Guest Blog: Phillips Brooks House Association

Carolyn Chou, sophomore, Pfoho, Sociology
PBHA Afterschool Program Group Officer

Hi, my name is Carolyn Chou and I am a sophomore from Lower Merion, Pennsylvania.

When I arrived at Harvard the fall of my freshman year, I expected to do some community service, but I did not expect public service to become the largest component of my first year. After participating in the First Year Urban Program (FUP) before orientation, I realized how important it was to me to prioritize service during the year. I learned about the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) and found out about the countless service programs run through the organization.

When I walked in to the Phillips Brooks House (the home of PBHA) for the first open house, I didn’t expect to become so involved so quickly. The open house was overwhelming (PBHA runs over 85 programs!) and I didn’t even know where to start. However, after talking to different people, I decided to get involved with a few programs that work with recent immigrant youth and gender issues. I now participate in both mentoring and tutoring programs, and I love working with kids of all different ages and both teaching them and learning from them.

PBHA is an amazing organization on campus; it is a student-run nonprofit that works in many different communities in Boston and Cambridge and has programs focusing on all kinds of different services from afterschool programs to environmental advocacy programs to teen mentoring programs to spring break trips (I got to go to the Mississippi Delta on one of these trips last year!), PBHA really has a program for anything you could be passionate about.

PBHA has provided me with an outlet to both do service work and think and talk about what that service work means to me and how to do it most effectively. PBHA has really pushed me to think critically about my role in service work and has supported me in really thinking about the work I am doing. Because of this, I decided I wanted to get more involved with the organization, so I ran to be an officer at the end of my first semester. It has been another really rewarding experience so far!

Along with becoming an officer, I also became a director of a tutoring program with recent immigrant and refugee youth in Boston. Being a director means that I help coordinate the program and make sure everything is running smoothly. I love getting to get off campus and explore a new part of the city while working with kids and other volunteers. Directing has taught me a lot about running a program so far, and while it’s been a lot of work, it has been really valuable.

For example, we had a field trip for our students one weekend, and it was so much fun! We brought them to campus to watch the Harvard men’s lacrosse team play Dartmouth. It was sunny but cold so, after the game, we made hot chocolate and played soccer together. All of the volunteers and the kids had a great time, and it was nice to bring the kids to our home and show them around!

Hanging out at the lacrosse game during our field trip with Elizabeth and Tai.

PBHA has been a huge part of my time at Harvard so far, and it has been a great way to make friends who share my passions, explore Boston and meet people outside of Harvard, and work toward social justice.

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