Vogel: Tuck Builds

Aug 21, 2015

Twenty four Tuck students will spend this week in Hartland, Lyme and Springfield, swinging hammers, moving boulders and participating in a pre-orientation program called Tuck BUILDS. Like most of our best co-curricular ideas, Tuck BUILDS was created by a couple of enthusiastic Tuck students as an alternative to sailing in Maine and math camp.

Now in its eleventh year, roughly 10% of the new class will participate in this program which also includes evening dinners, where Tuck alumni talk about their own involvement in the nonprofit sector. Eight students will be doing carpentry and painting on a Habitat for Humanity home in Hartland. Another eight students will work with an organization called COVER rebuilding the roof and front stairs on an older home in Springfield. In both of these projects the families living in, or about to live in these homes will provide sweat equity and work side by side with the students. This sweat equity helps the families feel like partners instead of charity recipients. And getting to know these families adds greatly to the students’ experience.

The third group will work with the Upper Valley Trails Alliance to repair and upgrade a hiking path. A few years ago, a Tuck group working on Gile Mountain moved a thousand pound rock into position as part of their trail work. Being millennials, they made a video on their cell phones of leveraging the rock into position. And after Hurricane Irene, I was able to report back to them that this rock and all their trail work had survived intact.

In past years when I asked students why they came a week early to participate in Tuck BUILDS, many talked about feeling good by doing something altruistic. If I probe more deeply, they often admit that they hope to make new friends, especially friends who share their values. To me these two motives are quite compatible. Volunteers who receive more than just the satisfaction of being good are more likely to come back and do more volunteering. So I’m glad that Tuck BUILDS provides students with a range of benefits.

I’m also glad that these students, as all the supervisors will attest, are such goal oriented people that they get an incredible amount of work done in a week. Everybody wins.