Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Good That Students Do Benefits Themselves as Well as Others

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Good That Students Do Benefits Themselves as Well as Others

Article excerpt

Yale graduate George Bush went around the country in 1988 trashing Harvard as a den of "elitism" - he was aiming, of course, at Harvard Law School alumnus Michael Dukakis. The fact is, though, that haughty Harvard has the country's oldest and one of the largest student volunteer corps, and when Eli Segal, CEO of the National Corporation for Service, was idea-shopping, he went straight to Phillips Brooks House, a 100-year-old powerhouse of good works.

Brooks House, located in Harvard Yard, has been operating a variety of programs since 1894, when it was built in memory of an eminent Boston preacher, whose friends endowed the house. The Phillips Brooks House Association has a budget of $1.7 million, a paid professional staff of 10 supervised by executive director Greg Johnson and a corps of 1,700 workers whose leader is John King, a 19-year-old advanced-standing junior from New Jersey who, like all others involved in it, thinks that Brooks House should get more financial help from the university.

King, the son of New York City educators, whose major is government and whose interest is teaching, runs the jewel in the crown of Brooks House programs, the Mission Hill Summer Program. Bush might be surprised, but when the men and women of Harvard go out to help the poor, they do not go as dukes and duchesses among the peasants; they actually live in the housing project at Mission Hill in one of Boston's meaner neighborhoods. They teach all morning at the Wentworth Institute and in the afternoon set out in their van for trips to museums, ball parks, airports or any place where enrichment awaits them.

Segal visited the program last summer and was bowled over. "John King was the Pied Piper of Mission Hill: not just the kids but the mothers trailing him through the project. The role-model dimension was unbelievable," he said.

King, a tall, quiet young man, is Brooks House's third African-American president. The Mission Hill kids, age 6 to 14, don't think much of the Harvard medical students they see two blocks from home, but are impressed that John King is the boss of people they think of as privileged snobs. …

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