4Boston encounters limitations
Too many applicants leave almost 100 without volunteer placements
Published: Monday, October 2, 2006
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
When 4Boston council leaders found that they had received 407 applications for 277 volunteer placements, they were all in shock - never before had the organization had to reject more than a handful of people due to limited spots. But the 20 placements, which each have their own set ideal number of volunteers, were maxed out.
"It speaks highly about the program itself when in one year there is a 130-person increase in applications," said Lizeth Mora, 4Boston council member and A&S '07. For a program in its 14th year, she said, it is rare to see such a sudden spike in applications.
Crediting good publicity as the main reason for the increased interest, council members also spoke of the reflective aspect of the program as one of the main draws. The 4Boston program, which revolves around a regular volunteer service placement to which each volunteer devotes four hours a week, also includes specified time for group reflection.
"It's about going to do service but then talking about the bigger picture," said Dani Morello, council member and A&S '07. "Your roommates don't always understand the details of your experience at your placement; it's nice to have a group of people who are at the same place and who are so willing and able to understand."
Mora said reflection topics range on issues of social justice dealing with the Boston area but also in the world. "We talk about things that otherwise would be so easy to let slip by," she said.
In order to accommodate the large demand, the 4Boston council will undergo a mid-year reassessment of the program, which will look at individual groups to see if more spots can be added, or to determine if students have left the program. What Morello described as a "mini selection process" will follow, and this is expected to happen at the start of second semester.
In the mean time, council members said they are trying to find ways for students not placed through 4Boston to be able to put their energies to good use. "We are asking if people want to be put on our listserv to communicate events to them," said Morello. "We don't want people to feel like they've been cut off. We want them to apply again next year."
"4Boston is not a club with rules and boundaries," said Mora. "It's a community, and communities are not shut up with boundaries; they expand. We've sent information to people with referrals for other programs."
Indeed, Boston College offers a variety of other resources for students interested in volunteering, as the school has a long history of displaying a spirit of men and women for others. Rev. Joseph Appleyard, S.J., vice president for University Mission and Ministry, said one-third of all students were involved in volunteer service all four years at BC, and three-quarters of students completed two or more years of service. "It's already pretty impressive, but that number is going up," he said.
Appleyard said the need to provide more volunteer opportunities is a concern that has even reached the level of the BC Board of Trustees, as it has been discussed at recent meetings. "How we can meet the demand for more service programs is a challenge," he said. "It ultimately comes down to funding and the ability to line up satisfactory placements. We want volunteering to be a good experience and well-supervised."
Centers like the Volunteer and Service Learning Center (VSLC) have been created with the express purpose of providing more outlets for students, he said. "The VSLC was set up to deal with all-purpose requests for service in the neighborhood. By this way we can deal with the overflow of people who can look at the database for placements."
Dan Ponsetto, director of the VSLC, encouraged students still seeking to get involved to consult the comprehensive VSLC database. "We have community partners who have explained to us who they are and who they want to work for them," he said. "They have all been approved through BC and have different needs. It's the best practical way to go."
He also said enlisting in the Eagle Volunteer Corps (EVC) was the best way to get opportunities through e-mail. "4Boston is just one organization," he said. "We also have Circle K, the Loyola volunteers - there are lots of possibilities."
Appleyard mentioned Appalachia as a way for many freshmen and sophomores to be able to participate in one of the ever-popular service trips. "Appalachia trips try to accommodate everyone," he said. "It's kind of a pressure valve for the international programs."
Both Ponsetto and Appleyard said they would encourage students deterred by the 4Boston application process to find proactive ways to secure alternatives. "If a person really wants to push, they can find something," said Appleyard. "It's a good problem to have - disappointing to students - but with perseverance and coming back, students can get in some service somehow."
"Students won't have trouble finding something meaningful to do," said Ponsetto. "We'll help them find it. There are other groups besides 4Boston, and it says a lot about BC to have to compete for opportunities to serve others."
4Boston council members echoed these statements. "It would be a waste if these students didn't get to do anything with all their energy and excitement," said Morello. "We want to help foster that want to help others."
Said Mora, "We want to keep the candle burning."