FYSOP, Celebrating Its 30th Anniversary, Launches
Annual volunteer service project for first-year students begins today
When BU’s First-Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP), a weeklong community service program run by the Community Service Center, launched in 1989, it had fewer than three dozen student volunteers. In the intervening decades, the program has become an institution on campus, drawing students from every undergraduate school, who consistently rate it as one of their top undergrad experiences. Today, as FYSOP marks its 30th anniversary, 475 freshmen and transfer students arrive on campus to work on community service projects at nonprofits and community organizations throughout the Boston area. During the week, they’ll also have an opportunity to learn more about Boston and its diverse communities. Like last year’s program, this year’s FYSOP will be divided into seven focus areas centered around different MBTA lines and neighborhoods.
- Beantown volunteers travel to sites along the Red Line in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.
- City of Champions pairs students with organizations on the Red and Orange Lines in Cambridge, Somerville, Charlestown, Malden, and Downtown Crossing.
- Cradle of Liberty participants take the Orange Line to partner with nonprofits in Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Hyde Park.
- America’s Walking City brings volunteers using the Red and Silver Lines to sites in Dorchester, South Boston, Quincy, and the South Shore.
- The Biggest College Town in the World volunteers hop on Green Line B, C, and D trolleys to volunteer in Allston, Brighton, Brookline, Watertown, and the Metro West region.
- Hub of the Solar System students board the Green Line E trolley and the Silver Line to Fenway, Roxbury, and the South End.
- Olde Town students take the Blue and Silver Lines to volunteer in downtown Boston, East Boston, Chelsea, Revere, the North Shore, and the Metro North region.
Most students will use public transportation to travel to and from their volunteer sites, but van transportation will be required to reach some community partners. But a few of those partners are within walking distance of campus. This year’s FYSOP volunteers will be led by 3 program managers, 14 coordinators (2 per focus area), and 175 staff leaders.
Program managers Meghan Volcy (CAS’19), Gabby Florio (CAS’20), and Julia Martorell (CAS’19) came up with this year’s theme, Expand Your Circles, which is designed to encourage new students to connect with the diverse communities within and surrounding BU. “We came up with this theme after long late-night discussions about the past, present, and future of the program,” Volcy says. “Our personal desires of wanting to break out of the ‘BU bubble’ and create an environment where both returning and new participants are welcome and valued and to define our place in BU as well as in Boston came up often.”
Take advantage of the city and of all the people you meet—they are some of the coolest people you’ll get to know.
The program kicks off tonight, as it does each year, with a dinner and an opening ceremony. This year’s featured guest speaker is Kelsey Harris (GRS’22), a PhD student studying sociology, who will speak on the theme of expanding one’s circle through the exploration of community. On Tuesday, volunteers will participate in educational and community-building programs all day, followed by social events that night. The rest of the week, volunteers will visit a different community partner each day, with reflection programs at night.
Volcy, Florio, and Martorell say they’re especially excited by the new community partners that have come on board this year. Among them are the Dorchester Art Project, a community art space in the Fields Corner area that provides affordable studio, performance, gallery, and gathering space, and Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast in Newton, a nonprofit that provides donated pasteurized human milk to babies in fragile health.
Returning volunteer sites include Sherrill House, a nonprofit nursing and rehabilitation center in Jamaica Plain. “Our first-years will learn about music therapy and work with people who have dementia,” says Florio. Strongwater Farm, a therapeutic equestrian center in Tewksbury, is another returning community partner. The organization offers therapeutic programs to people with physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges. BU volunteers there will work with patients at various stations set up around the farm’s barn and help with maintenance tasks like washing horses. Also back by popular demand is Community Servings, a nonprofit food and nutrition program in Jamaica Plain that provides homemade meals to individuals and families living with critical and chronic illnesses. Volunteers will help pack meals and assist with cleanup of the space.
FYSOP leaders say the program is also about making connections and meeting people with shared values. “FYSOP has so many benefits across all levels of participation,” says Volcy. “There is such a strong sense of peer education and organic connections being made throughout the week. I know I would not be the person I am right now without those connections. There is a platform for people to speak about what they are passionate about, as well as a space for people to be vulnerable. There is a strong support system of peers.” That sentiment is echoed by Martorell, who says her hope for this year’s FYSOPers is that they use the experience to find a home at BU. “Take advantage of the city and of all the people you meet—they are some of the coolest people you’ll get to know.”