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Will Freeman, A16
Photo: Robert Caplin


Summer of Good Works


Will Freeman, A16, arrived in midtown Manhattan this past summer with the charge of developing a ten-week educational program for underserved youth. A newcomer to New York City, he crafted a series of thoughtful field trips that took as many as thirty children between eight and twelve years old to a range of places that matched weekly themes such as the environment and the arts. Destinations included Union Square Farmer’s Market, the Brooklyn Grange (home of the world’s largest rooftop farm), and an exhibition of Maurice Sendak’s art at the DiMenna Children’s History Museum.

Freeman led the outings in his role as program coordinator for Summer in the City, a project of the Fiver Children’s Foundation, which has an ambitious agenda but a staff of only ten people. “I was given tremendous freedom and responsibility, and I really appreciated that,” he says. “I wanted to do real hands-on work, and because the Fiver Foundation is small, I had a chance to work closely with everyone.”

Freeman was one of more than sixty Tufts students who had the opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills as they explored their call to service through the 2013 Active Citizenship Summer Fellowship Program at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. The program offers stipends to student interns placed in Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and selected international locations, as well as New York City.

Thanks to a $1 million gift from the James and Judith K. Dimon Foundation, this summer’s placements more than doubled in New York and grew at a similar pace in Massachusetts. “We hope we can give more Tufts students the chance to become active and engaged citizens,” says Jamie Dimon, A78, chair, president, and CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

The fellowships allow students who might otherwise need a paying job to devote their summer to public service. The program also connects students with alumni mentors in their host cities.

Nancy Wilson, dean ad interim of Tisch College, says the funding gives a welcome boost to a program that immerses students in addressing such problems as poverty, illiteracy, and child labor. “There is a tremendous demand from Tufts students to work closely with organizations tackling complex social issues,” she says. “They want to develop the skills to be part of the solution.”

The Fiver Children’s Foundation, where Freeman interned, pledges ten years of free, comprehensive support and personalized guidance year round to children who are referred by partner organizations. Children enter the program at age eight and graduate at eighteen. The foundation takes its name from the intuitive young rabbit in Richard Adams’ novel Watership Down. It is Fiver who, convinced of dangers ahead, leads a small band of rabbits to search for a better future in a new home.

“I helped bring young children into the Fiver culture and prepare them for the years ahead at Fiver,” says Freeman. “The seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds display a great degree of maturity. Many are headed to college and clearly have the motivation to match their great ambitions.”

Freeman, who expects to double-major in international relations and political science, says working with Fiver also helped him explore why he’s drawn to active citizenship. “I’m motivated by a desire to expand my perspectives, to build connections,” he says. “I love interacting with lots of different people. That’s something I’ve more clearly defined for myself, and it’s an important outcome that I will carry with me.”

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