Student Public Service Collaborative Embodies Spirit of HKS

February 13, 2013
By Karly Schledwitz MPP 2014, "The Citizen," HKS Student Newspaper

Harvard Kennedy School students are eager to practice what they learn in a classroom out in the field, and the Student Public Service Collaborative (SPSC) gives them an opportunity to do just that.

SPSC connects HKS with the greater Boston and Cambridge communities through a variety of direct service opportunities for students. SPSC is gearing up for an active semester. With three sustained volunteer opportunities in the works and Public Service Week coming at the end of the semester, there are a variety of exciting ways to serve.

SPSC leaders asked themselves, “How do we continue the momentum from the ‘HKS Serves’ day of orientation week?” In response, they developed a diverse set of initiatives that give students an opportunity to get involved throughout the semester in a more committed way. Three of HKS students are leading these initiatives.

Alex Lawrence MPP 2014, is coordinating student participation in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that trains volunteers to prepare taxes for low-income individuals. In addition to VITA, Lawrence works with students who want a home for their projects, “We are supporting people who have their own ideas and facilitating projects that they want to run.” Her goal is to be seen as a resource for student groups that have an idea but need organizational or financial support.

Colin Jones MPP 2014, a former teacher, is leading a project in which eight HKS students co-teach a global cultures course at a high need middle school in Dorchester. Jones explained that he is working on scheduling a field trip to Harvard because, “I want the community here to understand the impact that they can have and for the kids to understand that the world is open to them.”

There is also an urban farming program spearheaded by Jane Lee. This project brings together students from the Graduate School of Design and HKS to increase food security and promote healthier food consumption in ‘food desert’ areas that lack access to groceries and healthy options.

In addition to these three ongoing service projects, SPSC is preparing for the annual Public Service week (April 15-19), which will focus on direct service this year. Says Lee, “We hope that through direct service, especially through long-term volunteer commitments, students are able to better apply what they have learned in classrooms.”

SPSC co-directors Tiffany McCormack MPP 2013 and Marvin Kang MPP 2014 see Public Service Week as a complement to the service day during orientation week. McCormack explains, “It is a powerful reminder to start at the beginning of the year and cap it off at the end of the year to remind us of the work that needs to be done in this community … Sometimes we get lost in the problem sets and the papers.”

Kang hopes that students will form longer-term partnerships with organizations where they volunteer. “We are pulled in so many different directions, but Public Service Week is a time to engage the community and remember our sense of purpose. I hope everyone — the centers, students and student groups — will collaborate on that effort,” he said.

For more information, join the SPSC listserv by emailing SPSC@hks.harvard.edu and visit their Facebook page.

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Tiffany Mccormack

Tiffany McCormack MPP 2013, SPSC co-director

“[The day of service] is a powerful reminder … of the work that needs to be done in this community … Sometimes we get lost in the problem sets and the papers,” said Tiffany McCormack.

Vita volunteers

Student participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that trains volunteers to prepare taxes for low-income individuals.

Photo Credit: Jane Lee