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FYSOP Kicks Off Today

Volunteers serve around Boston, make friends, have fun

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Today, approximately 750 new students will arrive on campus to participate in BU’s annual First-Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP). Administered by the Community Service Center (CSC), the weeklong program provides first-year and transfer students an opportunity to volunteer in the Boston area while getting to know one another. Having recently completed a week of educational training on leadership and social justice, 180 staff leaders will guide the students in 10 different focus areas: Abilities, Animals, Children, Elders, Environment, Food Justice, Gender and Sexuality, Homelessness and Housing, Human Rights, and Public Health. Each focus area is led by 2 of 20 coordinators.

The theme of this year’s FYSOP program is Gardens.

“Gardens, and green spaces more generally, are rarities in an urban landscape. Planting a garden in a city requires intention,” say Claire Buesser (SED’16) and Stefanie Grossano (CAS’16), the 2016 FYSOP program managers. The theme works on a metaphorical level too, they note, because “first-years from across the globe choose to make their home in Boston and at BU, and they bring their roots with them and a willingness to integrate themselves into a new place.”

This year, FYSOP is also emphasizing students’ relationship with the city of Boston and surrounding communities. “We hope our students understand that their BU experience should also be a Boston experience,” says CSC director Zachary Hobbs (CAS’08). The program, he says, “aims to foster intentional connections between our students and the people who call Boston home.”

As part of that effort, two prominent members of city government, chief of economic development John Barros and City Council president Michelle Wu, will speak at tonight’s opening ceremony. For 13 years, Roxbury-born Barros was the executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a nonprofit that collaborates with local partners to help residents in the Roxbury and North Dorchester neighborhood build and maintain a vibrant community. Chicago-born Wu is the City Council’s first Asian-American president, and at 31, its youngest current member. Hobbs says that Barros and Wu will “show the FYSOP students how important it is to not simply serve their new community, but to truly be a part of it, to work in solidarity with it, and to act humbly within it.”

“On behalf of Mayor Walsh and the city of Boston, I want to welcome all of the students who are arriving a week early to volunteer in their new community,” says Barros. “I hope they make lasting connections to this great city, to the people they’ll meet and the issues they’ll address, not just this week but throughout the school year and beyond. The city of Boston is committed to welcoming them to their new home. We have services to provide, events to enjoy, and so much more. We’re glad to have them here.”

Jack Schatten (Questrom'19), left, and Drew Faria (CAS'19)pull weeds at Dorchester's Nightingale Community Garden

During FYSOP last year, Jack Schatten (Questrom’19) (left) and Drew Faria (CAS’19) volunteered at the Nightingale Community Garden in Dorchester, which is a community partner organization again this year. Photo by Cydney Scott

Tomorrow, student volunteers will take part in a daylong education program, where they will learn more about their respective focus areas. Wednesday through Friday they will work directly with various community partner organizations throughout greater Boston. Among them, in the Environment focus group is Dorchester-based Fair Foods, a nonprofit food rescue organization that provides surplus goods at little or no cost to those in need. Some of the students participating in the Homelessness and Housing focus group will partner with Father Bill’s & MainSpring, a leading provider of emergency shelter, housing, and supportive services for those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. They will volunteer at one of the organization’s Quincy properties, painting a women’s dorm, assisting with carpentry work in the kitchen, and preparing and serving meals to guests and residents. Students in this year’s Animals focus group will help clean and organize the National Marine Life Center’s Buzzards Bay facility. The center rescues and rehabilitates injured ocean wildlife before releasing them back into the wild.

During the evenings, the volunteers will come together to reflect on their days of service over dinner and through additional programming.

Program managers Buesser and Grossano were motivated to take on leadership positions this year by their own FYSOP experiences. “From the time I first heard about FYSOP at open house, I knew I wanted to sign up. The program truly defined my experience at BU,” Buesser says. She returned each year, first as a staff leader and then as a coordinator. “My desire to serve as a mentor grew. I came to see myself as a leader.”

Grossano initially saw FYSOP as a way to continue the kind of community service she had done in high school, but says that she quickly realized FYSOP was about much more than service. “As a first-year, it allowed me to move past small talk and connect on a deeper level with my peers,” she says. “As a staff leader, the educational component helped me grow in empathy and realize my agency to create prosocial change.”

Hobbs hopes that this year’s FYSOPers will leave the program at week’s end with similar takeaways. “Our time together as engaged citizens is not just about service. It is also about human connection, plural conversations, critical thinking, and intentional action,” he says.

BU Today is covering FYSOP 2016 live this week via Twitter. Share your FYSOP experience under the hashtag #FYSOP27. You can also follow FYSOP at @heyfysop and the Community Service Center at @BUCSC.

Mara Sassoon can be reached at msassoon@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on FYSOP Kicks Off Today

  • Diane Constantino on 08.29.2016 at 8:04 am

    A big welcome to our incoming Freshman – thank you for making Boston more beautiful already!

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