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Record Number of FYSOP Applicants

1,000 freshman volunteers register online

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In the video above, past FYSOP participants describe what it‘s like to volunteer around Boston. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

A record-breaking 1,000 freshmen arrived Monday, August 23, to take part in the First-Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP), one of the most popular programs the University offers.

“We really weren’t expecting the increase we got,” says FYSOP program manager Colleen Huysman (COM’10).

FYSOP is a defining experience for many incoming students. Run by BU’s Community Service Center, whose 3,000 volunteers last year contributed more than 90,000 hours through 13 student-run service programs, projects, and events, the program allows freshmen to study and become involved in one of 10 societal issues. This year’s topics are children, disabilities, elders, the environment, gender focus, HIV/AIDS awareness, homelessness and housing, human rights, hunger, and urban renewal. Students then spend several days volunteering at related Boston-area organizations.

Now marking its 21st year, FYSOP’s popularity has skyrocketed, growing from 600 in 2008 to 1,000 this fall. The convenience of online registration, a feature added this year, may explain part of the increase in numbers. But word of mouth is also a factor. Former volunteers rave about their experiences. Open houses, University tours, and orientation sessions also tout the volunteer opportunity to incoming freshmen.

“Students know that it’s a chance to get to Boston early, make friends, and really get involved before classes even get started,” says Huysman, who says she met some of her best friends at FYSOP. “I think people doing FYSOP are willing to have an open mind and to really open up and get to know themselves.”

This year’s program begins with an opening ceremony the first evening at the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom. The real work begins Tuesday, when students split into their assigned groups to learn about the area they’ve selected. After a day of intensive study, the students spend three days volunteering at a host of sites, among them the Esplanade Association, the Food Project, and Mass Equality. The program concludes with a closing ceremony Friday night back at the Metcalf Ballroom.

Huysman supervises 20 issue coordinators, all previous FYSOP volunteers and current students, who have worked for more than six months to pull off the weeklong program.

Urban renewal has been added as a volunteer area for the first time this year. FYSOP coordinators and city dwellers Will Cox (SMG’12), from Portland, Ore., and Katy Ruderman (SED’12), from Brookline, Mass., built a program that emphasizes what they see as the three pillars of urban renewal: restoration, youth, and community development.

Some people may consider urban renewal a euphemism for razing buildings and destroying old neighborhoods, Cox says. He envisions it as helping people better their lives so they can build their own communities.

The volunteers Cox and Ruderman are leading will fan out to Boston’s 20 neighborhoods, volunteering at organizations that include Historic Boston Incorporated, the Women’s Lunch Place, and the South Boston Neighborhood House.

“We wanted to do direct service with the people of Boston,” Ruderman says.

CSC director Lindsey Kotowicz hopes that FYSOP volunteers’ passion for community service spreads, encouraging more students to reach beyond the BU “bubble.”

“If anything, I want students to get involved in something,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be us. There are plenty of student groups that do service or find ways to get more involved in their community.”

FYSOP organizers plan to stream live major events, including the opening and closing ceremonies, via Facebook. Tweet about your experience with hashtag #bufysop.

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu;follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday. Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

2 Comments

2 Comments on Record Number of FYSOP Applicants

  • Anonymous on 08.23.2010 at 10:27 am

    FYSOP coordinators are great. To think that BU would be more courteous and give them a place to stay. They get kicked out Warren today and some have no where to go, good job BU. What a great way to reward you volunteers

  • Anonymous on 08.23.2010 at 2:16 pm

    A BU Tradition

    And the BU tradition of negativism and complaining contiyes.

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