Serving the community as a community — this is a concept that 15 residential teams took to heart in the 2012 FSILG&D Community Service Challenge.
As part of the Service Challenge, participating MIT fraternities, sororities, independent living groups (FSILGs) and dorms rallied around community service and documented their activities between Feb. 15 and April 15 for a panel of judges to review. At a celebration dinner on May 2, the Service Cup trophy was presented to winning team The Number Six Club.
Independent living group Number Six is a chapter of St. Anthony Hall, a national co-ed literary fraternity. Over the course of the Service Challenge, Number Six engaged in a variety of service activities — including a mixture of philanthropic fundraising and hands-on service.
For their largest event, the chapter members hosted an Easter egg hunt for the Italian Home for Children, a residential and day-treatment facility for emotionally and behaviorally challenged children. Number Six welcomed 25 children and nine staff members to its house on Easter for the event, which also included dinner and arts and crafts. The ILG also applied their literacy focus to use this opportunity to read to the children and provide each with an educational book to take home.
Members of Number Six admitted that their service efforts were lacking before the Service Challenge, but they took advantage of this competition to begin a culture shift in the organization. The judges took notice of this positive transformation, noting that by establishing a relationship with a community organization, undertaking activities as a group and reflecting on their efforts, Number Six raised the bar for themselves and offered a glimpse into the service capabilities of the group in the future.
"Coming from a position that was previously inactive at Number Six, it's really motivating to see that going from doing almost no community service to winning the cup in one year is pretty exciting," said senior Deema Totah, one of the Number Six team leaders for the Service Challenge. "I'm excited to see what next year will bring."
Building a community through service
The 15 teams that completed the Service Challenge applied their efforts to a selected community service focus, ranging from community development to child advocacy.
"It was great to see so many of our FSILG and residential students so involved in community service — volunteering their time and giving back to the community that surrounds MIT," said Henry Humphreys, senior associate dean for student life and Service Challenge judge.
Participating teams, judges, MIT administrators and community members came together for the May 2 awards dinner to reflect and share their service achievements. Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis offered opening remarks, and several students spoke to evening's attendees about how the Service Challenge has enabled their groups to think about service in new ways while providing a focal point for developing a sense of community within their teams.
"What's wonderful about this event is that the teams serve the greater community while developing stronger bonds within their own residential communities," said Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo, who also served as a judge this year. "Service is part of MIT's mission, and it's a great way to bring students together."
In addition to Colombo and Humphreys, judges for this year's Service Challenge included Marlena Martinez Love, assistant dean and director of FSILGs; Katie Casey Maloney, director of the Parents Association and student/alumni relations; and Sally Susnowitz, assistant dean and director of the Public Service Center.
Though the Service Challenge has come to a close, teams are certainly not precluded from engaging in service year-round. In fact, it is highly encouraged that teams do so for next year since the judging criteria take into account service contributions during the entire academic year.
"I hope that teams will take the momentum gained from their participation in this Service Challenge to continue to keep the spirit of service alive in their groups," said Kristi Gundrum Kebinger, who oversees the Service Challenge in her role as community volunteer administrator in the Public Service Center.
To learn more about the FSILG&D Community Service Challenge, visit the Public Service Center website.