Students participate in President’s Day of Service

By GRETA MARAS | September 26, 2019

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COURTESY OF SIGMA CHI Student groups, like fraternity Sigma Chi, volunteered in Baltimore.

The Center for Social Concern (CSC) organized the 11th annual President’s Day of Service (PDOS) last Saturday. The CSC serves as the University’s hub of civic engagement and service for all Hopkins students, housing over 50 student organizations that offer a wide variety of opportunities, ranging from tutoring children to volunteering with local nonprofits.

In 2009, University President Ronald J. Daniels’ first year in his position, he transformed what had begun in 1997 as an orientation event for freshmen into a University-wide day of service. This year’s PDOS enlisted more than 800 volunteers at 38 community partner sites.

PDOS began on Saturday morning as volunteers gathered at the Beach, Mason Hall and the Recreation (Rec) Center. Once t-shirts were distributed and groups were assembled, each team departed via bus to their assigned site. Students were placed all across the city from about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The projects varied, from cleaning up vacant housing lots to painting an elementary school to canvassing about programming in local neighborhoods.

Junior Justin Sech, a PDOS team leader, explained his team’s project in an email to The News-Letter

“This year my team and I worked with No Boundaries Coalition to canvas in Central West Baltimore to get direct feedback from community members about their neighborhood, and what No Boundaries Coalition can do to help,” Sech wrote. 

Sech participated in his third PDOS this year and commented on how it differed from his past PDOS experiences.

“This was my first year not doing landscaping work. I personally enjoy doing yard work outside as it’s a good change of scenery and break from the Hopkins campus,” he wrote. “But in terms of service, this year I enjoyed having conversations with Baltimore residents who I would likely never have had any interactions with outside of this year’s PDOS.”

Freshman Lubna Azmi discussed her team’s service project in an email to The News-Letter. Azmi worked with the Peoples Homesteading Group, which operates out of Greenmount West, a neighborhood near the Homewood Campus.

“They do repairs and renovations of vacant homes to resell to members of the community. We cleared a lot and an alley behind the homes to initiate the beginning of the projects,” Azmi wrote. 

She reflected on service and community after her first PDOS experience. 

“It was really refreshing getting into the community, both for physically getting off campus and for getting more insight into Baltimore,” she wrote. “Service makes the world go around. It’s not just about offering time and energy to a community, but becoming a member of that community through that process, and continuing to learn to help in a sustainable way.”

After PDOS ended at around 1 p.m., the groups poured back onto campus and into the Rec Center. The volunteers were greeted with a picnic-style lunch, complete with sandwiches and cookies. At each table, teams and team leaders reflected on the work they had completed, all while enjoying some refreshments. 

Azmi further commented on the role of Hopkins students in the Baltimore community regarding service. 

“I think that as Hopkins students, we shouldn’t just be temporary residents of Baltimore. We need to work WITH Baltimore, not just offer our help,’” she wrote. “We need to make an effort to understand why we are doing what we are doing, how we can work with the community, and finally, doing that.” 

Soon after, staff members of the CSC and President Daniels took the stage and offered their own insights into what the President’s Day of Service meant to them. Students were also given the opportunity to learn more about other CSC programs at information tables, such as the Tutorial Project, Baltimore First and Hopkins Votes.

Student Leadership Specialist Gerrod Williamson reflected on how he views the importance of this day of service. 

“I think it’s a time that we get to pause and actually engage in our community and reflect on those activities that we’ve done on this day,” he said.

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