City Days Leads Students Into CambridgeBy Lawrence K. Chang
MIT students, scattered across Cambridge, cleaned, painted, and helped to maintain schools and hospitals on Saturday during the second part of the year-long City Days program.
The program, sponsored by the Public Service Center, was intended to promote community service and improve community relations.
While City Day One on Sept. 7 arranged for Cambridge elementary schools to come to MIT, City Day Two took MIT students into Cambridge. Over 325 students from 31 different student activities and living groups visited one of two institutional venues to participate in to help clean up and maintain local sites.
About 40 percent of the MIT participants visited Cambridge schools, and 60 percent visited 23 various shelters, hospitals, food pantries, and community centers. The maintenance activities included cleaning buildings, painting rooms, installing computer networks, and sorting clothes.
City Day Two participants from Delta Tau Delta participated in a different activity. The students refereed two-on-two basketball games between middle school and high school students at a Cambridge community center.
"All of the guys had a great time," said Thayne Coffman '95, a DTD brother. "The kids and the workers from the community center were really nice, and we had a lot of fun working with them."
"I'm really happy with the way everything went," said City Day Two coordinator Sabrina Kwon '95. "All the living groups showed up, people had a good time. It makes me feel like it was all worth it."
"It was a good experience, but I would have like to have worked more closely with the kids," said Raj Vazirani '97, from Phi Beta Epsilon.
But, like many volunteers, Vazirani felt a responsibility for the community of Cambridge. "We're going to be here for four years, so we'd like to foster any improvement in the community that we can," he said.
Some City Day Two participants expected to work more closely with Cambridge kids, as they had done in City Days One. "I was disappointed that we weren't able to interact directly with the people of the community," said Alexander Morcos '97, who sorted clothes for a shelter.
Odysseas D. Kostas '95, the City Days coordinator for Baker House, was also disappointed by the MIT student participation. The MIT student turn-out was less than he expected. Still, "the contribution we made was definitely worth it," he said.
The Public Service Center acknowledged certain groups for displaying outstanding student participation and enthusiasm. Among these were Alpha Phi Omega, Alpha Tau Omega, Bexley Hall, Chocolate City, DTD, Kappa Sigma, Lambda Chi, PBE, Phi Kappa Theta, Pi Lambda Phi, and Sigma Nu.
City Day Two was not designed to be a one-day activity, but was intended to be a "springboard for students in general to do public service on a regular basis," Kwon said.
By introducing MIT students to the Cambridge community, City Day organizers hoped to establish relationships on a personal level between MIT and Cambridge community members.
Additionally, while City Days sought to initiate more student volunteering, it also sought to make the community more receptive to student service. "The feedback we have so far has been extremely positive, from both the agencies as well as the students," said Rita Nanda '93, one of the organizers. "We feel that a lot of the students will be continuing on in public service as a result of City Day Two."
The success of City Days this year follows a hectic weekend last year that packed the two events into a single weekend. As a mandatory event for freshmen during Residence and Orientation Week, student participation reached nearly 600.
The program faced problems because many of the agencies involved with MIT were normally closed on Labor Day. In addition, organizers were overwhelmed with two consecutive City Days.
Organizers decided to give students more time this year between the events. Nanda said this year's lower turnout to two factors: the event was not mandatory, and City Day Two was held after classes had started. She added that student participation was comparable to other public service days in the past, and that the scheduling for next year's City Day will depend on the R/O Week schedule.