PKG Center Connects MIT Students
with Broader Community Needs
As the now frequent MIT Alert emails demonstrate, staff and faculty have worked from their home offices and kitchen tables to help thousands of students to move off campus at short notice, quickly translate curriculum to virtual formats, provide essential medical services while protecting patients and practitioners, and a thousand other challenges that we hadn’t anticipated at the start of the semester.
While we settle into our new normal, the MIT community is also thinking about how to support our broader communities as businesses are shuttered and income streams suddenly disappear. Social media feeds are full of ideas for quick actions that we can take to help support employees of local businesses:
- Buy restaurant gift certificates and order curbside pickup from those that have transitioned to takeout (leaving a tip if you are able);
- Continue paying gym memberships while you run around the park and do crunches in your living room;
- Make kid-friendly virtual lessons about your academic area for those who are homeschooling and working from home.
All good ideas, but this is also a critical time to support and learn more about the nonprofit and government agencies who work with vulnerable populations year-round and are rising to the current challenges. At the Priscilla King Gray Center for Public Service (PKG Center), we’re putting together resources for helping others during a public health crisis and connecting students to summer work with social impact agencies. We’ll be sharing these with the MIT community, but also ask for your connections and suggestions to help us develop the resources.
First a quick introduction for those who don’t know us: The PKG Center builds on MIT students’ unique skills and interests and prepares them to address complex social and environmental challenges. We educate students to collaborate ethically and effectively with community partners in order to engage in meaningful public service, today and in their lives beyond MIT.
We help students connect with a wide variety of public service projects in local, national, and global communities. We also provide guidance — and often funding — for their projects.
To do this, we collaborate with a diverse set of community agencies (non-profits, public agencies, social enterprises, corporate social responsibility divisions, and others) whose missions and values align with our own and who see mutual value in working with MIT students to address community challenges and opportunities. Many agencies are flipping their usual work modes to support their clients while following social distance regulations and are devising creative ways that the public can volunteer remotely. We’ll be adding these to an online resource library of practical opportunities to support the work of local agencies as well as articles on best practices and self-care for volunteers.
Here are some ideas for starters:
- Connect students to paid social impact work. Many of our students were depending on MIT programs or corporate internships for summer income and are now facing significant financial hardship as a result of program cancellations and office closures.
At the PKG Center, we are connecting students with social impact agencies for paid remote internships over the summer with up to 75% of the student wages coming from Federal Work-Study or PKG Center funds. If you collaborate with a great social impact agency in your work or personal life and you think they would value the input of an MIT student (or two!) over the summer, please let us know. We are particularly interested in opportunities related to computational tech for the social good, health, and climate change, but all ideas are welcomed. For the time being, we are focusing on work that can be done remotely, but also appreciate contacts for in-person opportunities for the future. You can learn more here and use this form to share contacts and ideas.
If you know students whose summer plans have fallen through and who would be interested in a paid social impact internship, please ask them to complete this form and direct them to the guide to helping students find summer opportunities produced by our colleagues at CAPD.
- Connect your team and stay fit. Work groups from across MIT are getting creative about how to stay connected and keep positive team dynamics while working from home and many are sharing their tips and resources for staying fit while gyms and fitness studios are closed. Consider contracting Kendall Square favorite InnerCity Weightlifting to help you do both at once! InnerCity Weightlifting reduces community violence by connecting victims of trauma and racial segregation to new opportunities, including meaningful career tracks in and beyond personal training. Although their gym is closed, you can hire trainers for virtual group workouts or purchase workout videos of routines that can be done at home without equipment. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- PKG webinar. Many of us are asking how we can use our skills to help others in these new circumstances. We want to support those around us, respond to urgent community needs, and connect with others. You may have joined us for a webinar recently where we shared ideas and resources to support our local communities and to aid in combatting the impacts of Covid-19. We will have a closed-captioned recording available soon at http://pkgcenter.mit.edu/ and may offer new webinar dates as more opportunities to help emerge. Together, with community-informed perspectives, we can support our neighbors and each other.
- Resource Library. We are collaborating with colleagues at other higher education social impact centers to produce a resource library of practical opportunities and best practices for local community engagement. Access the work in progress library here: