The financial support of faculty, staff, retirees and students during the 2011-12 Community Giving at MIT campaign has strengthened the ability of hundreds of local agencies to keep their doors open to serve their clients. Contributions made to the MIT Community Service Fund (CSF) have also delivered a double benefit; grants are made in a thoughtful way to local organizations, and monetary donations make possible an array of MIT volunteer efforts through the MIT Public Service Center (PSC).
While this year's Community Giving at MIT campaign may have officially ended, donations are accepted year-round for the MIT Community Service Fund, United Way of Mass. Bay and your favorite local charity. Contributions can be made via payroll deductions, credit card, check or securities at Community Giving at MIT.
The PSC: MIT in action
The PSC is the organizing entity for a number of CSF-supported programs through which MIT community members contribute their time and expertise to those in need. CityDays, a one-day community service event organized by PSC, involved 700 to 900 students during freshman orientation. Groups of MIT students — freshmen through upperclassmen — ventured into the Cambridge and Boston communities to complete service projects with approximately 50 community organizations. Through CityDays, MIT students were able to see and experience more of their new community and help make a difference within it by engaging in projects such as painting, cleaning, working with children and sorting food for pantry distribution.
"I can't say enough about this year's team and all the teams that have volunteered from CityDays," wrote a community organization contact on a participant survey. "[It was] a real pleasure to work with these highly motivated and talented people. Several mentioned they would like to come back if time allows."
The PSC also administers the Freshman Urban Program (FUP), a freshman pre-orientation program that introduces students to MIT and the surrounding community through community service activities, discussion of urban issues and urban exploration. In 2011, incoming freshmen and their upperclassmen FUP counselors volunteered at 13 local community organizations — such as Science Club for Girls, Cambridge Recycling, Learning Ally, Cradles to Crayons, the Pine Street Inn and the Greater Boston Food Bank — for a cumulative 900 hours of community service. One freshman participant said, "FUP connected us to both the MIT community and the Boston/Cambridge community in a huge way. I really feel at home here now."
ReachOut: Help Teach a Child to Read is a literacy mentorship program administered by the PSC that matches MIT students one-on-one with children attending the Cambridge Community Center (CCC) after-school program. Each semester, 30 to 40 MIT mentors commit to meet with their students twice every week to work on reading and writing activities. Many MIT mentors come back semester after semester. When recently asked what should be changed to make ReachOut better one student responded, "Make it much longer."
Other supported programs
MIT InnoWorks is a summer camp run by more than 50 MIT student volunteers that benefits local, low-income middle school students. The camp sparks student interests in science, technology, engineering and math fields. With CSF funds, Innoworks is expanding from serving 40 students in the past two years to collaborating with more than 10 local middle schools to open the camp to 40 students this summer alone.
Amphibious Achievement is an MIT student service group that is a dual athletic and academic mentorship program for urban Boston high-school youth. The goal of the program is to promote success in and out of the water through dynamic coaching in swimming or rowing, as well as interactive tutoring in college-preparatory academics. With the help of the Community Service Fund, Amphibious Achievement increased in size, expanding from a 15-person program to the current 69-person program. According to Ron Rosenberg, co-president and co-founder of Amphibious Achievement, "The Community Service Fund enabled Amphibious Achievement to purchase and provide our Achievers with transportation for a full year, a critical component in bringing urban youth to MIT every Sunday for 20 weeks during the year."
MIT Camp Kesem is a free, weeklong summer camp run by an MIT student group for children whose parents have cancer. With the help of CSF funds, Camp Kesem plans to send 80 campers and 50 MIT counselors to this year's New England summer camp. Student co-chairs Hamsika Chandrasekar and Yun Xue say that MIT Camp Kesem provides campers with "a chance to just have fun as kids and a chance for their parents to enjoy a week off."
Many MIT students volunteer with the community organization Charles River Conservancy (CRC) raking leaves, painting benches, cutting back invasive species, picking up trash and repairing picnic tables. With the CSF grant, the CRC plans to host two large volunteer group activities, adding to the 116 students who have already volunteered with the organization this year. According to CRC Development Associate Sarah Lindquist, "The students' work has greatly beautified the parklands. They especially made an impact at Magazine Beach by repairing picnic benches that were broken and badly in need of mending. They replaced the seats and in some areas the tops of the tables."
Another community organization supported by CSF is People Making a Difference (PMD). PMD engages more than 300 MIT community members in 60-plus hands-on projects assisting 25 local charities and their clients. According to founder and MIT alumna Lori Tsuruda '89, CSF funds were used to fund core operating expenses and supplies for projects that enabled volunteers to assemble LEGO science kits, feed hundreds of homeless individuals, officiate the Blue Lobster Bowl regional competition, improve animal habitats at Franklin Park Zoo and replenish supplies for K-8 science kits in the Boston Public Schools.
More than 30 current MIT students, alumni and staff volunteer as tutors at Tutoring Plus each year, providing a yearlong and free resource to Cambridge middle and high school students. MIT volunteers also develop curriculum for Future Engineers and Science Explorer programs, implement an MCAS Math Prep enrichment program, and serve on Tutoring Plus' Board of Directors. These programs give students the opportunity to have fun learning about science through hands-on activities. Ellen McLaughlin, executive director of Tutoring Plus states, "These programs directly impact the lives of youth in Cambridge, many of whom live next door to MIT, by providing them with free opportunities to support their academic and personal growth."
Community members who would like to take part in any of the programs organized through the MIT Public Service Center are invited to email, call 617-253-0742, or drop by room 4-104 to learn more. To learn more about Community Giving at MIT, please contact Traci Swartz (firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-253-5507).