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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 7, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 2
Getting Involved in Baltimore

At Adopt-A-Block's Greenmount Avenue site, Steve Garber and Margaret Paek were among the Johns Hopkins freshmen sorting clothing for those in need.

The class of 2008 learns firsthand about nearby volunteer opportunities

By Jessica Valdez
Special to The Gazette

Yasmene Mumby leaned from the stoop of a boarded-up rowhouse on St. Paul Street and tried to peek into the house's barred window. The 18-year-old said the house was empty: "We're learning how one block can be totally destroyed," she said, surprised to find an entire stretch of dilapidated buildings.

Mumby, who grew up in Ellicott City, had never ventured into the streets of Baltimore until Wednesday, when she went out to survey the conditions of residences for the Charles Village Community Benefits District.

She's one of 280 Johns Hopkins freshmen who volunteered in the community Sept. 1 as part of the annual freshman day of service, INVOLVED 2004. The students participated in as many as 20 projects: They painted bathrooms in Margaret Brent Elementary School, shelved books at the Book Thing, sorted clothing at Adopt-A-Block and weeded the back lot of the Village Learning Place.

"It's important to get the kids out in the neighborhood," said Peter Duvall, the Charles Village Community Benefits District housing coordinator, who helped Mumby and two other freshmen survey homes on the outskirts of Charles Village.

The day of service has undergone a name change and a facelift since it was founded five years ago by a Hopkins undergraduate. Now called INVOLVED, the service day seeks to get freshmen engaged with community volunteer projects for all four years of their education.

This year, most sites are within walking distance so that students can continue to volunteer throughout the year, said project coordinator and senior David McGovern.

At Hopkins, where many students never leave campus, INVOLVED gets freshmen out in the community during their first week of school.

"Immediately, frosh will be walking to places most students don't go," said Matthew D'Agostino, assistant director of the university's Center for Social Concern, which oversees INVOLVED. He said the service day also helps maintain good will between the community and the university, even as far south as the People's Homesteading Group on North Avenue.

There, a handful of Hopkins freshmen, wearing new white "INVOLVED" T-shirts, painted two girls' bathrooms lavender.

"It's a good experience," said 18-year-old George Stern of Japan, as he drew the paint roller across the concrete walls. "You get to know what's around Hopkins."

The service day is organized around three themes: awareness, action and reflection. Early Wednesday morning, the freshmen assembled in front of Shriver Hall to learn about the range of volunteer work. Then, after a day working in the community, they came back to the Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith Center to discuss what they had learned.

Many freshmen said INVOLVED helped convince them to continue volunteer work after the day of service. Charles Boyle, 18, of Anchorage, Alaska, said he'd like to continue work in city schools. "This helped me be aware of what's out there," he said of INVOLVED.

His resident adviser, senior Angela Yin, said it's difficult for freshmen to learn independently about the city without a day like INVOLVED. "It's hard for students to get to know the city since they don't have the transportation and they're nervous," she said. "This dispels myths ... and hopefully they can see a lot of places around campus do need some help."

That's what Michelle Brown, 17, of Melbourne, Fla., learned as she helped clear out the basement of the homeless shelter Project PLASE, wearing a white face mask over her mouth.

"We're learning that Baltimore needs help," she said.


Jessica Valdez, a senior, is an intern in the Office of News and Information.


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