FSE: a call to act up for change

710 students complete 14,280 hours of service

This year was the 10th anniversary of the Freshman Service Experience. FSE, began as a small group of 30 School of International Service students committed to serving their new community in a way they thought no one else could. However, after 10 years, the program has grown to include 500 freshmen, 75 student leaders, over 50 service sites, and each college with their faculty, administration and staff. In early May, Rick Evanchec, Edythe Anne Cook, Kelly Carter, Andrew Noyes, Dustin Wood and I set out to work on something that soon came to be part of us. We made it a goal to make this year bigger and better -- Bigger spirit, Better lives, and More service!

2000 marked a new era for FSE. This FSE staff felt that no one who wanted to do service should be turned away. They all worked very hard to find 1,065 service spots, allowing us to take our entire waiting list. For the first time in the program's history we broke the 600 mark. 610 members of the class of 2004 were able to participate in FSE along with 100 leaders, over 75 community service sites and faculty as well as administrators from every college completing, in a grand total of more than 14, 280 hours of service to our D.C. community. This year's theme was "Student Activism." We wanted to move students to not just serve, but to fight for a change. In fighting for a change, we thought changing some of the dynamics of our program was called for. Dean's receptions were held and there were two academic based programs this year: globalism and reviving the revolution. Both spoke not only to the theme of student activism but they were also a call to action. In addition, Rick Evanchec, concerned by his experience in a run-down D.C. Public School decided that we should take a stand on education and learning environments. On August 24, about 800 people went into D.C. public schools to paint, clean and garden. The sole purpose of this was to improve the learning environment of a child. This was something we had never done before -- all the FSE participants working on one project to make a difference. The collective effort allowed nine schools to receive volunteers to make the D.C. struggle to open its public schools on time a more realistic goal.

So what you may be asking made this year so special? It's simple -- Enthusiasm. By the end of their week FSE participants had stuffed envelopes, weeded farms, picked vegetables for local food banks, cleaned local area parks, painted D.C. public schools and were still going strong. In the beginning of the week we challenged them to think outside of the box and to look at the reasons why their services were needed. They did. Many of them have made a commitment to continuing the service they began through the week not only to make a difference, but also to make a change.

This was an amazing year for FSE. Participants walked away moved from the experience, ready to make a change. There was an outstanding staff, an amazing set of student leaders, unbelievable support from faculty, administration and staff combined with the most dedicated and spirited group of freshmen the program has ever seen. They have been challenged to "Be the change they want to see in the world." They are off to an awesome start.

By the end of their college careers, the 10th class of the Freshman Service Experience will feed more homeless people, stuff more envelopes, cut more cucumbers, play with more children and senior citizens, paint more walls, and fix more parks than almost any other college graduate in the nation. They are part of a unique group whose purpose is to answer the needs of others and fight for necessary changes. If they lead, leaders will follow.

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