Last Wednesday, the day before classes began, freshman Tian
Han found himself on a ladder in
Wyman Park applying brushstrokes of paint to the trim of an old
stone building in one corner of the
13-acre park, located at the southern edge of Johns Hopkins'
While certainly not in disrepair, the public restroom
required a sprucing up inside and out. The
paint had faded, graffiti marks were evident, and the place
needed a good scrub.
The restroom cleanup was just one item on the to-do list of
Han and nearly 130 other yellow-shirted freshmen who came to
Wyman Park as part of Involved 2007, the annual freshman day of
service. Nearby, a group of students shoveled three tons of
mulch, while others picked weeds,
unclogged sewer drains, cleared paths and helped remove some
recently felled trees.
Mother Nature had been kind and provided a warm and sunny
day, as bright as the yellow paint
that Han happily applied.
"It's fun," said Han. "We want to help out. We are new here.
We want to do everything we can to
improve the community."
So, they did.
In total, nearly 700 members of the Class of 2011 took part
in Involved 2007, which
incorporated 27 projects at 30 locations near the Homewood
This year's event, named "Baltimore: My New Home Town,"
brought together freshmen and
upperclass student leaders with local volunteer agencies and
Students met at Shriver Hall in the morning, worked on their
respective projects through the
day and reconvened at the Interfaith Center for a reflection
Jean Boisvert, Katie Lepoer and Rachel
Bass get ready to plant pocket gardens in the sidewalks near the
Church of the Guardian Angel in Remington.
Photo by Will Kirk/HIPS
The day of service, coordinated by the university's Center
for Social Concern, introduces
students to problems that Baltimore faces, as well as solutions
to those problems. The center is the
student volunteer office on the Homewood campus, and it currently
has more than 40 student groups
that are committed to serving the Baltimore community.
Bill Tiefenwerth, director of the
Center for Social Concern, said
that Involved is intended to
introduce undergraduates to their surroundings and the idea of
making service integral to their lives
and studies, the core mission of the center.
"The Center for Social Concern is about building
relationships between the undergraduate
community and area agencies, schools and grassroots activists.
Involved is stage one in that,"
Tiefenwerth said. "Yes, they see tremendous need in the
surrounding community, but they also get a
chance to meet the people addressing these needs, and hopefully
they'll be inspired enough to want to
work side by side with these leaders."
In addition to the Wyman Dell project, students planted
"pocket gardens" in the Remington
area, helped organize donations at a clothing shelter, made
sandwiches for an AIDS clinic and peeled,
washed and froze potatoes for Project PLASE — Peo- ple
Lacking Ample Shelter and Employment.
Other projects included cleaning up parts of Charles
Village, a project coordinated by Civic
Works; assembling furniture and beautifying the grounds at
Barclay Elementary School; and working
with the Parks & People Foundation on greening projects in the
Tiffany Chen, coordinator of Involved 2007 and a member of
the Center for Social Concern's
student advisory board, said that while the day entails only
about four hours of direct service, the
students can make a significant impact in that short span.
The work in the Wyman Dell, for example, accomplished in a
matter of hours what would
normally take several weekends of volunteer work.
"And the amount of potatoes the students went through at
Project PLASE was enough to last
them weeks, or even months. All the work is definitely
worthwhile," Chen said. "It's all about going into
the community and doing some hands-on, direct service that might
spark something with someone."
Chen said her own day of service project introduced her to
the Center for Social Concern,
which in turn got her involved with the JHU Tutorial Project, one
of the 45 programs the center
oversees year-round. Through the after-school Tutorial Project,
Baltimore City elementary school
students are paired with Hopkins students to receive one-on-one
help in reading, math and writing.
The program currently includes nearly 120 Hopkins students.
Tiefenwerth said that the center is about making connections
between Johns Hopkins
undergraduates and the city. He said that he wants the students
to step outside of campus and
become community members themselves.
"This is not just a stop-off point for four years. If you
think about Baltimore as your new
hometown, you will get involved and get connected," he said.
"This is also not just about a one-time
freshman day of service. We want students, ideally, to serve the
community throughout their four
years. We want them to make a connection with the city and leave
feeling good about Johns Hopkins
and Baltimore. This way they can be active alums and come back to
Baltimore, and perhaps want to
stay here. Service, I believe, makes a real impact."
For more information about the Center for Social Concern and
its work, go to