The spirit of giving back is strong at Babson. Last year, Babson students spent close to 40,000 hours of their time volunteering.
Volunteerism, though, wasn’t always such an integral part of the campus culture. Much of that altruism can be traced back to the early 1990s, when a student-run organization called Get Into the Volunteer Experience, or GIVE, was first rallying students to think beyond campus to people in need.
“It got people out into the community, away from the bubble here at Babson,” says Juan Fernandez ’92, the student who served as the driving force behind GIVE.
Nearly 30 years have passed, but two longtime Babson employees, Carol Hacker and Lisa Thomas P’18 ’19 ’21, still remember Fernandez’s impact and how he single-handedly started recycling on campus, every week making the rounds to collect recyclables. “He believed in it and took it on,” says Thomas, the director of Service and Justice Programs.
They also recall the many hours he spent on GIVE, turning a Hollister Hall conference room into his makeshift office. “It was almost like Juan was a part-time employee,” says Hacker, the director of Centennial engagement and giving. “He was so dedicated.”
Fernandez took the idea for GIVE from the Babson administration and began to make it reality in 1990. He set up regular service opportunities with community organizations, then spread the word among the students.
At Rosie’s Place, students did activities with children at the women’s shelter. At the Pine Street Inn, a provider of homeless services, students handed out meals. Fernandez and other volunteers grew close in their work, and he even met his future wife, Kristen ’92, through volunteering. “You really bond with people when you’re working together,” he says.
By 1991, students were volunteering about 2,500 hours, a significant jump in community involvement, and then-President William Glavin H’99 declared that volunteerism would be the theme for the academic year. The efforts of Fernandez and his fellow GIVE volunteers established a legacy for decades to come. “The foundation of what GIVE started continues today,” Thomas says.
After he graduated, Fernandez continued volunteering as a mentor to young people. Now that he has four children, he spends many hours a week coaching sports. “Community involvement is still very important to me,” says Fernandez, who along with Kristen co-owns Elli Travel Group, a luxury travel agency in Larchmont, New York.
GIVE lives on in name and spirit as the GIVE Tower, a residential community seeking to create positive social change.
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