On December 13th, 2013, I received my offer of admission to NYU–and I knew that my life would never be the same. While the classes I have taken, the clubs I am active in, and the all-nighters I have pulled are an integral part of my NYU experience, the service community at NYU has had the biggest impact on me.
I have been working on service projects and giving back to the community since I was in elementary school, as an aide to my grandmother who ran a program for those experiencing hunger and homelessness in my hometown, Washington, D.C. After confirming my enrollment to NYU, I became aware of a service-learning program called Project OutReach through an alumnus of my high school, who had participated in OutReach the previous fall. I learned that OutReach was a pre-orientation program where 100 incoming first year and transfer students participated in service projects around the city centered on a variety of prevalent social issues including hunger and homelessness, HIV/AIDS, and education. I knew that I wanted to try to immerse myself in a community as soon as possible, and OutReach seemed like the perfect way to do that.
That week was super enlightening and transformative for me as I was being put into situations where I had to voice my opinions in a tactile and compassionate way, work with individuals who had a very different way of thinking than me, and embrace not knowing the correct answer. I established connections with people from what seems like every corner of NYU and I found some of my best friends, all because of OutReach.
These lessons stuck have with me through my Alternative Breaks trip to Biloxi, Mississippi during the Spring Break of my first year. My group members and I spent a week working with organizations battling hunger and homelessness. While on our trip we were also able to work alongside and have conversations with individuals that were still in the process of putting their lives back together, almost a decade after Hurricane Katrina. My group formed strong bonds with each other and members of the Biloxi community, and that experience is something I’ll never forget.
While programs like Project OutReach and Alternative Breaks are not for everyone, if you are looking to simultaneously get involved with community service and social justice related issues and find a since of community within NYU, they are a perfect fit.