Megan Konyndyk / THE EAGLE
More than 600 freshmen participated in this year’s Freshman Service Experience for three days of volunteering, group activities and learning panels encompassing the theme “Keeping the Flame of Service Alive.”
“The goal is for students to get more and more opportunities to continue forming the bonds they have with their sites and to get to know them better,” FSE coordinator Alex Karmazin, a sophomore in the School of International Service, said. “Hopefully they will continue that throughout their time at AU and beyond.”
FSE began with an Opening Ceremony in the Amphitheater, where volunteers gathered to listen to guest speakers President Neil Kerwin, Mary Cheh, the D.C. Councilwoman for Ward 3 and Principal of Bruce Monroe Elementary School Earnest Yombo.
On Day Two, volunteers went to their sites. Groups went to 50 locations in neighborhoods all over D.C., which included Columbia Heights, Brookland and Stanton Park.
Ryan Prendergast, an SIS sophomore, led a group of freshman volunteering at Empodérate, LGBT Latino youth center in Columbia Heights.
“They learned about HIV and STIs and how to use a female condom and dental dam,” Prendergast said.
Other groups volunteered at sites including Bancroft Elementary School, Centronia, Street Sense, Sitar Arts Center and Downtown Clusters Geriatric Day Care.
“The most memorable experience from volunteering was speaking to the elderly about their life experiences,” said FSE group leader Erica Reinhard, a sophomore in SIS whose group volunteered at Iona Senior Services in Tenleytown.
On the final day of FSE, the groups returned to the same sites but helped with different tasks.
“We helped them with clerical tasks on Wednesday and on Thursday we aided in condom distribution around the neighborhood,” said Kevin Levy, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences and SIS and a volunteer at Damien Ministries, a HIV/AIDS victims’ support center.
Volunteers and group leaders both agreed that FSE is not just about volunteering.
“A memorable event in this year’s FSE is when my incoming freshmen participated in a condom relay race at Empodérate Youth Center,” Prendergast said. “One team had to race against one another to see who could put on and remove five condoms on a dildo the quickest.”
FSE came to an end after a final “Champion’s Feast” dinner. The groups then gathered in Bender Arena for the closing ceremonies. Guest speakers included D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Center for Community Engagement and Service Director Marcy Fink Campos and Founder of the Eagle Endowment Program Kimberly Williams.
Norton urged volunteers to go out and act during their time in D.C., as they will not have things handed to them.
Volunteers said their experiences from FSE would influence their future at AU.
“FSE made me realize: not only am I living at AU, but I’m also living in D.C.” Levy said. “It was a wonderful thing that we were able to give back to the community in which we will be living for the next four, five or even six years.”