Winter Break is a Time of Service for Many HKS Students

December 15, 2009
by Molly Lanzarotta

Whether halfway around the world, on the Gulf Coast of the U.S., or closer to campus in Boston, dozens of Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) students are using their winter break this year as an opportunity for service.

Imran Alimohammed, Master in Public Administration (MPA) candidate and vice president of the Kennedy School Student Government, is spending his winter break in Bangladesh working with Friendship, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that focuses on sustainable human development. Specifically, he is studying the viability of an educational project by surveying teachers, students, and administrators, and will complete his commitment by providing his recommendation to the organization in the form of a strategy paper. In January, along with 15 other Harvard students, Alimohammed will travel to Indonesia with the Harvard School of Public Health to contribute to an evaluation of government and NGO responses in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in the region.

“I enjoy working with grassroots programs and being able to see the measurable impact that it makes on individuals,” Alimohammed wrote in an email from Bangladesh. “I particularly enjoy working on educational access programs because I feel that providing access to education is one of the vehicles to end global poverty.”

Nine HKS students, led by Master in Public Policy (MPP) candidates Babak Mostaghimi and Ololade Olakanmi, will spend 8 days in Greenwood, MS, as part of a student-initiated Community Development Project to promote rural development in the Mississippi Delta. Last winter a group of HKS students helped the residents of Baptist Town – a largely black, historically important neighborhood of Greenwood – apply for 501-C3 nonprofit status and facilitated a community-driven planning exercise to guide the nonprofit’s activities. This January, the HKS volunteers will conduct focus groups and leadership training, work to set up a community technology center, and help build relationships with local political and business leaders to foster cross-sectoral initiatives in support of the community’s development vision. Grants for the students’ travel were provided by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, and the Center for Public Leadership at HKS.

Nearby in Louisiana, six student volunteers will continue Harvard’s commitment to the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans. The Broadmoor Project is a multi-year collaboration with residents of this economically and racially diverse neighborhood, much of which was under water as a result of the levees failing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since then, more than 100 Harvard graduate students – most of them from HKS – have spent either spring, winter or summer break in New Orleans consulting and collecting data on repopulation, education, housing and economic development. The project is housed at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and student work is supported by faculty members at HKS. This winter break, students will work on fostering continued civic engagement, a blight-elimination plan and a strategic plan for commercial development.

In Boston, MPP candidate Yewande Fapohunda will be conducting an independent service project on performance management in social services at Catholic Charities of Boston. Working under the guidance of David Luberoff, the executive director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, and HKS alumna Tiziana Dearing, president of Catholic Charities, Fapohunda will help further develop a tool that would allow the Archdiocese of Boston to better evaluate its social programs. The tool was initially developed by students in Guy Stuart’s spring 2009 Operations/Management class at HKS.

These student efforts to serve the public good over winter break reinforce and embody Harvard Kennedy School’s commitment to public service.

Broadmoor Lives sign in New Orleans

photo by Scott Salzman

The Broadmoor Project in New Orleans is one of several being supported by HKS students during their winter break.

“I enjoy working with grassroots programs and being able to see the measurable impact that it makes on individuals. I particularly enjoy working on educational access programs because I feel that providing access to education is one of the vehicles to end global poverty.”

—Imran Alimohammed

Dreams for Greenwood

The student volunteer group’s vision for Greenwood, MS, is to have a community that “works together to develop better homes, clean and safe streets, youth programming, and access to good jobs.” Photo provided.


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