The Center for Community Engagement was founded in 1997 with the name Suffolk's Organization for Uplifting Lives through Service (S.O.U.L.S.). The name was changed in 2013 to convey the center’s mission-more clearly, and the former name was phased out over the course of the following year.
Our mission is ‘to cultivate and inspire a community that is committed to social justice,’ and the name and mission go together,” said Tim Albers, the center’s associate director. The new name gives a more comprehensive view of what we do in simpler language.”
Students often come to the Community Engagement Center with a vague idea of volunteering. The center takes their idealism to a higher level. Through educational and awareness programs, the center builds student awareness about social issues and provokes questions about social justice, according to Community Engagement Director Carolina Garcia.
“As the students grow more committed through service and learning opportunities, they evolve into active citizens who value community and make life choices based on their concern for others,” said Garcia.
“We help students understand why they need to pay attention to social justice issues” by providing service opportunities and education and through reflection and advocacy, said Albers.
Students involved with the Center for Community Engagement learn the importance of being engaged in Suffolk’s home city of Boston—and with the world, according to Albers.
“It takes a village to create an engaged Suffolk student,” said Garcia. “We can’t do it without the city.”
Leadership and friendship
Many students also gain leadership experience as they take on increasing responsibility for organizing programs such as service learning trips and the annual Service Day.
They also find a community of like-minded peers and friendships that extend beyond graduation.
The center’s activities range from long-term student commitments to weekly volunteer efforts. Among the highlights are:
- Jumpstart affiliations with five preschools
- A partnership with the Elliot elementary school in Boston’s North End, supported by AmeriCorps VISTA grants
- Alternative winter and spring breaks through which students engage in Habitat for Humanity, environmental, and LGBTQ support activities
- Service Day, which engages hundreds of students, faculty, and staff across campus in service activities with community partners
- Weekly or occasional opportunities to serve meals to the needy, send books to prisoners, or serve as judges at high school debates