Several dozen students attended the Spring Volunteer Fair held on January 27, 2017, one of two such events sponsored annually by the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good. “In the spring we typically aim to attract a lot of first year students, who in September were still figuring out their schedules and their interests,” said Andrew Lardie, the McKeen Center’s associate director. “Now, we hope, they have a clearer idea of what issues they want to get involved with.”
Among the potential volunteers was Erika Kiem ’20, who expressed an interest in tutoring. “I did some tutoring in high school last year and enjoyed it so much I want to do some more,” she said.
Also looking to volunteer with young people was Tim Bulens ’19, a lacrosse player who would like to work “in an academic and an athletic way” with high school kids, or with middle school kids transitioning to high school. “I was at the nonprofit symposium on campus earlier today, and that really got the ball rolling and prompted me to come here,” he said.
Several tutoring groups were present at the fair, including Falcon Friends, which provides mentoring for about thirty fifth-graders at Bowdoinham Community School, located some ten miles from the College.
“We go there Fridays on a bus and hang out with them,” said Meredith Sleeper ’17, a Bowdoin Volunteer Corps mentoring fellow. “I love it because it’s a great way to act like a fifth-grader again, and see what they’re going through.” Furthermore, she added, those weekly trips provide “an excellent escape” from the campus environment.
Anne Gregory ’19 wants to help low-income high school students with their SATs, especially those from Portland’s huge refugee population “who have the odds stacked against them.” She’s with a group called Let’s Get Ready.
“We offer free tutoring for around fifty kids each semester,” she said. “We’re trying to bridge that socio-economic gap that prevents kids from going to the colleges they might deserve to go to.”
Leaf Ma ’18 is seeking volunteers to help a different segment of US society: those behind bars. She’s co-leader of College Guild, a national organization based in Brunswick that provides tutoring help to prisoners. “I am a math major and and economics minor, so this work gives me good exposure to the outside world,” said Ma, who still keeps in touch with a lot of the prisoners she’s helped during her time at Bowdoin.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Hugh Cipparone ’19 is trying to recruit volunteers into the Bowdoin Outdoor Volunteer Association (BOVA). It’s a new group designed to support environmental initiatives in and around Brunswick. “The bread and butter of BOVA,” he said, “is trail work: building trails, clearing trails, stewarding trails. We want to help small environmental groups increase access to public land in the local area.”
Cipparone said he and a co-leader decided to start BOVA after noticing a “hole in environmental groups” on campus. “On the one hand you have Bowdoin Climate Action—which has large-scale policy-based goals like divestment—and on the other you have Green Bowdoin, which promotes sustainability on campus.”
But he said there wasn’t much in the way of hands-on, outside work, breaking the so-called “Bowdoin bubble” and tapping into the College’s passion for the environment and for community service. He said the group would like to recruit ten to twenty volunteers to work on various projects. Talking to Cipparone was first year Alex Kogan. who said he was tempted by BOVA.
“The prospect of working outside sounds interesting,” he said. “But I think I’m leaning more towards tutoring and mentoring, because I enjoyed doing that at High School.”