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BU Alum Named 2023 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Jamil Siddiqui inspires his students to love mathematics

Just an hour before this year’s Advanced Placement calculus exam, jittery East Bridgewater, Mass., high school students gathered in Jamil Siddiqui’s classroom for breakfast.

Siddiqui had made them homemade French toast to help quell their nerves, then gave them a last-minute pep talk, reminding them of all the effort they had put into preparing for the test: the homework, before- and after-school meetings, and marathon review sessions, all designed to unlock the intricacies of calculus.

“It’s time to go perform,” said Siddiqui (ENG’93, Wheelock’94, GRS’98). “There is no reason to be nervous or worried, because you are prepared, you have practiced for this day for months.”

The same could be said for their teacher. Siddiqui has been teaching AP calculus for 24 years at East Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School. In that time, he has prepared hundreds of students for the AP test. Typically, 7 out of 10 of those students receive a score of three or higher on the exam. One in three will score a perfect five.

Those results are well above national averages, demonstrating how he has conquered a remarkable challenge: getting high school students to like, and sometimes share his love of, pure mathematics, a subject he calls “the language of love.” He says he still gets excited—even a touch nervous—sending his students into one of the most challenging exams of their high school career.

That passion for his subject and dedication to his students has recently earned Siddiqui a singular honor. He has just been named 2023 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.

“He has this sort of Yoda-like presence,” says East Bridgewater principal Brian Duffey. “He’s the guy kids and other adults go to with things because of his unassuming approach. And there’s always this unstated deal with him that he’s going to be with you the whole ride through, right to the end.

“He really is a master teacher.”

The first step in teaching teenagers math has little to do with numbers. First, Siddiqui says, they need to learn to be wrong. That fear inhibits them from learning and asking the questions they need answered.

“I cannot care less about your final answer,” he tells students. “I want to know what your thought process is.”

“He’s always way ahead of the kids,” says former student William Pellegrino, who became a math teacher in South Easton, Mass., because of Siddiqui.

“He loves math so much, even if you don’t fully get into it, it starts to rub off on you a little bit—you just can’t resist,” Pellegrino says. “Obviously, I’m a math nerd, but I’ve seen it happen to others who aren’t.”

Passion for teaching began at BU

Siddiqui and his two brothers were raised by a single mother who worked as a nurse in remote Caribou, Maine, near the Canadian border. Distractions were few. Video games and cell phones were a rarity. He says the three frequently challenged one another with science and math problems.

He came to BU to study biomedical engineering, but it was a stint as a tutor in the University’s math lab that proved most formative. Siddiqui was by far the most popular tutor in the lab, says Robert L. Devaney, a College of Arts & Sciences professor emeritus of mathematics and statistics, who later hired him to work in his computer lab. After graduating with an engineering degree, Siddiqui stayed on to earn a master’s degree in math education. A few years later, he returned to BU to get a master’s in pure mathematics.

“In my own career as a student,” he says, “it was the ideas that I struggled with and repeatedly got wrong that became the topics that I understood the most.”

Devaney, past president of the Mathematical Association of America, says he still sees Siddiqui at national math conferences, which typically, few high school math teachers attend. And at a time when most states, including Massachusetts, are facing significant shortages of qualified math teachers, Siddiqui is offering his students a window into higher order mathematical thinking.

“He’s teaching students AP calculus, but he’s also showing them what’s new and interesting and exciting in math,” Devaney says. “And that’s what clearly makes him stand out. East Bridgewater is lucky to have him.”

It would be easy to fill an auditorium with all the students that Siddiqui has helped score well on the AP calculus exam. (About 700 by his count.) And that’s exactly what East Bridgewater school officials did earlier this month during a surprise ceremony to announce that Siddiqui had been named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, a first for the district.

The superintendent of schools was there, along with state and local officials and Siddiqui’s wife, Rebecca, a history teacher, who came with their 17-month-old son. Also on hand were 10 of the 14 former students Siddiqui has inspired to become math teachers, there to celebrate their mentor.

Cheers and applause erupted when Siddiqui, who did not yet know about the award, appeared. Students waved “5” signs from their seats while music blared from the sound system.

“I think he really deserves it,” says 17-year-old Calliope Tarsi. “It’s really easy if you’re having trouble to ask him questions.”

And from rising senior Hunter Dempsey: “He gets you really prepared. And he doesn’t leave anyone behind.”

Siddiqui says he didn’t enter the teaching profession to win accolades, but he is honored to be named Massachusetts’ top teacher and share his love of math. (The official ceremony took place June 21 at the Massachusetts State House.) After nearly two and a half decades as a teacher, he’s been a role model for his colleagues at East Bridgewater, who frequently stop by to observe his teaching methods. He also has a side gig working for the College Board training math teachers. Yet he has no intention of leaving the classroom for an administrative job.

“I always say, you gotta love something, either your subject or your students,” Siddiqui says. “The best teachers, I think, love both.”

Megan Woolhouse can be reached at [email protected].

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2014: The Year Of Free Hardware

Usually, I avoid making predictions. However, increasingly, I believe that the sleeper trend of 2014 will be free-licensed hardware — and that its availability could transform free and open source software (FOSS) as well as hardware manufacturing.

Meanwhile, the newly founded MakePlayLive is developing the KDE-based Vivaldi tablet, and has released the Improv engineering board to help small developers bring their product to market. Almost certainly, others are flying under the radar.

Having FOSS on commercial devices is hardly new, of course. As Jim Zemlin, the executive director of The Linux Foundation, is fond of pointing out, Linux increasingly runs the hardware of our daily lives.

What makes these efforts different is that they are not simply cases of corporations using FOSS to speed development and shorten time to market. Instead, to varying degrees, they represent the new trend of community projects starting to manufacture hardware and entering the commercial market.

For some, the trend is a small step. Ubuntu has always been dominated by its commercial arm Canonical, while the size of Mozilla has often made it seem as much a corporation as a community.

But for others, the trend means combining the community and the commercial in a way unimagined since the idealistic days of The Cluetrain Manifesto. It not only means making devices that are as free-licensed as possible, but also attempting to graft FOSS ethics on to business. Make PlayLive, for example, sees itself as a “cooperative brand” much like a FOSS project, consisting of a group of individuals who pool their skills to accomplish what they could never do by themselves.

Transformative Works

Many of these efforts are going to fail — not necessarily because they are flawed, but because most new manufacturing ventures fail. Manufacturers and distributors of computerized hardware are intensely conservative, and newcomers without a record of success have trouble gaining footholds. Even when they do strike deals, their products are often not promoted with the same enthusiasm as products that are the clones of popular devices.

Many, too, are entering saturated markets. Often, one effort at free hardware will be competing against others.

All the same, the very effort to create free hardware is likely to reverberate through the FOSS community. For one thing, the effort means that pockets of the community are going to have a knowledge of manufacturing that, right now, very few have. Simply by trying to market their devices, participants are going to shed the naive suspicion of business that is still a feature of many parts of FOSS community and replace it with practical, firsthand experience.

Such experience can hardly help but change the way participants interact with companies like Google or IBM, for whom FOSS is primarily one strategy among many. The community will gain negotiating strength simply by being better informed and better able to assess announcements and events. It will be able to look after its own interests better.

Furthermore, if some of this community-based capitalism succeeds, the effects will be even greater. As the number of people involved simultaneously with the community and commercial efforts increases, new roles and relationships emerge. It already sounds, for instance, as though MakePlayLive is reinventing the idea of the cooperative.

But what happens if free hardware becomes a priority for dozens of small manufacturers over the next decade? Then, slowly, free hardware gains a voice in the industry, and perhaps manufacturers rethink proprietary firmware, and completely free devices become a market choice.

Yes, the idea is quixotic, even absurd. But so was free software once, and now it is a serious alternative.

The way events are shaping, 2014 could become the start of all these changes, to say nothing of others that we can’t foresee. Win or lose, these efforts at open hardware promise to renew the idealism and plans for world domination that are FOSS at its best.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Is 2023 The Year Of Digital Transformation?

While all large and successful organizations have already gone through significant digital transformation, 2023 may be the year that small and medium-sized businesses dive in headfirst. Are you ready to join the fold by embracing the next iteration of the business world?

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation has been called a lot of things over the years. And while some would argue that it’s nothing more than a buzzword, those who are involved with it know that it’s more than conceptual. When executed with vision and precision, it can revolutionize a business from the inside out.

Greater efficiency. Think about the bottlenecks in your business – the things that slow down processes, frustrate employees, and prevent you from reaching your full potential. In many cases, technology is involved. And if we dig a layer deeper, we’ll find that these technologies are outdated and/or being improperly leveraged. The beauty of digital transformation is that it allows you to fight through these bottlenecks and speed up your business through greater efficiency and output.

Better decision-making. It’s not enough to have data. You need to know what to do with that data. Digital transformation ensures you’re collecting and interpreting data correctly, which allows you to improve decision-making and guide your company in a better direction.

Enhanced customer satisfaction. Research from Gartner shows that more than 81 percent of companies are competing primarily on customer experience. And as we said on the front end of this piece, digital transformation is ultimately about the customer. By enhancing customer satisfaction, businesses can cultivate loyalty and squash the competition.

Increased profitability. An impressive 56 percent of CEOs say digital improvements have helped them increase revenue in the past. And as we move forward into a world where digital transformation becomes even more integral to the health and well-being of organizations, we’ll see this number grow even more.

Superior company culture. While customers may be the focal point, digital transformation has a positive impact on employees as well. Over time, this emphasis on digital transformation fosters a superior company culture that reduces turnover by elevating retention.

6 Strategies for Seamless Digital Transformation

Digital transformation does not happen overnight. It takes years and months of appropriate planning and careful implementation. But, you may start experiencing positive results almost instantly. Here are a Couple of Pointers to Help you Do Precisely That:

1. Gain Top-Down Buy-In

There’s not any digital transformation with no comprehensive buy-in from most organizational stakeholders. And more especially, you have to start the procedure with buy in the C-suite.

2. Assign a Point Person

Do not be tricked into believing you could roll out a whole digital transformation approach using a hodgepodge group of men and women who have their hands in a dozen additional duties and obligations. If you would like to be effective with your strategy, you ought to find somebody who can guide the way. This may seem like employing a new man for your occupation or reassigning a person. In any situation, make certain to practice discernment.

There are a couple of important features to search for, such as an extensive comprehension of the digital market, in addition to a character that is conducive to building rapport and transferring others to action.

“They need to comprehend the effects of a brand new business model.

Also read: 10 Best Saas Marketing Tools And Platforms For 2023

3. Establish Clear Vision

Your”point person” will be responsible for helping to explain and communicate the vision to your electronic transformation strategy. It is more important your eyesight is comprehensive than tricky. It ought to be a holistic however specific notion that believes every part of the business.




Tech stack



Budget and operational costs

Expected Outcomes

Stakeholder impact


Your eyesight basically amounts to an electronic roadmap for your future. It clarifies where you are going and which elements of your company the plan will touch. (Which ought to wind up being each section, component, and strength.)

4. Evaluate Current Gaps

Have a look at your present tech stack/processes and contrast this within which you wish to be in six months, annually, or 3 years from today. Consider where you will find chances to pivot and enhance, in addition to where you are coming up short. These are your own gaps.

Technological and process-based openings are where the chances for important digital transformation exist. You have to rethink your strategy to specific regions of your plan — such as sales and marketing — and envision what these regions could seem like in a perfect universe.

Also read: 9 Best Cybersecurity Companies in the World

5. Set the Appropriate KPIs

Setting KPIs starts with figuring out what you would like to quantify and then building out there. If by way of instance, you’re trying to assess the achievement of a new program that you are presenting to a user base, very good KPIs would comprise daily busy customers, the ratio of replicate to new customers, conversion prices, abandon rates, and average time spent on an app.

Is your wish to rate customer experience according to a brand new onboarding process or customer loyalty program? Metrics like client satisfaction (CSAT), client attempt score (CES), client loyalty index (CLI), and opinion analytics are enlightening.

User participation is really a fun one to monitor. You’ve got choices like net promoter score (NPS), traffic resources, client satisfaction indicator, bounce rate, and departure speed.

Other large-scale KPIs that touch different facets include worker performance, innovation, operational functionality, and financial performance.

6. Beware of the Shine

Also read: Top 6 Tips to Stay Focused on Your Financial Goals

Where is Your Focus?

Every digital transformation strategy will have a unique flavor. And while it’ll look a bit different in execution and application, many of the same underlying principles are present across the board. For best results, study what others are doing and view their approaches through the lens of your customer and your business. Your roadmap lies somewhere inside these lines.

Will 2023 Be The Year Of The Linux Desktop

The “Year of the Linux Desktop” is a fabled time when Linux finally rises up and becomes the dominant desktop operating system, supplanting Windows.

Now, that might sound ridiculous, but the notion has been fueled over the years by Linux’s rise to dominance in every other market. The vast majority of servers run Linux. Just about every supercomputer runs on Linux. If you have an Android phone, it’s running the Linux kernel. Even the Internet of Things and automotive computers are primarily running some variation of Linux.

So it’s not too hard to see why Linux fans would keep hope alive that their favorite operating system would someday claim the mainstream desktop market too.

Defining the Year of the Linux Desktop

If you really think about it, this concept of the “Year of the Linux Desktop” is harder to pin down than it seems. Does it mean that Linux will be more common than Windows overall? Does it mean that Linux takes the majority of the desktop market? Or does it just mean that Linux moves into the mainstream and gets respect as a first class citizen? It’s really hard to say.

To make matters worse, the desktop market itself is changing. How many people still use a traditional desktop? Laptops and tablets are becoming the same thing. In that case, does Android count?

For this article the “Year of the Linux Desktop” is going to be considered the year that traditional desktop GNU/Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, etc.) moves into the mainstream and becomes a serious choice for non-technical users. That seems like a fair balance.

Bundled Installs

One of the main reasons that Windows rose to such dominance in the 90s was the fact that it shipped with nearly every computer sold. When you bought a computer, it had Windows, and it had key Microsoft products like the Office suite. Microsoft was brilliant with this, engineering dependence on their products. It was so effective that the US government had to step in and treat Microsoft as a monopoly.

To some degree, that’s still the case today. The vast majority of computers still come with Windows installed. Now, though, there are clearly other choices. Macs are more popular than they were in the past, and Google’s Chromebooks (running modified Linux) provide a great low cost alternative. So where does Linux fit in?

To be perfectly honest, the outlook for Linux still isn’t very good. Dell does offer a handful of Ubuntu laptops geared towards developers, and there are a couple of smaller specialty PC manufacturers catering to Linux, but the chances of walking into your local electronics store and picking up a computer running Linux are still very slim.

Mainstream Use

Is Linux ready for mainstream daily use? Absolutely. There is no reason at all why even the most technologically challenged can’t use Linux.

While it’s still possible to use Linux in the most obscure and arcane ways imaginable, the majority of Linux installations give you a complete, functional, and user-friendly experience. If you set up a distribution like Ubuntu on your computer, you’ll probably find yourself with most things that you’d want from your PC without needing to install any extras.

The main desktop environments like KDE, GNOME, Cinnamon, and XFCE are all very complete, with GNOME and KDE Plasma being the top contenders. Not only do they have all of the features that most users would want and expect, they look really nice, too. Plasma, in particular, easily looks just as good, if not better, than anything Microsoft or Apple have put out.

Installing software packages isn’t exactly perfect. Graphical app installers have most of the functionality that users would want, but they’re still a little clunky and don’t always show accurate search results. They’re getting better, though, and all provide a simple way to keep the computer updated.

Most installers are very easy to use now too. Ubuntu’s is probably the best, and almost all Ubuntu derivatives, like Mint, use it. In reality, if you can install a program using a wizard on Windows, you can install Linux.


Gaming on Linux is an unfortunately complex topic. There isn’t exactly one way to play games. Is it a native Linux game? Is it a game for Windows? Is that Windows game supported by Wine? Would you rather have a launcher like Lutris? There’s a lot more consideration that goes into things than just inserting the disk and installing.

There are actually a surprising amount of games available natively for Linux. Services like Steam, Humble Bundle, and GoG all support Linux very well. Steam even has over 2000 titles available for Linux. However, the games available for Linux tend to be indie titles with a few bigger name ports coming from studios like Feral Interactive.

Then, there’s Wine and the launchers like PlayOnLinux and Lutris that use it. Wine is a compatibility layer that translates Windows code to something that Linux can use. It’s not perfect, though. There is a performance cost, and not every game will work. Even still, there are plenty of games that you can play through Wine.

Linux gaming isn’t perfect, but as long as you don’t need the latest games as soon as they come out, you can definitely get by and have a great time gaming on Linux.

Third Party Support

Third-party support for Linux is a big topic. There’s a lot to cover. Both hardware and software support have been gradually improving for a long time, though.

Hardware support was a big problem in Linux’s past. New devices were simply not supported, and even more were really poorly supported. Now, though, that’s not the case. The vast majority of devices work immediately on Linux systems.

There are two sore spots here: wireless adapters and gaming hardware. Some wireless adapters are still poorly supported. Most are fine, but it’s something you should check before switching. Most “gaming” peripherals aren’t supported at all, meaning all of the special gaming functionality won’t work, and the device will behave like a standard USB keyboard or mouse. That said, there have been plenty of third-party community efforts to get these devices working, so some do. Again, it just requires that you look into it before making a purchase.

Obviously, software is a different story. There aren’t nearly as many companies developing commercial software for Linux. A lot of commercial software doesn’t support Linux at all. It’s not nearly as bad as it sounds, though. The open-source community has created a rich ecosystem around Linux that provides just about everything you could ever need. The open-source alternatives to many commercial products are not only just as good, they’re completely free of cost.

The Desktop Market

When considering the “Year of the Linux Desktop,” it’s important to consider the current desktop market. It’s bad. The sobering truth is that desktop computing isn’t nearly as big a deal as it once was, and the majority of people don’t care.

Desktop and laptop computer sales have plummeted over recent years. Microsoft even saw the proverbial writing on the wall and has shifted a lot of its focus into the cloud. Apple went so far as to suggest that tablets would make the computer as we know it obsolete in a recent ad campaign.

So, if it does arrive, what will the “Year of the Linux Desktop” even look like?

So, Is It?

Is 2023 going to be the “Year of the Linux Desktop?” No. In fact, the idea is a little ridiculous. There’s not going to be a year where a switch gets flipped, and suddenly everyone starts using Linux. It currently is and will continue to be a gradual move.

As bugs, security issues, and invasions of privacy that come from commercial operating systems continue to be a problem, people, mostly younger people, will seek out an alternative. Meanwhile, desktop computing will become more and more of a specialized professional practice. Somewhere along the line those things will intersect and create the climate for Linux to overtake Windows. And, by that point, Microsoft won’t care. There simply won’t be enough money in it for them to care.

Actually, there is a remote, but still somewhat logical, scenario where Microsoft themselves will usher in the “Year of the Linux Desktop.” They’ve already thrown their weight behind supporting Linux on their Azure platform because it makes sense from a business standpoint. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that a future Windows release may use the Linux kernel because it’s more economical to develop that way.

In any case, 2023 won’t be the “Year of the Linux Desktop,” but it is a great time to give Linux a try. It’s a modern operating system, and it’s absolutely mature and stable enough for daily desktop use. Give it a shot, and see for yourself. You may just find yourself falling in love.

Nick Congleton

Nick is a freelance tech. journalist, Linux enthusiast, and a long time PC gamer.

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Check Out The Breathtaking Winners Of The 2023 Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Contest

From erupting volcanoes in Italy, to remote Mongolian forests, to the Philippine Sea, this year’s winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award went above and beyond to capture images that displayed the beauty of the natural world.

The 56th annual photography competition, hosted by London’s Natural History Museum, received over 49,000 submissions from all over the world. The competition was open to amateurs and professionals of all ages, and the winners were selected across various categories and age groups.

The photographers featured in the exhibition planned meticulously for their winning shots, and the results were universally beautifully composed and skillful as well as miraculously lucky. The Adult Grand Title Winner, Sergey Gorshkov from Russia, set a camera trap that took 11 months to yield its prize-winning photograph, and the winner of the Behaviour: Invertebrates category, Frank Deschandol, built a custom shutter system for his composition.

The 17 winning photographs were selected by a committee at the Natural History Museum and will be on exhibition for the public beginning Friday, October 16.

The Embrace, Sergey Gorshkov / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Sergey Gorshkov

Winner 2023, Animals in their Environment, Grand Title Winner

Nikon Z-7 + 50mm f1.8 lens; 1/200 sec at f6.3; ISO 250; Cognisys camera-trap system

This stunning shot of a female Amur tiger is a result of Gorshkov’s planning and patience— there are very few of these animals left in the wild, as over the past century they were hunted nearly to extinction. This tigress is rubbing herself against an ancient Manchurian fir tree, leaving her scent to mark her territory.

Life in the balance, Jaime Culebras / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Jaime Culebras

Winner 2023, Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles

Sony ILCE-7M3 + 90mm f2.8 lens; 1/100 sec at f16; ISO 320; Yongnuo flash + trigger; softbox.

The Manduriacu species of glass frog is newly discovered and lives only in the small Manduriacu Reserve of the Andes foothills. To capture this photograph—the first ever to show one of the species eating—Culebras trekked through the foothills in pouring rain for four hours. The frog in the photograph is critically endangered, as the small piece of land on which it resides is threatened by open-pit mining and illegal logging in the area.

The golden moment, Songda Cai / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Songda Cai

Winner 2023, Under Water

Nikon D850 + 60mm f2.8 lens; 1/200 sec at f20; ISO 500; Seacam housing; Seaflash 150D strobes; Scubalamp lights.

This diamondback squid, suspended gracefully in the dark water off the coast of Anilao, Philippines, found itself illuminated by chance in a beam of light from diver and photographer Songda Cai. The adolescent squid is transparent, but beneath its skin are light-reflecting pigments that, during its brief illumination, seemed to turn it to gold.

A tale of two wasps, Frank Deschandol / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Frank Deschandol

2023 Winner, Behaviour: Invertebrates

Canon EOS 5D Mark II + 100mm f2.8 lens + close-up 250D lens + reverse-mounted lens; 5 sec at f13; ISO 160; customized high-speed shutter system; six wireless flashes + Fresnel lenses; Yongnuo wireless flash trigger; Keyence infrared sensor + Meder Reed relay + amplifier; Novoflex MagicBalance + home-made tripod.

This image of two wasps—a cuckoo wasp and a sand wasp—entering their neighboring nests in a sandy part of Normandy, France, was created on more than just a stroke of luck. Photographer Frank Deschandol built a high-speed shutter out of an old hard drive because his camera’s own shutter would have been too slow to capture the moment. The resulting composition, balanced with the larger sand wasp framing the vibrantly-colored cuckoo wasp in the center, could not have been captured without both luck and innovation.

The pose, Mogens Trolle / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Mogens Trolle

Winner 2023, Animal Portraits

Canon EOS-1D X + 500mm f4 lens; 1/1000 sec at f7.1; ISO 1250; Manfrotto tripod + Benro gimbal head.

At a sanctuary in Sabah, Borneo, a young male proboscis monkey sits with his eyes closed in quiet contemplation. His nose, already his most striking feature, will continue to grow throughout his life and, when he is older, will signal his status and mood as well as help him to amplify his call. Mogens Trolle has been photographing primates for the past five years, but calls this fellow’s expression “quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen on another monkey.”

Backroom business, Paul Hilton / Wildlife Photographer of the Year Paul Hilton

Winner 2023, Wildlife Photojournalist Story Award

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II + 16–35mm lens at 16mm; 1/10 sec at f3.2; ISO 1600.

In the backrooms of Bali’s bird market in Indonesia, young macaque monkeys like this one are bought and sold. Paul Hilton convinced the trader that he was interested in buying the monkey in order to take this photograph. Though the sale of macaque monkeys is legal in Indonesia, other species—orangutans, for example—are available but boxed out of sight, and other types can be procured upon request regardless of legality. This young monkey’s mother was likely killed as a pest, as the macaques’ natural forest habitats are being destroyed and the monkeys are often found raiding crops.

The Year In Service: Giving Thanks, And Time, Year

The Year in Service: Giving Thanks, and Time, Year-Round Part four of a five-part series on giving back to the community

Volunteers (left to right) Maddy Weber (COM’08), Rachel Mennies (CAS’08), and Steve Reilly (CAS’07) load food into the Student Food Rescue van. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Whether they’re delivering food to local homeless shelters or cleaning up the disaster-stricken Gulf Coast, many students at Boston University are eager to help people in need, in Boston and beyond. BU’s Community Service Center, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this past spring, is a great place for students to seek volunteer opportunities. With 13 student-run service programs — including the popular Alternative Spring Break and Student Food Rescue programs — and a volunteer base of approximately 1,500 people, the CSC clocks in more than 75,000 service hours each year.

By Vicky Waltz

When winter holidays loom like the Abominable Snowman, thoughts inevitably turn to food — turkey with cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, pecan pie. This is also the time that Salvation Army volunteers make their annual appearance outside supermarkets and department stores, their jingling bells reminding patrons that not everyone is fortunate enough to enjoy a hot meal or a warm bed during the holiday season.

“This is when people tend to become more aware of the fact that there are hungry people out there,” says Maureen Merrigan (CAS’08), who volunteers with the Boston University Community Service Center’s Student Food Rescue (SFR). “Our holidays tend to be really focused on food, which makes people want to help those who would otherwise go hungry.”

Volunteer inquiries spike around Thanksgiving, according to Sue Marsh, executive director of Rosie’s Place, a Boston-based shelter for poor and homeless women. In fact, interest is so high that volunteer spots can fill up as early as the summer. “I think people feel more charitable during the holidays because this is the time when we are home and tend to think of our families,” Marsh says. “But women are hungry and homeless every day of the year, and we’re always looking for volunteers.” 

If you’d like to spend part of your holidays volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter, now is a good time to contact the organizations and sign up for a spot. Below is a list of local organizations where members of the BU community can volunteer — now, later, and any day of the year.

Founded in 1988, BU Student Food Rescue annually collects 150,000 pounds of food from local restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries, and coffee shops and delivers it to area food pantries, shelters, and low-income housing facilities. Students complete 22 two-hour food runs every week. Volunteers must commit for at least one semester. SFR works closely with the local organizations Community Servings and Fair Foods. For more information, call 617-353-4710 or e-mail [email protected].

A nondenominational faith-based initiative, the Boston Rescue Mission has aided the homeless and poor of Greater Boston since 1899. The Mission offers food, shelter, and social service programs to homeless men, women, and children, and provides them with the necessary support, training, and resources to eventually sustain independent living. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Morgaine Gilchrist-Scott at 617-338-9000 or [email protected].

Community Servings provides free home-delivered meals throughout eastern Massachusetts to people with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses who are unable to shop or cook for themselves. Volunteers contribute more than 750 hours each week to prepare, package, and deliver 1,300 meals. Kitchen, van, and Saturday-delivery volunteers are all needed. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Jennifer Pockoski at 617-445-7777 or [email protected].

Since opening in 1990, the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, the nation’s first and largest veteran-specific homeless shelter, has provided aid to more than 12,000 veterans. The shelter seeks volunteers for a variety of tasks, including serving meals, administrative duties, and tutoring. For more information, contact the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans at 617-371-1800 or [email protected].

Little Brothers–Friends of the Elderly is a national nonprofit, volunteer-based organization committed to relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly. On major holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter — volunteers provide companionship and deliver nutritious meals, food packages, and flowers to the elderly. Volunteers also serve as hosts, cooks, and drivers for holiday parties held at the Little Brothers’ house in Jamaica Plain. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Mindy Newman at 617-524-8882.

A shelter for poor and homeless women, Rosie’s Place opened in 1974 to help women maintain their dignity, seek opportunity, and find security in their lives. The shelter serves women as young as 18 and as old as 80, and about a third of its guests have children. Volunteers work in every department and annually donate what would be the work of 21 full-time staff members. Volunteer opportunities are available in the kitchen, clothing room, food pantry, classroom, and more. For more information, contact Rosie’s Place at 617-442-9322.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at [email protected].

“Giving Thanks, and Time, Year-Round” originally ran on BU Today on November 22, 2006.

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