Service groups face challenges during summer

by Roshan Dutta | 7/24/14 8:49pm

With a large portion of the student body off campus this summer, some Dartmouth community service groups face smaller memberships and cancelled projects, students and administrators interviewed said. While several service organizations are no longer active during the summer, six student leaders from various service groups noted that a lower enrollment and increased focus on activities other than service have made it difficult for organizations to maintain typical levels of involvement.

Tucker Foundation program officer for local community service Tracy Dustin-Eichler said that approximately 18 to 19 of the 28 local service programs on campus are still running over the summer. Dustin-Eichler added that school-centric organizations, like America Reads and Outdoor Leadership Experience, do not run during the summer because school is not in session. This means that students cannot participate in about a third of local service groups.

During the summer term, Dustin-Eichler said, she expects volunteers to perform about 6,000 to 8,000 hours of community service. In a typical fall term, she said, 12,000 hours are logged.

Sara Trautz ’15, a member of Dartmouth’s Habitat for Humanity group, said that as her organization witnessed less student involvement, several organizational activities had to be canceled.

“It was difficult — Habitat expects [a certain number of people],” Trautz said. “They’re used to it. When we had to cancel because only one person signed up, they said, ‘Okay, send us more next week.’”

Growing Change co-chair Nina Dewees ’16 said that her group, which focuses on introducing fourth graders to healthy, sustainable lifestyles through gardening, is also experiencing a shortage of volunteers over the summer.

“During the year we get to work with the kids and not having that in the summer has really made it difficult to get volunteers to come to meetings,” she said. “Even without the kids there, we have to take care of the gardens over the summer but we’re having a serious difficulty getting our active volunteers to help.”

Groups like Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth that see increased involvements over the summer help students maintain service.

“Service is very difficult to organize, but for me, and many people I know, having SEAD was a great way to take place of normally scheduled activities,” Laura Vang ’15 said.Vang said that while service organizations must face the reality of a less committed student body, some programs, particularly through Tucker, have been well-staffed.

“Tucker programs continue on, and they get enough applicants that they turn people away,” Vang said.

Greek organizations participation was also seen as a factor in helping to maintain commitment to service.

Trautz said that Habitat for Humanity was heavily dependent on Greek organizations to send out volunteers en masse.

The Haven Cooking Program co-chair John Burgoyne ’15 echoed this sentiment, noting that Greek organizations allow students to bring a close-knit group of friends and feeling of community to service.

Keeping sophomores involved in service over the summer, Burgoyne said, was vital to maintaining institutional memory. Burgoyne said the best way to get students involved was to foster an informal setting with an emphasis on group fun.

“Summer, with such a small number of people on campus, is such an opportunity for growth because we can try to reach more people, thereby raising awareness with a higher percentage of people on campus,” Burgoyne said. “Then if we succeed, we will have a2016 class that can help encourage service in the fall term.”

Sean Connolly and Amelia Rosch contributed reporting.