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Serving Today, Changing Tomorrow

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Leonard Carmichael Society plays a leading role at Tufts University facilitating and promoting the community service of thousands of students.


“Serving Today, Changing Tomorrow,” is the motto of the Leonard Carmichael Society (LCS). The largest student organization on campus, LCS has a clear approach to direct service: student-centered, locally partnered, and, as its 54-year history proves, sustainable.

Housed at Tisch College, the umbrella organization for community service at Tufts includes 30 diverse programs that reflect the interests of the student body and serve many needs in the greater Boston community. Over 1,000 undergraduates volunteer through LCS during the academic year, tutoring and mentoring youth, working on issues of hunger and homelessness, doing health education and outreach, and fundraising for community partners.

Eighty-five student leaders govern LCS, 70 leading specific programs and 15, including two co-presidents, who oversee the coordination of LCS more broadly.

“We help the programs be the best versions of themselves,” said the out-going co-presidents, Shayna Schor, A14, and Zachary Michel, A14. “It’s an awesome thing to get to do.”

Michel cited the tutoring program as an example of LCS building on its strengths.

“The tutoring services are one of LCS’s most popular programs,” he said. “But in the past it’s been entirely based on-campus, which can create access issues. Starting this semester, the Homework Helpers are launching workshops for middle and high school students at the Somerville Public Library, which is right next to Somerville High School. We met with students at the library to find out the kinds of support they want, and one of the most significant things they said was that they prefer to work together in groups with a tutor rather than one-on-one, so that’s what the Homework Helpers will be doing.”

As part of LCS’ sustainability model, they switch co-presidents every January, allowing for smooth transitions during the spring semester. The new co-presidents, Keri Golembeski, A15, and Allison Jorgensen, A15, are eager to build on the accomplishments of Schor and Michel.

“Zach and Shayna really stepped it up,” said Golembeski. “They’ve been so supportive of our coming in, and have given us a complete crash course.”

LCS has been working to support the service of Tufts Athletics and Greek life on campus. Golembeski, a member of the swim team, and Jorgensen, a runner and member of Chi Omega, are furthering those efforts, aiming to partner with the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

They were thoughtful about what makes LCS successful.

“LCS takes the time to go into communities and work with partners to identify needs,” said Jorgensen. “That’s how we can build up programs like Food Rescue, which works with grocery stores, restaurants, and Tufts dining to bring excess food to local homeless shelters.”

“It’s action, but it’s also the mindset,” added Golembeski. “To be successful, we need to have widespread reach and vision.”

Food Rescue is one of the oldest LCS programs. Originally started to bring food that would otherwise have gone to waste from the dining halls to the then newly-opened shelter run by the Somerville Homeless Coalition (SHC), it has expanded in recent years. Golembeski began as a Food Rescue coordinator early in her freshman year.

“We challenged ourselves to identify new sources of food,” she said. “Initially we had high hopes for partnering with more restaurants, but we found that because of liability issues and the tough economy, we weren’t able to recruit very many. It was in talking with people at Food for Free, the rescue program in Cambridge, that we got the idea to approach more grocery stores, which has been very successful. We’ve expanded to farmer’s markets as well, and we’re bringing more food than ever to the SHC, Project Soup, and other shelters.”

In addition to its student leaders, LCS is supported by the Faculty and Staff Advisory Board, which includes professors from multiple departments, and staff from Tisch College, health services, student life, and the director of the Office of Community Relations. Mindy Nierenberg, senior student programs manager at Tisch College, has served on the board for the last nine years.

“It has been especially impressive to see the growth of LCS over the years,” said Nierenberg . “In 2011, Amy Straus, A13, and Kevin Hoang, A12, did an amazing job improving training for volunteers, increasing PR, and further building the organizational structure. This past year, Shayna and Zach were able to build upon the work of Kevin and Amy. They even worked over the summer to make new partnerships on campus and in the community, add programs, and create a new website and view book. The hours Amy, Kevin, Shayna and Zach put into LCS have seemed more like having full time jobs, made possible only by their passion and commitment to the organization. I am sure that Keri and Alli will be adding their marks to LCS as each pair of co-presidents have done.”

Barbara Rubel, director of community relations for Tufts University, considered the lasting effects LCS has had on local communities.

“While the students change nearly every year, the help and support they offer to our host communities goes on,” she said. “The details may change, but Food Rescue, the Boys & Girls Club, the Somerville Homeless Coalition – just to name a few – rely on the energy Tufts student provide through LCS. As the long-time faculty advisor to LCS, I’ve had the opportunity to watch this on-going saga and it is wonderful. Most recently, I’ve heard from a number of organizations in Medford about how helpful the students were in early September through FOCUS, LCS’ five-day pre-orientation program . LCS – Fifty plus years young and still going!”