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Campus Life

FYSOP Launches Today

Nearly a quarter of the Class of 2017 participating

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Bridget Burgoyne and Amber Glass arrived at BU as freshmen anxious about making friends and fitting in. But the two say that volunteering in the First-Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP), the weeklong volunteer program run by the Community Service Center where freshmen can come to campus early to do community service, not only dispelled their fears, but proved to be a transforming experience.

Shy by nature, Burgoyne (CAS’13) recalls holding back tears when she first met other FYSOP volunteers on Marsh Plaza four summers ago. The Philadelphia native soon realized that “no one judges you” and that it’s normal to “go a little bit crazy” in the company of fellow FYSOPers. Now, she even sings atop tables occasionally with FYSOP staff. “If my former self had seen me,” Burgoyne says, “I would not have known who I was.”

Having grown up an only child on a Wisconsin farm, Glass (CAS’13) felt similar qualms about coming to Boston. But she jumped into her volunteer assignment focusing on human rights, an experience that helped her forge close, fast friendships.

The two women say that they “caught the bug to do service” through their participation in the volunteer program, which is now in its 24th year. For the past three years, they’ve worked as FYSOP staff or coordinators. Now they share the title of program manager, overseeing the latest group of volunteers.

Starting today, 852 freshmen—nearly a quarter of the Class of 2017—will come to campus to begin their own FYSOP experience, volunteering for a good cause and at the same time getting to know the University and greater Boston.

This year’s FYSOPers will spend the week serving in one of 11 issue areas: animals, children, disabilities, elders, the environment, gender focus, homelessness and housing, human rights, hunger, public health awareness, and urban engagement.

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87) will greet the FYSOP volunteers tonight during orientation, then they will spend tomorrow learning more about their specific issue before heading out for three days of service with local nonprofit and community organizations. President Robert A. Brown and his wife, Beverly Brown, director of development for the Center for Global Health & Development and the Office of Technology Development, will speak at Friday’s closing ceremony.

Boston University First-Year Student Outreach Project, BU FYSOP 23, FYSOP 2012, Ellen Gifford Cat Shelter, Boston University Community Service Center, BU CSC

Tanya Volkert (CAS’16) (from left), Arthur Cooper (ENG’16), and Erin Freeman (CAS’16) volunteered last year at the Ellen Gifford Cat Shelter in Brighton. Photo by Chitose Suzuki

Coordinators for each of the issue areas are expected to shape an educational message in planning their volunteers’ experiences. Take, for example, Izzi Fathy (CAS’15) and Kelsey Krook (CAS’15, COM’15), coordinators for the animal program. They plan to focus on the positive and negative aspects of human-animal interactions by examining topics such as factory farming, companion animals, and animals in the entertainment industry and by visiting sites like the Natick Community Organic Farm, the Ellen Gifford Cat Shelter, and Greyhound Friends, Inc.

FYSOP staffers emphasize the many ways the 11 issues intertwine to create what they call fusion. “You can’t make lasting, sustainable change in one issue without working with the others,” Glass says. So animal coordinators, for example, will address the health benefits animals provide for children living with a disability and the elderly as well as how large-scale livestock farms can be detrimental to the environment.

The FYSOP experience promises to be more tech-savvy and eco-friendly this year, Burgoyne and Glass say. Coordinators have moved most orientation and educational information online. Issue area blogs provided volunteers with travel advice, information on their upperclassmen leaders, and a sneak peek at the week’s activities. Volunteers will bring compostable items back to BU after each site visit and will be encouraged to use FYSOP-issued reusable water bottles.

This year’s FYSOP volunteers are expected to rack up a combined 20,000 plus hours of service by week’s end. And because they arrive in advance of the rest of the Class of 2017, they’ll have a jump on creating friendships destined to last a lifetime.

By the end of FYSOP week, Burgoyne says, “you’re really able to call BU and Boston your home.”

BU Today is covering the 2013 First-Year Student Outreach Project live this week via Twitter. Share your FYSOP experience under the hashtag #fysop, and we will post your comments here on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Follow the Community Service Center at @BUCSC.

Visit the CSC for more information about FYSOP and the 13 other CSC academic year programs.

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Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

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

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