The summer came and went. And if you even blinked, you missed the incredible experience that is the First Year Student Outreach Project. Founded almost thirty years ago by BU’s Community Service Center, FYSOP is a bridge program that allows first-year students (freshmen and transfers) to engage in a week of volunteering prior to classes in order to introduce them to the city of Boston and to the many facets of social justice. Every year, about one-fifth of the incoming class participates, over 180 upperclassmen return as staff leaders, and a team of student coordinators and senior staff come together to plan the event all summer long. This year, the program was revolutionized to emphasize not only our roles as stewards of service but as active citizens of this beautiful city. The breakdown of the program went from topical issues like environment and food justice to broader ideas of community engagement with focus on the many Boston neighborhoods. With this, the goal is to better integrate BU students into the city and encourage them to build relationships with people and places beyond our campus.
I have returned to FYSOP each year as a volunteer, a staff, and most recently as a coordinator, and each year, I fall in love with the program all over again. FYSOP played such an important role in laying the foundation for the rest of my time at Boston University. I found my friends (check out this video to peek into some of our fun), I found my passions, and I was constantly challenging myself to think in new ways and learn how I can be a better person.
This year in particular, the revamped program we developed taught me what it truly means to be a Bostonian. I learned so much about our city, what I can do to be a useful part of it, and I’ve never been more proud to be here. If you want to get emotional about Boston like me, watch this video. There’s no possible way I could describe Boston or this program and do it justice, so there are a few things I want to to walk away with:
- To loosely quote our closing speaker, Reverend Julian Cook, you do not change a community but a community changes you. Let us realize that we have a duty to our home, and right now, that is Boston. This city and the people leave a mark on us, so we should do something in return.
- FYSOP is a project that never ends. This is intended as the starting point for you to continue engaging with your community. Keep exploring your city. Get involved. Be a responsible and active citizen always, not just for these two weeks.
- FYSOP will give you some of the best support systems you’ll ever have in your life. Even if the connections with your fellow volunteers last only a few weeks, think about how important that is to your transition into the completely new environment of college. Or if they last even longer, then that’s wonderful! Every year, I make new connections with people that never fade. I couldn’t be more thankful for what they all have given me.
Sorry, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The greatest city in the world is Boston, and we are so lucky to be alive right now. So lucky. Take advantage of it.