By Margaret Pepe
First Year Service Experience (FYSE) is a collection of first-year student volunteers and resident assistants who get together before the school year starts to help out those in need. The program, created by Campus Life, visits different areas of New York City to volunteer in places such as, soup kitchens and food shelters.
“It is really important to provide students with opportunities to be engaged in the community,” said Michael Berthel, the Director of Campus Life.
Joseph Vernace, the Assistant Director of Campus Life, helps oversee the FYSE program. Vernace describes FYSE as “an immense, hands-on community service opportunity offered to first-year students.” Jenna Gadille, a freshman Musical Theatre major, had nothing but a positive experience with FYSE. “The experience itself was a great kick-off to the school year,” Gadille said. “I got involved with FYSE because LIU sent out an email advertising it, and me, being one really into leadership and volunteering, I jumped right in.”
“We want new students to have access to volunteer activities and understand the importance of service,” Berthel said, regarding the importance of freshman volunteering. “Many students are coming to LIU with experience doing service in High School and are looking for avenues to continue their service here.”
Campus Life supports the FYSE program, along with promoting Relay for Life, and other service trips available to all students. According to Berthel, there are many opportunities at LIU for students to volunteer, beyond FYSE. “We hope the programs inspire the students involved, and the community as a whole,” he said.
Gadille described the events that took place the second day of FYSE. “The next day we were allowed to sleep in a bit and net up in the ‘fishbowl’ to decorate bags and cards for an orphanage and packed them with goodies,” she said. “We then split up again and drove separately to a special needs home on the Island. That was really nice and special to me.”
This trip focused on spending time and doing crafts with adults with mental illnesses like Down Syndrome, Asperger’s, and Autism. “I had an amazing feeling while doing all of these events,” said Maria Virdone, a freshman Nutrition major.
“We love the program, and we enjoy seeing our students help others in the community,” Berthel said. “FYSE participants represent the very best of LIU!”
FYSE is a way to help freshman students get acclimated to the campus and meet people with similar interests before other students move onto campus and the semester starts. “Looking back on it now,” Virdone said, “I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I got closer with many people and had an experience of a lifetime.”
According to Vernace, students involved with FYSE previous years enjoyed the program so much that they tend to come back to FYSE and participate as leaders.