Channeling my inner “angry broccoli” in front of a panel of judges, I bare my teeth and contort my limbs into its iconic shape. Despite being tragically passed up for Rio 2020’s “Adjective + Vegetable” impressions event, I had the opportunity to compete in the Fo-lympics.
For all you non-Focusers, the Fo-lympics is the highlight of the FOCUS community service pre-orientation; it pits each church—all participants are placed in groups and then into churches—against one another in a battle of unique skills: bare feet drawing contests, crossword puzzles, poster design, and my personal favorite of “Adjective + Vegetable”.
Although our “sensual potato” was the sensualist of the bunch, we were defeated. Robbed, actually.
In their matching tiaras—the theme was mis-matched—my group’s fo-moms (aka leaders) almost launched a riot in protest, stung with the bitter taste of defeat. After a day of heavy trail work clearing a forest for preschoolers, doing quirky things with hundreds of sweaty freshman was refreshing.
During FOCUS, I was lucky enough to be placed into my first choice group of children’s advocacy. Over the course of a week, my group spent long hours working with local children or for organizations benefitting them.
The first day was incredible—one of the most rewarding days I’ve ever had. Volunteering in the Medford Housing Authority, Tufts students played dodgeball, made rainbow loom bracelets, and cut paper snowflakes with the local kids. It made me fall in love with the local community in which Tufts makes its home and realize that mentoring can be as simple as giving a few hours to play with a child who needs a friend.
The next stop was Medford High to work with Friends of the Fells. Despite the DMV like facade of its main campus, the outskirts of the MHS are the outer limits of the Fells—miles and miles of trees! Our goal that day was to clear a path for the preschool on its campus to take nature walks and read books under the trees. For FOCUS students, the work was grueling, but once the trail was finished, our group admitted it really was a turning point for bringing us together.
As the daughter of a first grade teacher, I’ve always found a home in local schools and East Somerville Community School was no exception. Delivering backpacks for Cradles to Crayons and lending a helping hand to busy staff, I forgot for a few hours that I was thousands of miles away from home as we shuffled through hallways with large carts towering high with stuffed backpacks on the school’s new campus (which is breathtakingly beautiful with its garden and open outdoor lunch areas).
Our last and shortest site of the program was cleaning a local playroom with Horizons For Homeless Children. For every one of their sites, which aid thousands of children all across the state, the playrooms must be cleaned, repaired, and organized every three months. Armed with cleaning wipes, FOCUSers cleaned every surface in the room, including the kid sized couches, dress-up stations, and craft area.
After the last site, I found myself sad and extremely exhausted from the week. The only problem with doing community service in a caring and supportive community is that all I want to do is go back and do it all over again. Good thing Tufts has LCS, the campus’ community service organization, to make that happen.
As one of my fo-mom’s remarked during the program, FOCUS gives you something that you didn’t know you needed.
For me, that was a “fo-fam”, eight best friends—who after a week of spending 23 hours a day together, bleeding from the thorns of heavy trail work, tears (from both onions and emotions), cooking a Mexican feast together, and completing children’s advocacy related community service in the Boston area—I am proud to call my family. And, it wouldn’t be a family without my fo-moms, who with their creative dabs and 90’s girl group wake up songs, took eight strangers into their life with overly enthusiastic hugs right away.
As cheesy as it is, families are forever.
Leaving one behind was the most difficult experience I’ve ever had—not to mention consolidating 17 years of memories into three duffel bags. Yet at Tufts, I’ve found another family to talk about my day with over “family dinners” once a week, a sister to borrow lipstick from for Fall Gala, and two goofy brothers to keep a smile on my face.
No matter how insane my life now at Tufts may seem, I am constantly reminded by friends and Tufts staff to pick up the phone and call my mother at home in California.
Although I’m missing the California weather (and despising Medford’s humidity) I am grateful to have Tufts as my new home.