By Nicole Chiulli (CAS’23)
Coming into college, there were some things from my life in New York that I knew I wasn’t prepared to give up. Throughout high school, I spent a lot of time working with individuals with disabilities – I interned with a child psychologist where I met kids with varying forms of neurodivergence, and I worked for an organization which provided recreational programs for adolescents and adults with physical and mental disabilities. Through these experiences, I made so many genuine connections with amazing people; I had the opportunity to learn from individuals who see the world differently than I do, and I knew for sure that I wanted to continue this during my college career. To any prospective student who’s looking for something similar in their own future college, or any incoming freshman just looking for a fun and rewarding club to join, this post is for you!
SVSN stands for Student Volunteers for Special Needs, though I will add a disclaimer that the name may be changing soon. The student-run organization was founded at BU around 15 years ago; we are aware that the terminology is rather outdated, and are in the process of hopefully selecting a new name for our group. The goal of SVSN is to provide support for individuals with disabilities in the Boston area in a number of ways. Our primary activity is hosting Friday Night Club (FNC), a social event which happens a few Friday nights each month. We invite individuals with disabilities from around Boston to join us on campus to play games, listen to music, do arts and crafts, eat snacks and chat! We alternate hosting responsibilities with our sister club at Harvard, which means that some weeks we travel to Harvard to have FNCs there, which is always a fun excursion.
Beyond FNCs we are also currently working with Perkins School for the Blind, a school in Watertown, MA that provides all types of services for people with visual, auditory, and multiple impairment disabilities. We’ve helped out with a variety of things there, from painting one of their buildings and doing green space clean-ups to organizing their Braille library and assisting at their fundraising/awareness 5k walk. These larger events are usually on the weekends, though there are additional volunteer opportunities with Perkins during the week for anyone who is interested!
Our club is pretty small, and with the pandemic over the past few years we’ve definitely faced challenges in finding ways to safely make a difference in our community. Now that things are moving back towards normalcy, we are excited to hopefully expand both our number of members and our volunteer opportunities. SVSN is low commitment – we send out a list of events happening each month, and our members can sign up for as many or as few as they want; it’s a very easy way to get involved with the local community and meet some fantastic people. Volunteers who attend our events regularly are also able to apply for any open executive board positions at the end of each year, so if you’re someone who wants to hold a meaningful leadership role during your time at BU, SVSN might be for you! If you’re interested, you can check out our instagram page (@svsnbu) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions. For incoming freshmen, you can also find our table at Splash next September in the Community Engagement section. We always have tons of fun, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to make even a small difference in the larger Boston community. If you’ve read this far and SVSN seems like a group for you, I hope to see you next year!