Students serve city during Action Day

by Beacon Staff • April 12, 2006

Last weekend, the students gathered for the first annual Emerson Action Day, in order to bring various services to the community.,Getting up at 8 a.m. to clean stairwells, package meals and pick up the Charles River may not sound like an ideal Saturday, but for 50 Emerson students, it was exactly what they wanted.

Last weekend, the students gathered for the first annual Emerson Action Day, in order to bring various services to the community. The event, organized by the Office of Service Learning and Community Action, (OSLCA) was the culmination of Emerson Action Week.

Heather Flynn, staff assistant at the OSLCA, participated in Action Week and in Action Day. Flynn said it is important for Emerson students to take part in events like these.

"I think it allows students to try out service work and to celebrate that work together," she said.

Throughout the week, OSLCA helped to organize events that pertained to service learning at Emerson.

The program also included an information session about ACT Leaders. ACT, which stands for Action for Community Transformation, is a program through which students take workshops with the OSLCA in order to learn not only about service, but also how to be a leader in service organizations, according to Jen Greer, associate director of Service Learning.

This non-tuition credit program requires the student ACT Leaders to put together one project per semester that advocates service throughout the school, according to Greer.

"It's a way for students to connect with other students who do service," Greer said. "They can also raise awareness and get other students involved."

Emerson Action Day was a result of one such ACT Leader's vision. Natasha Castro, a senior theatre education major, came to the OSLCA with the idea to have a day of service that brings together students from all organizations on campus.

Some of the organizations represented were Imagine, Student Government Association (SGA), Earth Emerson, Emerson Peace and Social Justice and the Residence Hall Association, Castro said.

One group of about 15 students went to St. Francis House, a shelter and rehabilitation center that provides job training and basic services to poor and homeless people in Boston, where they sorted clothes that would be given to homeless people for their job interviews and cleaned the back stairwell of the building.

A second group of about five students went to Hale House, which houses and serves elderly people, where they sang songs and played games with the home's residents.

About 10 students also visited Community Servings, an organization that prepares meals for people with HIV/AIDS and other terminal illnesses that leave them homebound and unable to shop for groceries.

Kirstin Daniel, a senior theatre education major and SGA president, was the co-site leader for Community Servings. The group of students prepared more than 800 meals, Castro said.

"Natasha asked the SGA for funding and for volunteers and we decided it was a great organization to support," she said. "This is the beginning of a very noble tradition that I hope continues at Emerson."

Daniel said she plans to discuss continued funding and support of this event with SGA President-elect Jamal Barone.

A group of about 20 students went to the Charles River Conservancy, where they removed and bagged dead tree branches that would be turned into compost for living trees. These volunteers filled more than 60 bags with branches, according to Castro.

"I thought it was a great idea to branch out to the whole school," said Justina Huddleston, a freshman writing, literature and publishing major, who volunteered at the Charles River.

Huddleston belongs to both Earth Emerson and Imagine, an Emerson-based group that focuses on involving students with local community service projects. She also said she plans to be involved in Emerson Action Day in the years to come.

In total, the volunteers provided more than 100 collective hours of service, Greer said. The students were rewarded with a luncheon at the end of their service, where President Jacqueline Liebergott thanked the students for their work.

"You understand what it means to be part of a community and give back to it," she said. "The college is very proud of you."

Greer spoke highly of Castro and her dedication to the project.

"She came in the fall with this vision," she said. "It is now her legacy, because we plan on Action Day becoming an annual tradition."

Castro said she was also proud of her achievements.

"I got so much positive feedback. It turned out really great," she said, "I just hope that this can continue into the future."