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At Your Service

Kids' Day 2006Through Tufts' Leonard Carmichael Society – the largest student-run organization on campus – students are giving back to communities in need.


It's a proposal Arielle Traub won't soon forget: the shy preschooler she had been mentoring mustered up the courage to "pop the question." Looking back at her small suitor, who claimed he wanted to marry her some day, Traub knew that all of the hours spent playing with dinosaurs and trucks had made an impact. "It was the cutest thing," the Tufts junior said with a smile. "Four-year olds can make your day."

It's that feeling that occurs when you know you've played a meaningful role in someone else's life that inspires Traub. As co-president of Tufts' community service–focused Leonard Carmichael Society (LCS) – the largest student-run group on campus with nearly 1,000 members – she knows that hundreds of other students at Tufts are driven by that same desire to make a difference, whether it's in their own backyard or hundreds of miles away.

"I think LCS represents the best of Tufts and has for many years."

— Barbara Rubel, Director of Community Relations

"It really seems like people come to Tufts for the community service that it offers," said Traub, who was active in community service in high school and wanted to continue to volunteer in college.

A staple at Tufts for nearly 50 years, LCS was exactly the type of organization Traub was looking for during her college search. Through LCS, students can participate in a variety of community service projects addressing issues of hunger, homelessness, youth mentoring, literacy, education and health. Students can also spearhead their own initiatives through LCS.

For some students, like Traub and her fellow co-president Garen Nigon, the connection with LCS begins early in their Tufts' experience, with the Freshman Orientation Community Service (FOCUS) program, a one-week, pre-orientation volunteer opportunity for incoming students. Nigon, a junior, coordinated last summer's FOCUS program after participating as a freshman.

"That is my major involvement with LCS," explained Nigon, whose role in LCS has evolved since he and Traub took over as co-presidents in January. The pair now spends less time doing hands-on community service work, and more time keeping LCS and its 30-plus individual community service projects up and running.

Taking on a leadership role within LCS "challenges you to be responsible for something and it also challenges you to do it yourself," Nigon said. "If you want to make a difference, then you have to motivate yourself."

No one can argue that Nigon and Traub – and the other 10 members of LCS' directional staff – aren't motivated. In addition to their studies, social lives and other extracurricular activities, the co-presidents spend four to five hours a day working together in the LCS office, which is nestled in the basement of the Lincoln Filene Center next to a program with a similar mission: Tufts' Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.

"I am just consistently overwhelmed and in awe of the amount of work that it takes to run LCS," said Mindy Nierenberg, student programs manager for Tisch College. "They draw great students who are really committed to making a difference in the communities around Tufts."

Nierenberg, along with a variety of other Tufts faculty and staff, sits on an LCS advisory board charged with providing guidance and support to the group.

"I view them as being completely unique and student driven and seeking ways to make a difference. I see them as being something that fits so completely with the mission of Tisch College," she said.

Like Nierenberg, Tufts Director of Community Relations Barbara Rubel sees a natural tie between her job and the mission of LCS.

"Their work is so connected to what I do," said Rubel, who has been a member of the LCS faculty/staff advisory board for more than a decade. "I think LCS represents the best of Tufts and has for many years."

Rubel points out that the organization's commitment to community service "predates the formal adoption of public service and citizenship as part of Tufts' mission. It's an organization that has been here doing all this work for all this time, providing wonderful opportunities and experiences for students, as well as a huge benefit for all different aspects of the community."

LCS sponsors a variety of ongoing and annual projects, including Kids' Day, an opportunity for local children to come to campus for a day of entertainment and fun; the Special Friends program, which pairs student-mentors with children at the Tufts Educational Day Care Center; the Hospitals program, which matches students with medical and non-medical volunteer positions at local hospitals; the Faculty Waits On You Dinner & Auction, an event to help raise money for the Somerville Homeless Coalition; and National Student Partnerships, which connects members of the community with resources available to them, such as assistance in job searching and resume writing.

Another initiative – Volunteer Vacations – provides students with an opportunity to spend their school breaks doing community service in different areas of the country. In January, members of LCS organized one of the group's most successful Volunteer Vacations to date – a trip to Mississippi where more than 100 Tufts students and alumni joined forces to clean up communities affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Nierenberg pointed out that a small group of students pulled the Mississippi trip together in record time and inspired more than 100 of their peers to join them. "I think it's something that only LCS could have done," she said.

With this range of opportunities, LCS appeals to the interests of students across the University. "It's diverse. I think there's a place for everyone in LCS," Traub said. "If you are interested in working with children, if you are interested in the environment, if you are interested in working with the elderly, LCS serves a very diverse population whose needs aren't being met by anyone else."

Nierenberg agrees that while students gain valuable community service experience, the communities where they serve also reap the benefits.

"The students provide services that would be left undone otherwise," Nierenberg said. "These are college students with a lot of enthusiasm, passion and resources to share and that they are going out and giving of themselves is important."


Profile written by Meghan Mandeville

Homepage photo by Melody Ko, University Photographer. Photo of Kids' Day 2006 by Brian Loeb (A'06).

This story originally ran on June 5, 2006.