At local Mass. college, service is “a part of life.”

March 9, 2010 at 11:56 am 2 comments

Babson students volunteering at The Giving Factory

Our featured Guest Blogger this week, Cheryl LaMee-Ludwig is a freelance writer based in Wellesley.  In addition to being the mother of a teen and a tween, she is the founder and President of National Charity League’s Wellesley Chapter, co-chair of the Community Service Club at WMS, an avid fan of Cradles to Crayons and a regular contributor to The Wellesley Townsman, the Needham Times and the Wayland Town Crier. LaMee-Ludwig’s first post for us was “Wellesley, Babson College Set the Bar High for Volunteering.”  

One of Wellesley’s most creative neighbors is Babson College.  While most envision Babson as an incubator for America’s best young entrepreneurs, the Bernon Center for Public Service at Babson extends this often business-centric notion to include social entrepreneurship.  In just 10 years, the Bernon Center has grown… 

…to a service organization donating 25,000 hours annually to making a difference in the lives of others.  Every organization and sports team at Babson does a service project annually.  This translates to nearly 1,500 of Babson’s 1,900 students giving service hours each year.  

The Center’s Director, Lisa Thomas, has been at Bernon since its inception, so she has witnessed the service explosion first-hand.  Thomas describes hers as “the best job in the world,” where she continually looks for organizations that are a good fit for her student population.  “They love going places as a group, enjoy projects that are very hands on and making a direct impact.”  Two such organizations are Habitat for Humanity and Cradles to Crayons.  The Bernon Center and the Babson Chapter of Habitat for Humanity make four house-building trips each year, including two to El Salvador.  Closer to campus, Thomas and her team travel to The Giving Factory at Cradles to Crayons in Quincy, where 40-some students sort clothing and toys to be distributed to Massachusetts children in low-income families.  They have been visiting Cradles to Crayons for the past six years.  “It’s just a really good fit.  The students go four to six times a year.  Not only do Thomas and her team continually evaluate the fit of the organization, they also analyze the percent of every dollar the partner organization passes on to their target population.  “We have denied organizations that only donate a few pennies on the dollar to help others.”  

Service is such a part of Babson life that their exposure begins the summer before they start classes, at Friends and Family Day.  This past summer, the group of 90 opened Camp Harbor View, located on Long Island in Boston Harbor.    Operated by Boys & Girls Club Boston, the day camp is open to children ages 11-14 who come from every neighborhood in Boston.  Beyond the Friends and Family Day event, first year students participate in a service project and finally in FME, Foundation Management and Entrepreneurship.  Through FME, Babson students are able to impact many populations, including teaching computer skills to senior citizens through Wellesley Council on Aging, high school tutoring and SAT prep at Wellesley and Needham Housing Authority, and preparing the food pantry at the Greater Boston Food Bank.  Other students take an academic service trip to Ghana with Dean of the Undergraduate School, Dennis Hanno. 

Also offering his full support to the Bernon Center and its mission is Wellesley resident, John Whitman.  Dr. Whitman’s areas of expertise include Social Entrepreneurship.  An adjunct lecturer at Babson, Whitman’s current research examines systems for pulling individuals out of homelessness enabling them to be self-supporting.  Working with Dr. Whitman is undergraduate Nicole Smith.  “I feel that learning about others, being considerate and understanding, and being educated about other cultures and ways of life, are some of the most important skills anyone can hold – not only in business but in life.”

Looking forward, the Bernon Center has just named its first ten “Bernon Scholar” recipients.  These students not only have over 200 hours of service to others, they have participated in courses with a service component (on campus or offshore), have immersion service experience, and will attend a retreat with all Bernon Scholar recipients.  As a capstone, the Scholars will participate in “Be The Change,” a senior- year course and project that reinforces their position as socially responsible leaders.

[ed note: Babson College recently received national recognition for its community service. You can read about it here].

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Entry filed under: Community Involvement - Boston, Guest Blogger. Tags: , , , .

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