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FYSOP 29 Launches Today

Volunteer service project for new students has several new community partners


Today, a group of approximately 650 freshmen and new transfer students will arrive on campus to volunteer in BU’s annual First-Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP), a weeklong community service program administered by the Community Service Center (CSC). Now in its 29th year, the program gives new students an opportunity to get to know Boston and its surrounding neighborhoods while donating their time and labor at local nonprofits and community organizations.

This year, as last, these students will be grouped into seven focus areas, each revolving around specific neighborhoods and MBTA lines. Students will largely use public transportation to get around, but van transportation may be required to reach some community partners, while others can be reached by foot.

The theme of this year’s FYSOP is Storytelling. “Stories unite everyone involved in FYSOP,” according to program managers Erin Gannon (CAS’18), John Le (ENG’18), Jonathan Hauser (CAS’18), and Caroline Kohler (Sargent’19). “Our community partners have unique perspectives on the history and future of the city of Boston and its communities. Our coordinators and staff have life experiences that make them strong leaders. And our first-years have perspectives from so many different cultures that will make the BU community even more vibrant. They are beginning a new chapter, and we hope FYSOP helps them imagine what their story could be at BU and beyond.”

This year’s seven focus areas, all built around MBTA lines:

  • “The Biggest College Town in the World” sends students to sites along the Red Line in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.
  • “City of Champions” pairs volunteers with organizations accessible via the Red Line and the Orange Line—from Cambridge and Somerville to Charlestown, Malden, and Downtown Crossing.
  • “The Cradle of Liberty” students take the Orange Line to organizations in Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Hyde Park.
  • “America’s Walking City” workers take the Red Line and the Silver Line to nonprofits in Dorchester, South Boston, Quincy, and the South Shore.
  • “Beantown” students travel the Green Line to Allston, Brighton, Brookline, Watertown, and Metro West.
  • “The Hub of the Solar System” sends students via the Green Line and the Silver Line to Fenway, Roxbury, and the South End.
  • “The Olde Town” volunteers use the Blue Line for destinations in downtown Boston, East Boston, Chelsea, Revere, the North Shore, and Metro North.

“Based on feedback from last year, we are hoping to integrate more social justice passions within the groups,” says Gannon. “Within each focus area group, we have created three learning areas—Educated Boston, Equitable Boston, and Sustainable Boston. We hope that with each of these learning areas, students will be able to create a deeper connection with the service that they will be doing throughout the week.” The FYSOPers will volunteer at three community partners within a focus group, with each touching on one of the three learning areas. Volunteers will be divided into groups of 10 or so, led by the 4 program managers, 14 coordinators (2 for each focus area), and 171 staff leaders

Each focus area has 10 associated community groups, many partnering with FYSOP for the first time, including the South Boston Neighborhood House, which offers multigenerational programming for area residents, ranging from preschoolers to elders. There, students will help with various maintenance and organizational tasks. Another new community partner, Boston Medical Center’s rooftop farm, will put students to work planting and cleaning up. Other new organizations this year are VietAid in Dorchester, the Nubian United Benevolent International Association in Roxbury, the Higginson Inclusion School, also in Roxbury, and the Urban Farming Institute in Mattapan.

FYSOP 2018 starts tonight with a dinner and opening ceremony, with guest speaker Pedro Falci (COM’11, Wheelock’15), associate director of the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground (HTC). “We are so excited about this because we believe the HTC and CSC have very similar values, and we hope that the first-years begin to utilize the spaces together,” the program managers say.

On Tuesday, the volunteers will participate in daylong educational programming, followed by social events that night. Starting Wednesday and continuing all week, students will volunteer by day and join in campus programs at night.

The program managers say the experience is transformative.

“I joined FYSOP as a freshman volunteer in 2015 because I wanted to make friends,” says Kohler, a nutritional sciences major. “I knew no one when I came to BU, but by the end of the week I had found a network of people who share my love for helping others.” She says FYSOP also helped her see her major in a new way: “I spent the week working on urban farms with awesome people who were increasing food access in their communities. As I embarked on my nutrition courses, I remembered what I had learned about physical, financial, and educational access to nutrition during FYSOP.”

She became a program manager this year because she wanted “to create a meaningful experience for the new students, to have them think about how they can learn beyond the classroom and discover how their passions can help the world. FYSOP has impacted every aspect of my college experience, and I want our volunteers and staff to have the same positive, empowering start to the year that I experienced.”

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Mara Sassoon, Editorial/Production Manager at Boston University Marketing and Communications
Mara Sassoon

Mara Sassoon can be reached at msassoon@bu.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @M_Sass_1, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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