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Lending a helping hand in the community

While Northeastern student Stephanie Silveira was volunteering at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood this semester, a fourth-grader in her classroom approached her with a problem: The girl was scared to read her essay in front of the class. So Silveira calmly took her outside and asked her to first read the essay aloud only to her.

“She needed that confidence to have someone tell her that her essay was good so she could read it in front of the class,” Silveira said.

This is just one example of how Silveira, a senior psychology major, has been making a difference in the community through Northeastern’s Husky Volunteer Team. The program, which began in 2008 and is run through the Center of Community Service, pairs groups of students with community partners each semester. Groups typically visit community organizations once a week to volunteer in ways such as tutoring in after-school programs with kids, visiting elderly residents and preparing and distributing meals to the needy.

Through the program, students learn about social issues within Boston’s neighborhoods while also working toward creating positive change. Student involvement is also on the rise: 32 students participated in the spring semester, and 51 joined in Summer I.

“Our students form strong bonds with these community organizations and often find ways to keep volunteering there after their programs end,” said Sydney Palinkas, a program assistant in the Center of Community Service who coordinates the Husky Volunteer Team. “It’s also a great way for students to meet new people on campus.”

Silveira agreed, adding that the program allows students to become engaged in the communities surrounding campus. She’s been a Husky Volunteer Team member for at least one semester the last four years. Her first experience involved running a health and nutrition group for girls at the Deerborn Middle School in Roxbury.

Josh Mavilia, a third-year criminal justice major at Northeastern, just finished his first semester as a team member. He volunteered in the gymnasium at the Yawkey Boys & Girls Club in Roxbury, where he and another Northeastern student helped run sports programs.

Mavilia, who plays intramural soccer at Northeastern and participates in a men’s hockey league outside the university, worked with kids on baseball hitting and fielding drills and helped introduce many of the youth to the game of soccer.

Mavilia also recalled poking his head into the Boys & Girls Club’s music room on one afternoon to witness another Husky Volunteer Team member helping kids play the piano and improve their singing skills.

“It’s been incredibly rewarding,” Mavilia said. “The Yawkey Club has been fantastic, and the kids are really grateful. It’s been great seeing them improve in their sports, too.”

The deadline for Northeastern students to submit applications to become Husky Volunteer Team members for the Summer II semester is Monday, June 25. Applications are available on the Center of Community Service’s website.