NU Service Day brings students into community

The neighborhoods around campus, which can sometimes feel a bit sleepy on a weekend morning, were bustling with activity Saturday when 442 students participated in NU Service Day, an annual event that supports community organizations across the city.

“It’s a great way to do something good and represent Northeastern in the community,” said Hannah Bialic, a freshmen biochemistry major who volunteered at the Symphony Road Community Garden in the Fenway neighborhood, where students helped with an annual autumn cleanup, removing weeds and garbage that had accumulated over the summer months.

Residents said the event provided students and neighbors — many of whom often have limited interaction despite sharing close quarters — an opportunity to get to know one another better and establish new relationships.

“Getting students out here through an event like this does a lot to bridge the divide that sometimes exists,” said Matt Phillips, who with his wife, Caroline, manages the garden. “Today we’re cleaning up trash and making friends at the same time.”

The service day, sponsored by Northeastern’s Center of Community Service, saw 1,425 service hours completed at 27 sites across the city, including United South End Settlements, Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, St. Ambrose Family Shelter, Room to Grow and People Making a Difference.

Global Pathways student Yue Yu sorts donated books at Room to Grow.

At Room to Grow — an organization that helps to enrich the lives of babies born into poverty through social support and with donated items like clothing, toys and books — co-op student Olivia Gonsalves oversaw a team of volunteers sorting and organizing donations.

“A lot of our clients may not be able to shop on Newbury Street, but we want them to still have the best for their baby,” said Gonsalves, a fourth-year cultural anthropology major who worked Saturday helping volunteers stock the shelves at Room to Grow’s Back Bay headquarters, which simultaneously resembles a boutique and welcoming social- services office.

Ann Nguyen, who is studying accounting through the Global Pathways program, said volunteering at Room to Grow let her learn more about the community that exists beyond Northeastern’s borders.

“I got to know more about this organization,” Nguyen said, “and I’m working with a great team, enjoying myself very much.”

Freshman nursing student Kayla Sullivan labels items in a classroom at the United South End Settlements Early Childhood Education space during NU Service Day.

A few blocks away, a team of freshmen volunteered at United South End Settlement’s Children’s Arts Centre and South End House, which houses the nonprofit organization’s early childhood education center and afterschool programs.

“This has been a great opportunity to not just help out in the community, but to learn a lot about this organization and all the amazing work they do,” said freshman Kayla Sullivan, a nursing major. “A day like this reminds you that you’re not just here at Northeastern — you’re part of this great community.”