June 6th, 2013

One million hours of community service

That’s what BU students are contributing to The Campaign for Boston University

BU students are finding ways to make generous contributions to the University’s billion-dollar campaign—and not just by opening their wallets. They’re working to fulfill a campus-wide student pledge to complete one million hours of community service before the end of the campaign in 2017.

It’s a big challenge, says Million Hours Project co-chair (and former student body president) Dexter McCoy (COM’14). To put the pledge in perspective, the million-hour goal is equivalent to one person volunteering nonstop for 114 years. But when student leaders sat down to think about how the student community could contribute to the campaign, they zeroed in on a time-honored BU trait. “We saw that, following a long tradition, BU students are altruistic,” says McCoy. “We like to serve.”

“It’s great to see volunteerism intersect with philanthropy.” —Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore

The idea was inspired by a commitment that students made at the start of BU President Robert Brown’s tenure in 2005. Jonathan Marker (CAS’07), then Student Union president, pledged one hour of community service for each undergraduate student—17,000 hours in total—as an inaugural gift to Brown. “Within just a few months,” McCoy notes, “we had exceeded 41,000 hours.”

Today’s BU students participate in a myriad of volunteer programs, addressing critical problems in Boston and beyond. Last year, more than 4,600 students volunteered for service projects spearheaded by the University’s student-run Community Service Center (CSC). There are many volunteer opportunities on campus to choose from, including the CSC’s popular First-Year Student Outreach Project and Alternative Spring Breaks programs, the University’s annual student-and-alumni Global Days of Service, and service performed in conjunction with any of the University’s fraternities and sororities, religious groups, and clubs. “There are tons of service opportunities out there that connect BU students with the community,” says the center’s events manager (and Million Hours Project co-chair) Alison Weltman (COM’13). She adds that it’s “great to see so many students who want to be involved, to reach out to Boston, even when they have only limited available time.”

“Volunteering encourages students to make a difference in the city, broadens the scope of a BU education, and serves as an avenue for personal growth,” says Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87). “It’s great to see volunteerism intersect with philanthropy.”

Progress to date: Exceeding expectations

Eight months into their five-year pledge, BU students have already logged more than 309,000 hours of service dedicated to the campaign. Among popular volunteer programs is Wizards, created to get children from kindergarten through 8th grade engaged in science through hands-on experiments. BU students commit to working with the younger students two to three hours a week for an entire semester. Another is Voices from the Middle, in which BU students work with public school children on projects that develop leadership, self-esteem, and confidence through the creative process—for example through writing, producing, and presenting plays. BU students take this program to schools, community centers, and social service organizations. Project Hope—which stems from a longtime interest in HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, and care—sends students to work with various organizations in Boston that provide essential services to those at risk and those who are HIV-positive. (See the full list of CSC programs at bu.edu/csc).

Will BU student volunteers complete the full million hours of community service before the campaign has ended? Alison Weltman and Dexter McCoy have no doubt. “In fact,” adds McCoy, “we both think the goal will be exceeded.”

One Comment on One million hours of community service

  • I am CLA ’73 and in my day at BU community service was the norm. Under the supervision of the late professor Elizabeth “Ma” Barker we tutored inmates at Norfolk state prison. We also assisted families at Bromlee-Heath housing (forgive if my spelling is incorrect) where the mantra was “dirt is not good for children or anybody” (or something like that). There are many more examples from that era. See the archives of The News and The Daily Free Press.

    BU students then and now tend to be among the most fortunate people in our society. From those to whom much is given much is expected. It is good to see that the commitment to community service endures at BU.

Post Your Comment