Many students are known to give countless hours to clubs and organizations, and to give back to the on-campus community. Now, Emerson students were given a chance to serve the off-campus community with an event geared towards connecting individuals to the city of Boston.
Over a dozen local charities and groups lined up tables along the walls of the Multipurpose Room for the Volunteer Fair on Sept. 12. Opportunities ranged from causes geared toward homelessness, health, hunger, and violence prevention.
Organized and sponsored by sorority Kappa Gamma Chi, the Office of Service Learning and Community Action, and the Office of Off-Campus Student Services, the Volunteer Fair attracted a decent amount of civically engaged Emerson students. A few trickled into the event at a time, dropping in between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and perusing the different community service organizations. The fair also allowed students to participate in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record activity.
Steven Martin, assistant director of off-campus student services, said that the fair was a way for students to see the volunteer opportunities Boston has to offer, and then enable them to find a way to help the city. He also said the individuals at the fair were able to connect with one another and find fellow students who shared an interest in volunteer work.
Monica de Pinto Ribeiro Hancke, vice president of Kappa Gamma Chi, said the fair was meant to be a place for civically engaged people to get involved, specifically for new students looking to expand their horizons. Hancke said part of the reason the event was created was to have a resource for students who were involved in volunteer work throughout high school or during time at previous colleges. She explained that she, as a freshman, struggled to find places to continue her volunteer work.
Hancke also noted the importance of integrating the Emerson community with the local community, explaining that President M. Lee Pelton’s initiative for civic engagement on campus sparked the idea for the fair.
“This fair will hopefully grow over time and demonstrate that Emerson isn’t just talk, we actually walk our talk; we do what we say we’re committed to,” she said.
The event gave students the chance to meet with representatives from the non-profits. Marin Carroll, a sophomore IDIP major, said interacting with the faces behind the groups made it easier to get excited about working for the organizations.
“I absorbed more information speaking to people face-to-face and it clarified a lot of information about exactly what the organization was about,” said Carroll. “It wouldn’t be as memorable if I just took the flyers home with me.”
Several students signed up to work with child-focused organizations, including Carroll, who said she signed up for Horizons for Homeless Children. The group promoted its Playspace program during the fair.
Emily Moore, a representative from the HHC program, said it creates spaces for play in 50 shelters throughout the Greater Boston area. Each is complete with toys, books, and art supplies.
Volunteers for HHC are asked to spend two hours per week at one of the locations, playing and interacting with groups of children, said Moore. To be placed at a shelter, volunteers must complete a five-hour training session three weeks before receiving an assignment.
“We do have a lot of college student volunteers, but it ranges,” said Moore. “I think our oldest volunteer is 80.”
826 Boston, a non-profit based in Roxbury, also offered students the opportunity to work with children. Volunteers are able to tutor students ages six to 18 in one-on-one writing sessions after school and on Saturdays, according to representative Guillermo Suárez Ara. 826 Boston, he said, specifically strives to teach creative and expository writing skills.
The table featured books published by the students. Suárez Ara said many of Emerson’s writing, literature, and publishing majors volunteer with them.
Community service proved to be valuable to some of the students who attended the fair, according to Carroll, who said it is a big part of her life.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in your own issues when you’re in college, especially when you’re young and stressed out,” said Carroll. “It is really important to get out there and get through to other people’s lives, not just for them but for yourself—to get out of the self-centered mindset.”
Beatrice Cerezo, a freshman visual and media arts major, said she became interested in civic engagement in high school, and hopes to stay philanthropically active in college.
“I actually had to do a lot of it to pass requirements for high school and I started to love it,” said Cerezo. “It’s important for people to be involved and not necessarily make money from it.”
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