in the Center of Community Service. After my co-op had ended, I continued working at the Center as the nuSERVES coordinator along with another past co-op, Sarah Lucey. Planning nuSERVES last summer was such an amazing experience. Sarah and I had an absolute blast, the Team Leaders were all such amazing people, and I loved meeting all of the first-years. I loved introducing them to the city and helping them feel more at home here. Community service has always been a big part of my own life and it was wonderful to share that passion with a whole new group of students.
When I was considering coming back as coordinator for another year, I was slightly hesitant. nuSERVES 2012 had been incredible, but was that just a fluke? Would I really get another group of students just as passionate? The answer turned out to be yes! nuSERVES 2013 turned out to be one of the best weeks in my college career. Participants began the week learning about Boston and the different issues facing the area, through panel discussions, student leaders, scavenger hunts, and from formerly homeless folks. In the second half of the week , they served at local organizations, including the Franklin Park Zoo, Jumpstart, Spontaneous Celebrations, Boston Rescue Mission Peer Health Exchange and many more! They students gave back to the community by preparing food at homeless shelters, spending time with the elderly, and cleaning local parks and gardens.
This year, I got to see first-years from 2012 come back as Team Leaders, taking on a bigger role in the program and really growing as people. As I start my senior year here at Northeastern, it was wonderful to relive the thrill, anxiety, and energy of the start of the college with the first-year participants. There was such an incredible group of students in the program this year, all so thoughtful, motivated and open to serving the city in any way they could. By the end of the week, they had collectively completed 1010 hours of community service, learned about the many challenges and strengths of the Boston community, and hopefully made some long-lasting friendships!
A long time participant in the program, Carly Morin, returned for her second year as Team Leader this year. Even though it was her third year in the program, Carly approached the week with the same excitement and energy as the first-year students.
Carly Morin, Team Leader: “Every year that I have been at Northeastern, I have participated in the nuSERVES program whether it was as a first year student or a Team Leader. Either way, I have always started off my school year ready to jump into service and make new friends through this program. Although I have always held nuSERVES close to my heart, I found that this year meant the most to me. As I am preparing for my graduation in May 2014, I found myself embracing every nuSERVES moment more than I ever have in the past since it was my last chance to experience this amazing program.
One of my favorite aspects of nuSERVES is watching the first years become more and more comfortable with the campus, with the service they are doing, and with their teammates over the course of the week. Oftentimes, they will come on campus a bit uneasy and quiet. But by the end of the fifth day, they are speaking their mind and sharing their experiences and outlooks on life with each other. This year’s first years were truly exceptional and it was an honor to work with them. The entire nuSERVES group this year was amazing, all the way from coordinators to Team Leaders to first year participants.
There were also many positive additions made to the program this year that I was happy to see. New activities and service sites were introduced to students which helped first years get to know one another and get a handle on what service opportunities are out there in the city. Some of these new sites included the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Jumpstart, and Room to Grow. While older sites were maintained, it was nice to see that nuSERVES is branching out in its community and reaching out to new organizations in hopes of building a lasting relationship. These additions helped give the program a fresh and energetic vibe. I have enjoyed watching the program develop over the years and improve. nuSERVES has certainly matured and will continue to do so as each year comes and goes.
One last exciting aspect of this nuSERVES week was the variety of students participating in the program. nuSERVES gives students a chance to connect with others who do not have the same academic interests or career goals. For example, nuSERVES may have participants who are biology majors, business majors, or Mamh majors. This gives them a chance to interact with people who have different backgrounds, yet share a common goal: to serve their community. This message of uniting people with different experiences through service is at the heart of the program.
Through nuSERVES, I have been lucky enough to meet students who have different viewpoints and opinions, and it has helped me become more open to new ideas. I am so grateful for this program and although I am sad to go, I am excited to leave it with a new generation of huskies as they continue to carry on the message of commitment to community service.”
Like Carly, many of the Team Leaders had been part of the program in past years. Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Rebecca Dodier as a first-year in the program. While quiet, she was also confident and extremely motivated. Rebecca returned to nuSERVES this year as a Team Leader.
Rebecca Dodier, Team Leader,: “In my freshman year in nuSERVES, two amazing second-year girls led my team of seven first year students and three transfers. Their enthusiasm for Northeastern and community service was clearly evident. They quickly fostered a family within our team. Every team member, while in different majors and of different ages, became friends and we have continued to all be friends. It was nice to get to know a group of people who all love community service so intimately, something that I think is hard to do on your own in college.
After having such a great time as a first-year, I knew I wanted to be a Team Leader. I applied and interviewed and was gratefully awarded a position as team leader. I was ecstatic. Nervousness didn’t set in until I moved onto campus to start training. I was afraid that my team members wouldn’t get along, that I wouldn’t be a good Team Leader, and that the same close-family feeling wouldn’t be created within my team. Thankfully my worries were completely erased once I met my team members.
Everyone in my team was excited to be in Boston and was excited to do service. We got personal with our river stories and personal visions pretty early in the week, but everyone was respectful and became closer because of it. None of them complained about the work that needed to be done. Each member partnered with a different member at every site and they all got along so well. I am so proud of my team and the service that we did throughout Boston. We have all promised to keep in touch, just like my first nuSERVES team did. I can only hope that they felt as close as I did to them and that I was able to make their transition into Northeastern a little bit easier.”
As program coordinator, it was wonderful getting to work with passionate Team Leaders like Carly and Rebecca. I have also really loved working with the first-year students in the program, who are just beginning to discover their passions and are so excited to start a new chapter of their lives.
Kimberly Soong, first-year participant,: “I really couldn’t think of a better way to kick off my freshman year at college! Not only was it a great chance to help out the community but it was also a jump start towards making new friends and familiarizing myself with the city of Boston. The kids that came a week early to do volunteer work via nuSERVES were so kindhearted and proactive. I would recommend this program to any incoming freshmen! It was simply fantastic!”
Jessica Goodman, first-year participant: “Filling out an application, making travel plans, and sending in a couple forms may seem like a lot of work to go do community service. My parents could not believe that I wanted to end my summer early to volunteer around the Northeastern community. From the amazing experiences to the great new friends, I am so glad I did. nuSERVES was a busy week full of activities that taught me about the community I was going to be living in, the challenges facing the Boston population, and how I could make an impact.
The week started off with moving in early and bonding as a team. My three team leaders were fantastic role models who shared great advice with our team. On Tuesday, we enjoyed more team bonding, explored the areas around Northeastern through a photo scavenger hunt, and made no slip socks for children at the Tufts Medical Center. During the rest of the week my team went to five different places to do community service and spent the nights exploring Boston. Each site was tons of fun as we helped with distributing flyers, making clothing packs for children, throwing a carnival for elders, and cooking a meal for the homeless.
Unfortunately, the week went by way too fast. As I attended the closing beach party and watching the slideshow of pictures from the week, I knew that this had been the best way to start my time at Northeastern. I have always made community service a big part of my life and nuSERVES showed me how fun and easy it was to continue that in college. Throughout the week, I had gotten that wonderful feeling of knowing I had helped people. nuSERVES eased my worries about moving to the city of Boston, brought me at least 15 new friends, and was more fun than I could have imagined.”
I am thrilled to say that all of the first-year participants in the program were just as engaged and compassionate as Jessica and Kimberly. Led by a great group of Team Leaders, they were able to start off their college careers by making a big difference in the community in just one week!
By Sydney Palinkas, with Carly Morin, Rebecca Dodier, Kimberly Soong, and Jessica Goodman