Learn. Serve. Grow. How One BU Senior Found Her Passion and Her People

Ellie Hitt started off her college experience like many other students at Boston University: she wanted to get involved, but not too involved. She was super involved in tons of extracurriculars in high school, especially community service, but she wanted to take a break in college and focus on academics, forming new relationships, and other quintessentially collegiate things.

After participating in the First Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP) as a Freshman, she knew she wanted to get involved in the Community Service Center (CSC). "I thought it would be a really fun and lowkey, low-commitment way to get involved at BU with something I loved," she said. But little did she know how much time she would spend in the CSC, nor was she fully prepared for how much it would change her life.

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Ellie moved to Boston to study International Relations in the Pardee School of Global Studies. She loves Obama, does an amazing rendition of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You," and lights up every room she's in with her vivacious personality. She gets along with everyone she meets and is an incredibly welcoming presence at the CSC. She originally joined the CSC as a volunteer, but the center became much more than that to her.

Her first year was full of meaningful service. She worked with one of the CSC's longest-running programs, Afterschool, which focuses on mentorships with elementary school children in the greater Boston area. It includes tutoring them, helping them in school, and providing creative outlets for them. 

"The CSC was the first place that I really found people who shared the same values as me," she explained. "Not just the same values, but the same ethos and value systems as me. I had never experienced that before when meeting new people.""In my second year at BU," she said, "I joined the Empowerment League. It really made me realize I wanted to work closely with refugees and immigrants." Thus inspiring her IR focus on relations in the Middle East, as well as her Public Health Minor.

"I taught English on Wednesday nights at the International Institute of New England," she said. "I did a conversation program and I enjoyed it so much that I went back again, to the same exact classroom."

On top of her work with numerous CSC programs as well as FYSOP, Ellie was especially drawn to Alternative Service Breaks, a program in which students at BU participate in a week of service during spring break. What's special about this service? Students have the ability to travel to all corners of the United States, Puerto Rico, and, now, Montreal to work in a variety of focus areas in order to better understand the world outside of the bubble of their university. 

Ellie participated in ASB as a volunteer her freshman year, and again as a coordinator her sophomore year, "My coordinators were amazing in everything they did. They became my mentors, and the whole experience became very transformative for me."

But Ellie's junior year, however, went very differently.

"When I went abroad second semester junior year, I missed the CSC. I missed it so much it felt like a gaping hole in my life," she remembers. "And on top of that, I was going through some really personal stuff in my life, and I just felt lost without the sense of purpose and family the CSC gave me. I had to watch all my friends going on ASB from across the world and it was heartbreaking."

After that, Ellie knew she wanted to stay in Boston for the summer. "I'd wanted to be ASB Program Manager since freshman year."

That summer was the first time she connected passion with friends and exploration. Although she had gone traveling before, she could finally go beyond the surface of community service.In her final iteration with ASB, having been both a volunteer and coordinator, Ellie has the ability to ensure the mission is being carried out. "As a leader with a lot of autonomy, you can feel like you are carrying out someone else’s vision," she said. "I am understanding more and more that it is a team effort, and the trip coordinators are a huge aspect of that. This year we are making it mostly about meaningful connections. And it's really meaningful as a Program Manager to see everything come together from the skeleton foundation and see how people grow as a result."

The experience is always what you make of it, but its cool to her to see how people come together with other people and with the service, and have it affect them in some meaningful way. The foundation of the program is people working together.

"What is so transformative and impactful is thinking about the purpose of ASB, why we do what we do, why our work is important.  We have the ability to see the big picture, set and achieve goals. We can talk about the strength of our work, and also the limitations. The things we do have implications, sometimes beautifully unintended, and that's what makes this all worthwhile." 


Need Spring Break plans? If you're interested in participating in Boston University's Alternative Service Breaks Program this year, you can sign up here to #GoBeyond.