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CityDays At Record Turnout

By Kathy Lin

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

A record 833 people are expected to attend tomorrow’s twelfth annual CityDays, a campus-wide event run by the MIT Public Service Center that places students at community agencies for a day of service.

“CityDays is a great opportunity for us as students to give back to the community while learning about the city around us,” wrote Vincent Chen ’05, this year’s CityDays coordinator, in the CityDays pamphlet.

In 2001, about 400 students participated. Last year, just over 600 students participated -- a number that was considered “really large” at the time, said Assistant Director of the Public Service Center Jill E. Soucy.

“I’m really excited about the great turnout,” Chen said.

The increase in student participation may partially be due to the registration process. “Last year, for the first time, we sent out information about CityDays to every freshman, and they could sign up before they came to MIT,” Soucy said.

This year the freshmen were required to check off whether or not they wanted to participate in CityDays as part of an Orientation form, she said.

Although upperclassmen were once the majority of students participating in CityDays, those demographics have shifted since new rules regulating fraternity rush during Orientation were imposed last year, Soucy said. This year, about three-fourths of the participants are freshmen.

In addition, the high “freshmen participation rate ... means we don’t have as many slots for upperclassmen,” Soucy said. Participation numbers are limited by the number of t-shirts ordered and the number of participating organizations. About 50-60 interested students had to be turned down this year, Chen said. The Public Service Center has been offering to help upperclassmen set up similar community service events for their groups.

Service opportunities may grow

Whether or not the Public Service Center’s programs keep growing “depends on our resources because the interest is definitely there,” Soucy said. They have also considered doing CityDays spin-offs, such as one-day events during the year, a multiple-day CityDays, and a CityDays that include not just students, but the entire MIT community.

A major event this year is the Parrot Head Regatta, a benefit for the disabled sponsored by Easter Seals. Volunteers will help staff the event, at which participants who raised the $250 entry fee will build and compete in boats made of only duct tape and wood.

An organization that often participates in CityDays is the Greater Boston Food Bank, Soucy said. It’s “a great place for people to turn manual labor into something fun and meaningful, and many people who go there during CityDays often organize future trips there,” she said.

Freshmen will participate in CityDays with their Orientation groups. Their CityDays t-shirts will allow students onto Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority transportation for free during CityDays hours.