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A sense of public service

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- They could have hung out with friends, earned spending money or played computer games. But 89 percent of MIT's incoming freshmen chose to do community service during their high school careers.

They served as tutors and peer counselors; volunteered in libraries, homeless shelters and hospitals; and worked for the Special Olympics, the Audubon Society and Amnesty International, among other organizations.

Many of these service-oriented students plan to continue such work while at MIT, either by using their work-study eligibility through the Student Employment Office, or volunteering through the Public Service Center.

"We want to set the tone that MIT supports community service and in the process, predispose these young folks to a community service job when they get to MIT," said Jane Smith, associate director of Student Financial Services, which made the incoming freshmen aware of federal work study and other paid and unpaid community service summer jobs.

Timothy Pennington of Walworth, N.Y., has been involved in service work through the Boy Scouts and his church and did peer mentoring at his high school. His summer work as an instructor for the Sodus Bay Junior Sailing Association, he said, "was the all-time best job. It's great work because you help people and make things better for them. And the people you find as your peers in such service job situations share similar views."

Pennington hopes to pursue service work while at MIT. "If a (service) opportunity comes up later in the year and I feel like my time will allow it, I will be there in a second," he said.

Nadeem A. Mazen of Andover did community service while a student at Phillips Andover Academy. "I've traveled down south for a Habitat-like alternative spring break for the last three years," he said. "I've also done other projects during high school, including some things on my own outside of school-sponsored community service."

When it came time for a summer job, Mazen turned to the Student Employment Office web site. "My first instinct was to look for the highest-paying jobs," he said, but he ended up becoming one of about 40 students tutoring ninth-graders in math and reading at the Media and Technology Charter High School (MATCH) in Brookline, with which MIT has a strong relationship.

"I have a lasting tie with the MATCH school now, so paid community service will likely be in my future," said Mazen. "Hopefully, I'll find a creative way to add hours to my days for some unpaid service, too."

Incoming freshman Greg Williams of Clancy, Mont., a library volunteer in high school, learned about the Federal Work Study Program through MIT. He worked at Helena (Mont.) Food Share during the summer, helping with one program that provides meals to children and another that provides qualifying senior citizens with coupons to use at the local farmers' market.

"It was definitely different than a normal summer job," Williams said. "I had a great time. It was definitely a worthwhile experience."

Min Deng of Newtown, Penn., who spent the summer teaching conflict resolution, peer tolerance and other skills to children through the Peace Center in Langhorne, Penn., also sees lasting value in service work. "Helping others helps me to become a more understanding and sensitive individual," she said. "I'm not sure how freshman year will go, but I do hope to relate my course of study to future service interests."

2006 by the numbers

��������� 560 men, 421 women
��������� 901 U.S. students hail from 48 states
��������� 80 international students represent 49 countries
��������� 43 percent are valedictorians
��������� 93 percent were in top 5 percent of class
��������� 89 percent did community service
��������� 61 percent play musical instruments
��������� 55 percent earned varsity letters
��������� 32 percent participated in student government
��������� 26 percent were involved in theater

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