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City Day One Promotes Service

By Sarah Y. Keightley
News Editor

Along with 820 other MIT students, I got to experience being a kid again at City Day One, held here at MIT on Tuesday.

For the second annual City Days, 530 Cambridge school children came to MIT to participate in student-run activities ranging from educational projects to arts and crafts to sports. Mainly freshmen took part in City Day One, but some upperclassmen volunteered their time as well.

As a coordinator of a group, I found my experience really worthwhile. Half of my group made buttons, while the other half took 12 fourth and fifth graders to four other activities. By the end of the afternoon, we got to know one another. There was Kate, who wanted to be an actress and was interested in environmental causes, like saving the rain forests. And there was Benjamin, with his fake tattoo; and Jean, who was kind of quiet, but whose face lit up when we mentioned sports.

In our first activity, the children worked in pairs to build the highest tower possible out of a sheet of paper and 12 inches of tape. The kids put forth a good effort.

Our second stop was our group's button-making station. Both the kids and the college students enjoyed making personalized buttons.

One of the girls, Robin, had no idea what to draw for her button. I was helping her come up with ideas, and we started talking. I discovered she was born with a heart defect and had already had three heart operations. She was only ten years old. Robin had been through more than a lot of people my age; yet she was still a happy, normal kid. She finally decided to draw a smiley face.

After lunch, the group had two sports activities. Some of us decided to sit at the sidelines and cheer rather than play -- we were getting worn out. All of these kids bursting with energy definitely made me feel old.

The festivities ended with a pizza party. Things got a bit out of hand when some of the kids started playing with the extra Diet Cokes: shaking up a can and puncturing it. Even amid the pandemonium, my group found me, and I was able to get them on their bus.

City Days "gives you an honest picture of what it's like to work with kids," said Ateev Mehrotra '94, who worked part-time over the summer to help coordinate City Day One.

I realized that City Days was not about exposing the kids to science and technology, but rather about exposing them to us -- MIT students. The children looked to us as role models. We made a little difference in these kids' lives for this one day.

Moreover, many of the freshmen in my group were excited by working with the kids and hoped to continue volunteering at the elementary school throughout the year in the LINKS program.

City Days is for fun, but its main purpose is to be "a launching board for longterm service," Mehrotra said.

Service continues during year

City Days is a Public Service Center program made up of three parts: City Day One, where the children come to MIT; City Day Two, where the MIT students go out into Cambridge; and LINKS, where MIT students volunteer at a Cambridge elementary school on a weekly basis, according to City Days Chair Gwendolyn K. Lee '95.

The purpose of the City Days program is to "try to get MIT students to be involved with public service, with an emphasis on education," Lee said. The kids benefit because they are exposed to science and are encouraged to stay in school; and the MIT students benefit because they learn more about Cambridge and its residents, she added.

Lee called City Day One a success. "The kids had a lot of fun, and so did the MIT students." The Public Service Center also sponsors the LINKS program, now in its second year, which enables MIT students to help out in a class or with after-school activities on a weekly-basis.

City Day Two, where MIT students go out into the Cambridge community to do volunteer work, will take place on Oct. 2. It will be replacing what used to be Public Service Day, Lee said.

Last year, City Days One and Two took place within a two-day period. This year, the two days are separated by a month to make it less tiring for the freshmen, and so that more upperclassmen can get involved, Lee said.