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It’s about giving back to Boston


The First-Year Student Outreach Project, BU’s weeklong volunteer opportunity for incoming students, wraps up a banner year tonight, one in which more than 1,000 freshmen (a quarter of the Class of 2015) did 20,000 hours of community service. To learn what it’s like to go to work in the community before getting down to classwork, BU Today talked with Sheena Chatterjee (CAS’15) of Clinton, N.J., whose FYSOP group painted a mural designed by Lena McCarthy (CFA’14) at the Jackson Mann K-8 School in Allston. This is what Chatterjee had to say:

I arrived in Boston on August 29. Normally, it takes 5 hours by car from Clinton, but thanks to Hurricane Irene, it took 11 hours. Yes, my parents and I in a car for 11 hours.

I’m part of a FYSOP group working on urban renewal. Yesterday was Education Day, and our leaders wanted to stress the fact that urban renewal is not just the physical aspects of bettering a community; it’s also about people’s lives that you can touch just by honing in on a skill you have.

As you can see, there is a lot of graffiti and defiling of the school property here. I came from a small town and had a kind of sheltered life, and we didn’t have these problems. So to see a child have to come to school and their playground is basically defaced, it’s upsetting.

Today we’ve been painting a section of a brick wall that was previously filled with graffiti. I’ve taken some art courses, and painting is definitely one of my favorite mediums. We are replacing graffiti with a mural that will depict Boston, the Green Monster, the famous Citgo sign, and the Charles River. The teamwork is incredible. It’s crazy to think that I only met these people a day and a half ago.

This week we have been taught many different cheers. All of FYSOP can do a cheer, and then we have group-oriented cheers. Would you like me to do one right now?

Chatterjee: Hey FYSOP!
Urban Renewal: Hey what?
Chatterjee: Let me see you get down!
Urban Renewal: No way.
Chatterjee: Let me see you get down!
Urban Renewal: OK!
All: D-O-W-N, that’s the way we get down, hey, whoo!

Boston University FYSOP 2011 Urban Renewal

Before I came to BU I had some experience with community service. I was president of my school’s Spanish National Honor Society, and I joined my group with Hunterdon Hispanos. They work with the surrounding community, because there is a large Spanish population starting to move in around where I live. A lot of them are undereducated, some are illiterate, and some may not be able to speak English. I was able to organize bake sales in my high school to raise some money to donate to the organization.

At BU, I am really excited to see the caliber of kids in my classes. In high school you get a jumble of different people, some who don’t want to be there, and they have totally different interests. But just with these kids in FYSOP, I feel that a lot of them are academically oriented, but are also balanced with athletics and social events. I’m excited to see what they can teach me and what we can bounce off each other.

Earlier today, a cop came by the playground to check up on us. He then brought us another ladder to make it easier to paint. He’s been telling us that we’ve been doing a great job. It’s nice that local law enforcement wants to thank us. And then two little kids came out and yelled, “Thank you.” We’re doing this project for the kids, and the fact that they’re noticing and are so happy is really rewarding.

The way I saw it was, I’m going to be spending four years in Boston, and it has such great resources, like libraries and museums, and the city is our playground. If I’m going to be using these great resources, what am I going to give Boston in return?

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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