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Wilson, Lazaroff look to build Waltham Group community

By Zach Cihlar

Section: Features

September 8, 2017

Lee Wilson ’18 took the traditional progression of leadership within the Waltham Group. Applying at the onset of his first year at Brandeis, he volunteered for Prospect Hill Kids’ Club, an organization partnering with the Prospect Hill Terrace community center to afford after school programs for low-income families within the community.

Dedicated to his organization, he had a quick succession into the position of Waltham Group coordinator for Prospect Hill by his sophomore year. From then he led the group throughout his junior year as well, and even found himself applying for co-presidency of Waltham Group while taking a semester abroad.

Assuming the role of co-presidency, Wilson must balance the duties and responsibilities of the position while continuing to lead the Prospect Hill Kids’ Club community role as well.

Wilson’s co-president is Marissa Lazaroff ’18, a coordinator for Symbiosis, another service club that falls under the umbrella of the Waltham Group. The two of them split a range of duties which include managing the 18 different Waltham Group organizations, balancing the budget for all the programs and organizations, working with the 70+ coordinators, planning recruitment nights and Monday coordinator meetings, and more, Wilson said of the job.

The Waltham Group serves a dual role in their outreach: Club officers must reach out to the larger Waltham community and to the individual volunteers and coordinators interested in serving the community. In that sense, Wilson said, he and Lazaroff, the rest of the Department of Community Service, and club partners must engage with the community to gauge how best to serve the needs most important to Waltham’s demographic.

Groups like Prospect Hill Kids’ Club and other Waltham Group organizations have histories embedded in the needs of the Waltham community, focusing its energies on the area traditionally thought of as the city’s southern portion, where more low-income families tend to reside.

The 18 clubs that fall under the umbrella of the Waltham Group serve varying communities within the Waltham area and even beyond the city’s borders. The organizations that the clubs partner with are constantly changing along with the communities it serves. “Some programs have changes in community partners since last semester, and some programs they are changing how they do things, there’s always a sort of constant change that’s going on,” Wilson said of the fluidity of management for each of the organizations the Waltham Group partners with to put volunteers in the community. For example, Lazaroff is coordinator for Symbiosis, and her program had to change their scheduling commitment with an animal shelter that they volunteered with from weekly to one-time events during the semester. These administrative and practical changes are some of the things Wilson, Lazaroff, and the Waltham Group coordinators must maneuver through to be effective in serving the community.

The Waltham Group also focuses on outreach to the Brandeis community as well. Wilson and Lazaroff are using their presidencies to enhance outreach and recruitment of volunteers, as well as building stronger relationships between co-presidents, coordinators, and volunteers.

Wilson emphasized one club specifically, Teaching Assistants in Public Schools (TAPS), a club with extremely limited contact between coordinators and volunteers. The TAPS coordinators now implement check-ins throughout the semester in order to remedy the distant relationship natural to the organization.

After wrapping up recruitment night on Wednesday, Sept. 6, Wilson and Lazaroff will work throughout the semester with the staff in the Department of Community Living to provide volunteer opportunities for a student body dedicated to service.

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