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The Year in Service: BU’s Volunteer Generation

Part five of a five-part series on giving back to the community

In March, Lindsey Wyld (SED’07), the Community Service Center's new programs and administration coordinator, traveled to New Orleans to take part in Alternative Spring Break. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Wyld

Whether they’re delivering food to local homeless shelters or cleaning up the disaster-stricken Gulf Coast, many students at Boston University are eager to help people in need, in Boston and beyond. BU’s Community Service Center, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this past spring, is a great place for students to seek volunteer opportunities. With 13 student-run service programs — including the popular Alternative Spring Break and Student Food Rescue programs — and a volunteer base of approximately 1,500 people, the CSC clocks in more than 75,000 service hours each year.

In this series, BU Today looks at five community service projects undertaken by BU students during the 2006-2007 academic year. Click here to see “Rebuilding Biloxi: An ASB Story.” Click here to see “FYSOP Opens Up Boston and BU.” Click here for “Students Work to Feed Boston’s Hungry and Homeless.” Click here to see “Giving Thanks, and Time, Year-Round.”

BU’s Volunteer Generation
Community Service Center hires new director, turns 20

By Vicky Waltz

Although Lindsey Wyld graduated with a master’s degree last spring, she won’t be leaving Boston University anytime soon. Last January, she became programs and administration coordinator for the Community Service Center (CSC).

“It’s been really busy,” says Wyld (SED’07), “but it’s been great. I really enjoy working with the students, because they’re such a motivating force.”

Growing up, the former camp counselor and varsity lacrosse coach dreamed of one day working with young adults. “Although not really practical, I wanted to be a professional camp counselor,” she recalls with a laugh, “and working for the CSC isn’t that far of a stretch. I work with a terrific group of enthusiastic and energetic young people who are here because they want to be here, not because they have to be.”

With 13 student-run service programs and a volunteer base of more than 1,500, the CSC contributes more than 75,000 hours of service annually in the Boston area and across the country. Programs address issues such as education, AIDS, the environment, homelessness, and hunger.

Last March, for example, Wyld and 12 undergraduates were among 23 BU groups that traveled to destinations around the country to take part in the CSC’s Alternative Spring Break, a program that sends students across the United States to perform community service. Wyld’s group, along with 658 volunteers from other colleges, went to New Orleans, setting up camp at an elementary school in the Upper Ninth Ward, a district heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“I think we were all kind of shocked at the amount of work that still needed to be done,” Wyld says. “Although it’s been a year and a half since the hurricane hit, New Orleans is still in shambles.”

Despite one student being bitten by a brown recluse spider and three students coming down with stomach flu, Wyld says, everyone had a great time. “During the first few days, we planted flowers and built a baseball diamond,” she recalls. “We also built bunk beds to accommodate additional volunteers. And on Friday we worked on a house. I got to caulk.”

Although Wyld is the CSC’s only full-time adult employee, she doesn’t feel like a manager. “I’d say I’m more of a mentor,” she says. “The students run the show, and I’m here to listen and advise.”  

Wyld’s responsibilities also involve interviewing and hiring new student program managers for the 2007–2008 academic year. “Of the 25 students we had on staff last semester, we lost about 12,” she says. “There’s constant turnover.”

One of Wyld’s goals is to bring “new blood” into the CSC. “Of course, the students here are highly dedicated,” she says, “but I do worry, sometimes, that it can be a bit cliquey. I don’t want prospective volunteers to be intimidated by that.”

This year, the CSC turned 20, and an anniversary reception for former and current volunteers was held on Friday, May 18, during Commencement and Reunion Weekend.

“It was an excellent opportunity for alumni to witness firsthand the impact the CSC has on the Boston community,” Wyld says. “I think they were surprised at how much it’s grown over the past two decades.”

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

“BU’s Volunteer Generation” originally ran on BU Today on April 6, 2007.