Disclaimer: Mitch Lee is a staff writer at the Tufts Daily. Lee was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.
Tufts will host its first full-scale OUTREACH Day, a day of service in the area around Tufts aimed at introducing first-year students to service opportunities at Tufts and connecting them with the broader Medford and Somerville communities, on Sept. 28, according to Tufts Community Outreach Project (TCOP) organizer Matthew Soderberg.
“The four of us … had a common desire to energize students around service, something that had played a large role in our lives before Tufts,” the four main organizers, Soderberg, Ailie Orzak, Mitch Lee and Patrick Liu, said in a joint statement to the Daily. “We saw the creation of OUTREACH Day as an opportunity to offer opportunities of service early in students’ Tufts experiences for those at Tufts who might otherwise miss out.”
Last March, a smaller pilot OUTREACH program with 70 participants occurred to test different ways to coordinate this year’s event.
“This experience taught us so much about service learning and organizing, and ultimately it encouraged us to pursue a full program this fall,” the statement said.
This year, the organizers hope to have up to 200 participants and volunteers and are working with 17 community organizations, including The Elizabeth Peabody House and Friends of the Middlesex Fells, across Medford, Somerville and other communities near Tufts, according to the organizers’ statement. The event is focused on first-years, but the service groups will include upperclassmen and staff, according to Soderberg.
All the service events will be carried out off campus in Tufts’ host communities and will be followed by a barbecue for students. There will also be a time for reflection and goal setting before and after the community service.
Medford Mayor Stephanie Burke will also give a keynote speech, and TCOP will set up a small “mobile museum” so participants can learn more about the organizations they visited and their host communities, according to the organizers.
The event is related to the Tufts Community Day held last Sunday on Sept. 22, according to the joint statement. TCOP has partnered with the Office of Community and Government Relations, which hosts Community Day, to create OUTREACH Day. Additionally, several of the organizations to be featured in OUTREACH Day were also present at Community Day.
The goal of the program is to spark long time civic engagement, according to Assistant Director of Student Life and Engagement Alice Shaughnessy.
Soderberg acknowledged that one day of service might not necessarily create a permanent impact.
“My role has been asking ‘what’s the point’ of a one-day service event,” Soderberg said. “One day service doesn’t provide sweeping change in the way that philanthropy and longer lasting things have the possibility to do.”
He said that the organizers had this in mind and planned to add aspects of intentionality to OUTREACH Day as a result.
“We have tried to be really intentional in all of our leadership training curriculum and in all of our reflection materials to try to create an opportunity where the conversations that happen on our day provide an opportunity to create lasting change,” he said.
Soderberg, Orzak, Lee and Liu have spent part of last year and the entirety of the past summer organizing this event and fine-tuning it for the first-year students. They hope that the participants will gain a new sense of empowerment and form a stronger connection to the community.
“Part of our target audience [is] students like me who might find it easier to turn towards apathy or laughing something serious off,” Soderberg said. “I really hope that students like me who might be disinclined to take something seriously really see this as an opportunity to be intentional for a couple of hours and actually engage with what they are doing.”
Shaughnessy and the organizers hope that this event will become a yearly tradition.
“We have had such a great experience getting to know our partner organizations this summer and they’ve been generous in sharing their knowledge with us,” the organizers said in their statement. “We hope that OUTREACH Day will lead to long-lasting relationships and that we can continue to offer our resources to the folks in our community that do incredible work.”