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FYSOP Takes On Urban Renewal

Students volunteer within city limits

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In the slideshow above, hear from FYSOP coordinators Will Cox (SMG’12) and Katy Ruderman (SED’12) and volunteers Rebecca Brown (CFA’14) and Andrew Wasserstein (COM’14). Photos by Kalman Zabarsky

Rebecca Brown added a few extra layers—sweater, raincoat, rain boots, and a garbage bag expertly wound around her waist—as she prepared to brave the elements for her first day as a volunteer with the First Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP). “This isn’t a skirt,” she says, “it’s MC Hammer pants made out of a garbage bag.”

Brown (CFA’14), a San Antonio, Tex., native, was among the 1,000 freshmen participating in BU’s weeklong volunteer opportunity for incoming students. For her volunteer issue, she selected urban renewal, the first year it’s been offered by FYSOP.

“I wanted something that explored the city of Boston and neighborhoods that are farther away from campus,” she says. Each day of the program, she went to a different part of the city to assist organizations focused on urban issues.

The urban renewal program was designed by FYSOP coordinators Will Cox (SMG’12) and Katy Ruderman (SED’12); it emphasizes what they see as the three pillars of urban renewal: restoration, youth, and community development.

On Wednesday, Brown and 13 other students teamed up with Historic Boston Incorporated, a preservation and real estate nonprofit that rehabilitates historic properties throughout the city. Students learned about the Dorchester neighborhood at the Dorchester Historical Society, then were asked to distribute flyers around the area advertising a pet food drive sponsored by the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

The goal of the drive, says Mike Tilford (SMG’08) of Historic Boston is to help those who can no longer afford to feed their pets. “If they get the pet food they need, hopefully local families will be able to hold on to their pets,” he says.

FYSOP students studying urban renewal also worked at Historic Boston’s Anna Harris Smith House, home of the founder of the Animal Rescue League, the Women’s Lunch Place, and the South Boston Neighborhood House.

Ruderman and Cox hope that the urban renewal program pushes participating students to explore the city. “You come to BU, and this campus is amazing—you can basically do everything you need to do between Kenmore Square and Allston,” says Cox. “We hope through this, they’ll visit other neighborhoods on their own.”

Tilford agrees, sharing this advice, “I encourage you to get out of Kenmore Square,” he says. “You can get trapped on campus in the BU bubble if you’re not careful.”

Kimberly Cornuelle can be reached at kcornuel@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @kcornuel.

3 Comments

3 Comments on FYSOP Takes On Urban Renewal

  • John Hancock on 08.27.2010 at 1:29 am

    What a cool program! I wish

    What a cool program!
    I wish I did FYSOP and was apart of this program

  • lily on 09.08.2010 at 8:23 am

    Wanna be part of it

    I am wondering how can I be a member of this program?

  • Ruth on 10.05.2010 at 1:59 pm

    Whoops?

    Guys, urban renewal’s a pretty loaded term, particularly in Boston. It’s basically associated with the systematic removal of low income/people of color from certain neighborhoods to make room for the wealthy. To cite Streets of Hope by Peter Medoff:

    Roxbury’s Washington Park Urban Renewal project – 1963
    o Washington Park was 71% Black and 29% White, but poor Blacks were not
    invited to participate in the urban renewal planning p. 19
    o Many low-rent dwellings were eliminated w/o replacement
    o 1,275 displaced families and hundreds of individuals were eligible for public
    housing, but the only publicly aided housing included in the renewal were 200
    units for the elderly p. 19

    Maybe call your project civic engagement? Figure something else out.

    Good luck,
    Ruth
    SSW, ’12

    PS, I’m a grad student, went to Northwestern where I went through a similar program (the Freshman Urban Program, or FUP) both as a counselor and a Freshman, and I think things like this are extremely valuable and successful.

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