Despite having a vacation from classes on Tuesday, Oct. 9, more than 190 MIT students left campus and volunteered at 13 sites in the greater Boston area for the 2012 CityDays Serve-Off. Student volunteers prepared materials for classrooms of low-income children, provided adults with literacy training and sorted clothes for thrift stores that support AIDS research, among many other service activities.
“I think there's something especially rewarding about physical volunteer work, and this project involved both our bodies and minds,” says Mary Breton ’14, a first-time CityDays participant who worked with the Esplanade Association to remove invasive species from the banks of the Charles River.
“It was hard work, but it felt great to look where we had cleared and see the Charles River with MIT on the other side,” says Jonathan Abbott ’14, a third-year CityDays participant and student leader for the Esplanade Association group.
This year, with CityDays moving from Orientation to October, the competitive Serve-Off aspect was introduced to increase focus on group participation and bonding. Each volunteer self-identified with a residence hall; fraternities, sororities and independepent living groups (FSILG); athletic team; or other group, and the team in each category with the most participants won $400 to be used as a charitable donation or a grant for a future service project.
The winning teams were New House (residence hall), Kappa Alpha Theta (FSILG), Softball and Women’s Swimming and Diving (athletics teams – tied) and the Freshman Urban Program (other group).
Though previous CityDays events were freshmen-focused, this new model included undergraduate and graduate students, which increased diversity of class years within each group. This feature pleased third-year participant and group leader Jordan Marks ’14.
"It gave me a chance to meet some awesome students and do a really fun project," says Marks, who volunteered with the Arboretum Park Conservancy. "This was easily my favorite CityDays experience to date." Looking to the future, the Public Service Center plans to continue to refine CityDays and to host service opportunities during the Independent Activities Period and spring 2013, which will be open to the entire MIT community.