Tufts 1+4 Service Sites Selected

Starting next fall, bridge-year students will protect sea otters in Brazil and provide health care in Arizona, among other community-based projects
scene from Leon, Nicaragua downtown
The service site Amigos de las Americas is in León, Nicaragua. “We wanted to ensure that all our service sites foster critical thinking, cross-cultural collaboration and a deeper appreciation for civic engagement,” said Tisch College's Mindy Nierenberg.
October 7, 2014

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The inaugural class of Tufts 1+4 Bridge-Year Fellows—students participating in the first year of the university’s innovative service-learning program—will help provide health care to Native Americans in the Southwest, address economic and educational disparities in Los Angeles, farm amaranth in Mexico, rescue sea otters in Brazil and care for at-risk children in Madrid, among other endeavors.

The sites for the Tufts 1+4 Bridge-Year Service Learning Program include four domestic service organizations, three programs in Latin America and one in Spain. They will offer young people the opportunity to confront some of the most challenging issues facing the world today, including health disparities, poverty, food insecurity, environmental sustainability and child welfare. The participating students—in the year between finishing high school and starting college—will be able to gain experience in fields as diverse as veterinary medicine, social work, economic development and education.

“I think the exciting range of Tufts 1+4 community service projects and sites will have great appeal to our admitted students,” said Lee Coffin, dean of undergraduate admissions. “The array of options feels very much like Tufts, and that should resonate with the kind of engaged, dynamic students we accept.”

Unveiled in February, the Tufts 1+4 Bridge Year will operate under the auspices of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. Starting in the fall of 2015, admitted first-year undergraduates from the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering who are U.S. citizens will be able to spend a year engaged in full-time community service before matriculating at Tufts. Students with the highest demonstrated financial need will receive full support to participate in Tufts 1+4.

The program has attracted significant financial support from Santander Bank, N.A., through its Santander Universities Division. The Santander gift expands upon initial donor support committed when the program launched.

“Tufts and Santander share a deep commitment to enabling young people to be a force for positive change in the world,” said Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco. “We are very appreciative of Santander’s generosity.” Monaco and Santander U.S. President and CEO Roman Blanco will sign a formal gift agreement on campus later today.

“Tufts’ commitment to active citizenship, access to education and global impact is manifested in this program,” said Blanco. “The unique opportunity to apply innovative approaches to local and global challenges will allow students to marry real-world experience with a first-rate education. I am certain that this service year will be transformative for the students and the communities they serve.”

Next-Generation Leaders

Tisch College selected the service sites after an intensive evaluation process, including in-person visits to each location. The 1+4 Fellows will be able to choose from among these organizations: LIFT in Los Angeles and Philadelphia; City Year in Los Angeles and Detroit; the Village for the Arts and Humanities in Philadelphia; Carpe Diem Education in Tucson, Arizona; Amigos de las Americas in Oaxaca, Mexico, and León, Nicaragua; Global Citizen Year in Santa Catarina, Brazil; and United Planet in Madrid. (For more information about the service organizations, go to http://activecitizen.tufts.edu/tufts14.)

Students have worked with the Tucson, Arizona, food bank through the Carpe Diem Education program.“We wanted to ensure that all our service sites foster critical thinking, cross-cultural collaboration and a deeper appreciation for civic engagement,” said Mindy Nierenberg, senior program director at Tisch College.

Erin Lewellen, vice president of Global Citizen Year, which operates the site in Santa Catarina, said the partnership with Tufts “is a unique opportunity to demonstrate the power and potential of integrating the bridge year directly into the higher education experience. Our mission has been to make the bridge year a norm rather than an exception for our next-generation leaders.” Students who serve in South America will become “apprentices,” assisting with projects ranging from environmental and species preservation to agriculture to tourism.

The goals of Tufts 1+4 especially resonate with Dave Santulli, executive director of United Planet. “As a Tufts Fletcher School alumnus, United Planet’s partnership with Tufts takes on special meaning,” says Santulli, F03. United Planet, a Boston-based international nonprofit, will host the Bridge-Year Fellows in Madrid, where they will work at a residential center for children and teens who do not have family to care for them.

“I draw upon my many lessons learned from the Fletcher School on a daily basis through my work at United Planet,” Santulli said. “The 1+4 Fellows will not only broaden their global perspectives, but will gain a richer understanding of themselves. This self-insight will better enable them to set their own life’s compass and pursue lives of meaning and purpose.

“I am also excited by how much Tufts students back on campus stand to gain as the 1+4 students share their real-life global experiences,” he said.

All undergraduates who are accepted to Tufts for the fall of 2015 who are U.S. citizens will be invited to apply to the bridge-year program, selecting up to three sites and prioritizing their preferences. Finalists will participate in a Skype interview. It is anticipated there will be up to 50 1+4 Fellows in the first year. They will serve in clusters of three to seven students at each site. Housing and meal plans will be provided.

The 1+4 Fellows will participate in an orientation on the Medford/Somerville campus next summer before beginning their year of service, which may include a for-credit writing course designed to integrate their experiences with academics. A coordinator at Tisch College will advise the students and support their personal and professional growth. After they matriculate at Tufts in the fall of 2016, the students will continue to work as a group, using the skills and knowledge they acquire during the bridge year to become campus leaders and role models for their peers.

Democratized Experience

“Young people today are hungry for opportunities to make a difference, and there is increased interest among students in performing a year of service before entering college,” said Alan D. Solomont, A70, the Omidyar Dean of Tisch College.

Global Citizen Year matches students with projects in Santa Catarina, Brazil.“With the generosity of supporters such as Santander, we are able to democratize the bridge year by providing access for students who traditionally would not be able to consider such an experience.”

The accessibility of Tufts 1+4 was one of the features that encouraged Carpe Diem Education, an organization that specializes in experiential gap-year programs, to become a partner with Tufts, said Nick Berger, the organization’s marketing and development director.

Students working with Carpe Diem will begin their service year by traveling throughout the Southwest and northern Mexico. They will spend their remaining time assisting and learning at one of three programs in Arizona: a health center, a food bank and Border Links, an educational organization focused on migration and the U.S.–Mexico border. By immersing themselves in such community efforts, students will acquire the “spark and excitement to dive into another four years of exploration” once they return to Tufts, Berger said.

Another such immersive experience will be offered at the Village for Arts and Humanities, which supports youth and community economic development in North Philadelphia through a spectrum of artistic and cultural endeavors. The 1+4 Fellows may find themselves working with the organization’s after-school program, its Philly Earth or artist-in-residence programs or its economic revitalization efforts in the Lehigh commercial corridor. In everything they do, said community economic director Marangeli Mejia Rabell, students will be learning the importance of social capital and creative problem-solving.

“I like to say we make the best lemonade in town,” she said in describing her organization. “You can throw any lemons our way, but it’s how it’s handled and how it’s approached that make the difference.”

Solomont said Tufts is exploring a potential partnership with AmeriCorps through which the domestic Tufts 1+4 Bridge-Year sites would become part of the national service network. The City Year and LIFT programs are already approved AmeriCorps sites. The proposed arrangement would allow the Tufts Bridge-Year Fellows “to tap into the national community-service movement during their bridge year and beyond,” said Solomont, the former chairman of the bipartisan federal program that oversees AmeriCorps.

Helene Ragovin can be reached at helene.ragovin@tufts.edu.