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Building Community in Cambridge and Boston

Published in News @MIT Sloan, by Amy MacMillan

Stories were read. Walls were painted. Weeds were pulled. And that was just in the first hour. On September 3, 715 MIT students collectively contributed approximately 2,800 service hours through CityDays 2010, the annual voluntary, one-day school service event that is part of Orientation at MIT. And behind it all was Amanda David, '13, Class President and an MIT Sloan undergraduate.

Amanda became organizer of CityDays after she applied for the Student Coordinator Position through the Public Service Center (PSC) ) last spring. The Walled Lake, Mich., native participated in CityDays as a freshman last year, but also has a history of public service work. As Executive President of her student council at Walled Lake Central High School, she helped to organize a canned food drive that raised 12,000 pounds of food and $15,000 for the local food pantry.

The love of public service and involvement in her high school student council made Amanda realize that she enjoyed working with people. While originally she intended to study architecture, she decided to pursue an undergraduate management degree instead and is studying architecture on the side for her minor. "I love being able to organize something in the most efficient way, so I thought management would be the best way to do that." Her ultimate goal is to go into project management for an architecture firm.

Coordinating CityDays was fulfilling for Amanda. "I love planning events, and it was just a great opportunity for me to do something that's fun while also coordinating service projects. I know that I can't personally contribute 2,800 hours of community service, but I was able to help facilitate a group that could," she said. CityDays was capably organized, but Amanda admitted that coordinating projects was "trickier" than she anticipated. Many of the organizations can only accommodate a certain number of volunteers simultaneously, and Amanda worked with 44 different contacts across Boston and Cambridge to coordinate 46 volunteer sites. It's also a challenge for non-profits to plan ahead for so many volunteers so much in advance. Projects included cleaning up the Charles River with the Charles River Conservancy, reading stories to children in HeadStart, and painting dorm rooms for CASPAR, a non-profit that provides housing and other services to drug and alcohol addicts. On the appointed day — the Friday of Orientation Week — Amanda was at the helpdesk at the Stratton Student Center fielding phone calls and ensuring that the volunteer projects ran smoothly.

Kristi Gundrum Kebinger, the Volunteer & Outreach Administrator at the MIT PSC, said Amanda's role this year has been priceless. "Amanda was instrumental in serving as the liaison to over 40 community organizations participating in the event. She also helped to secure donations from local companies, lent her artistic hand to designing this year's T-shirt logo, developed a new system to increase the efficiency in getting students to their service placements the day of the event, organized all of the complicated logistics necessary to pull off CityDays, and exhibited significant leadership skills in training group leaders and managing volunteers. The enthusiasm she brought to this project was crucial to her success in recruiting a record number of upperclassman volunteers."

As President of the Class of 2013, Amanda works with seven of her classmates, representing their class of about 1,000 students in the Undergraduate Association. "We organize events with the primary goal of uniting the class. This year, I'm going to be focusing more on bringing the service projects into the class setting because I think that has a wonderful power of bringing people together," she said. Amanda is also in a sorority (Sigma Kappa) and is a Student Ambassador. "I do what I love, so I have a lot of fun with my activities. My extra-curriculars serve as a sanity check," she said. She is also continuing her job with the PSC, working eight hours a week. She's currently wrapping up the final details of the CityDays assignment, but is getting ready to start a new project that will involve working with the FSILG&Ds (Fraternities, Sororities, Independent Living Groups & Dorms). She plans to pilot a public service competition in the spring to get the FSILG&Ds more involved with PSC projects and community service in general. "It will be my role to work with reps from all of these different living groups to gauge their interests and level of commitment to this initiative. From there, I will help develop a program that motivates students the right way to engage in service work." Although CityDays is just a one-day event, Amanda encouraged anyone who's interested in public service work to contactthe center at any time during the year and sign up for the weekly e-mail bulletin that outlines various local volunteer opportunities. "We encourage anyone to stop by the office in 4-104 to get connections to volunteer opportunities of interest. Plus, the staff is very helpful so someone is always willing to talk through ideas you have for a service project," she said. "Service is definitely a two-way street. You learn a lot and it's so uplifting to know that you are making a difference."

This semester David is completing some of her requirements for Course 4, but she already completed a Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) with Professor Denise Lewin Lloyd last semester where she worked on behavioral research for the Organization Studies Group. "It was a great experience to work with her and that's something that I love about MIT Sloan is that you get to participate in the faculty's research," she said.

Amanda is definitely taking advantage of everything the Institute has to offer. She is honored and humbled to be here. "There are so many brilliant people here. It's unbelievably inspiring!"

Read more about students and their public service projects...