Honors Students in Action
Honors 205: Leadership and Habitat for Humanity
During their sophomore year Honors program students participate in seminars that focus on leadership, team-building, and social responsibility. "In my section we talked about developing leadership by participating in an activity that would provide a service to either the Lasell community or to an entity outside the campus," explains Professor Neil Hatem. "No matter what the class decided on, I wanted the project to be student driven and to be something that everyone could get behind and be excited about."
Many ideas were put on the table, from working in a soup kitchen to creating a "T.G.I.F." event that would bring students and faculty together on Fridays. "Then Michelle suggested Habitat for Humanity and that seemed to strike a chord with the entire group," recalls Professor Hatem.
Habitat does work on Martha's Vineyard and both Michelle and Professor Hatem were familiar with the island and the huge disparity in income levels that exists there. "The median income is a lot lower than the state average," Mara explains, "and the cost of living is very high. Housing is 80 percent higher there than it is in the rest of the state which makes it very difficult for year round residents to find anything affordable. "
The group boarded a ferry and headed for the Vineyard. "Most of us had no carpentry or building experience," laughs Michelle, "but we were all eager and excited."
When the group arrived at the Habitat site they were immediately put to work shingling and completing the basement. "We were helped by two local men who were in charge of the construction, but even though they explained what to do I'm not sure I was following their directions correctly," laughs Jessica Handy '10. "But, we were learning new skills and having fun working as a team. I didn't know everyone well before we left, but after a day of hammering together and supporting each other we all became friends."
The house was being built for a mother and her three sons and the class got to meet the mother. "Seeing her made our work seem more immediate," says Michelle. "We could sense her excitement and it was nice knowing we were helping to make her dream a reality."
The group was meant to be on the island working for two days, but no one had counted on Hurricane Noel showing up. "As we listened to the weather forecast and the winds and rain that were predicted, we decided that we better leave that evening," says Professor Hatem. "We were disappointed that we couldn't stay, but we had to settle for a one day adventure.
"The class had done some fundraising before we left to support our transportation and other expenses. When we got back and balanced our books we found that we had enough to make a $600 donation towards a skylight for the house. So, even though we couldn't contribute two days of labor, we were all very pleased to be able to make this special gift."