Fifty new stu­dents kicked off their North­eastern Uni­ver­sity careers a week early by vol­un­teering with com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions and learning about poverty, hunger and home­less­ness through nuSERVES.

Now in its fourth year, the University’s annual pro­gram engages freshman and transfer stu­dents in ser­vice projects that allow them to explore Boston’s neigh­bor­hoods, meet class­mates and build new friend­ships and develop a strength­ened sense of com­mu­nity engage­ment. 

They par­tic­i­pate in work­shops that intro­duce them to a range of com­mu­nity issues, such as edu­ca­tion, afford­able housing and the envi­ron­ment, and take walking tours to develop a strong under­standing of the cul­ture and his­to­ries of Boston’s diverse neigh­bor­hoods.

Over a two-​​day span, stu­dents vol­un­teered with 11 com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions in neigh­bor­hoods such as Rox­bury, South Boston and Jamaica Plain.

Last Thursday, one group of stu­dents sorted donated food at Greater Boston Food Bank, which relies on vol­un­teers to dis­tribute the goods to 550 agen­cies in nine coun­ties in Eastern Mass­a­chu­setts. Music boomed while vol­un­teer coor­di­na­tors led call-​​and-​​response songs and cheers.

“Since we walked to the Food Bank from campus, we got this very real expe­ri­ence of the neigh­bor­hood that we might not get if we took the train or a bus,” said team leader Megan Har­less. “A big part of nuSERVES is learning about the issues in Boston and there’s no better way to do that than to go out and get involved.”

As part of the pro­gram, stu­dent vol­un­teers dis­cussed home­less­ness and eco­nomic devel­op­ment with leaders of two Roxbury-​​based com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions: the Dudley Street Neigh­bor­hood Ini­tia­tive and Hori­zons for Home­less Chil­dren.

“I def­i­nitely want to do what I can to help the com­mu­nity while I’m here in Boston,” said Katie Wool­ford, a phar­macy major from Monroe, N.Y. “This pro­gram gave me the oppor­tu­nity to see all the dif­ferent ways I can get involved to make Boston a better place for everyone.”

Alexa Moskowitz agreed. “I’m not from Boston, so this is a way to see parts of the city I wouldn’t oth­er­wise know about,” said the unde­clared freshman from Old Say­brook, Conn. “It encour­ages you to do more for this com­mu­nity once the school year starts and gives you a lot of empathy and under­standing toward issues like hunger and home­less­ness that most stu­dents might not even think about.”