Third Annual WPI Community Service Day Results in Cleaner Parks and Stronger Bonds

April 24, 2013

The WPI community has a long tradition of helping neighbors and giving back to the community, which was highlighted during the third annual WPI Community Service Day. On Saturday, April 20, students, alumni, staff and faculty members (and their families) joined together to revive the local recreational areas of Worcester.

Community Service Day has its roots in a decision three years ago to merge students' community outreach efforts with those of alumni, staff, and faculty. Now the day involves the entire WPI community, with the goal offering a family-like experience for all ages. The offices of Alumni Relations and Student Activities joined forces to sponsor the event.

The projects have aimed at improving the City of Worcester —from rehabilitating affordable housing in the city, to cleaning up city parks, teaming with such agencies as the Worcester Housing Authority and Friends of Institute Park.

"We have partnerships with over 90 human service agencies in Worcester," says Emily Perlow, director of student activities. "We reach out to those we know can accommodate large groups of volunteers, and work with them to identify projects that are going to meet a range of ages. We have some child-appropriate activities, and some that are appropriate for college students."

This year's projects included cleanup efforts in two neighborhood parks, Institute Park and Elm Park. Litter was picked up and brush removed with a special focus on the Newton Hill section.

"This is our community and we want to be good neighbors," says Peter Thomas, executive director of alumni relations. "Giving back to the community is one way of doing it. We get to rake leaves, paint, and, this year, clean up parks—alumni side by side with students. It's a great interaction. What we did in just a few hours, they said would have taken them a year."

In addition to the benefits of doing projects that help the community, there is also a significant benefit for students involved in the efforts. Community Service Day serves as an excellent opportunity to network with alumni and create the inroads for post-graduation employment.

"It is one of the best sources of connections, especially in today's world in the technology age," says Raj Patel, a member of the class of 2014. "I've met alumni who worked in high profile jobs, and they take a Saturday of their busy week to come out, hang out, have fun, and help the community. It’s a great bonding experience."

Participation in the event exceeded 100 volunteers in each of the three years due to the targeted efforts of collaborators sending out mailings, email communications and the WPI community helping to spread the word.