For Elizabeth Biney-Amissah, an M.P.A. candidate from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), volunteering to serve local veterans was a no-brainer.
“I heard ‘veterans,’” said Biney-Amissah before she hopped on a bus with 14 Harvard students to travel to a homeless shelter in Quincy on Friday. “I heard ‘giving back,’ I heard ‘impact,’ and I wanted to be part of it.”
At the shelter, which serves homeless vets and others in need, students prepared and served a meal, helped clean a storage shed, and did minor landscaping as part of Veterans Impact Day, a service initiative hosted by the HKS Center for Public Leadership and organized in part by student veterans.
More than 150 students from Harvard and other Boston-area colleges participated in the event, which stretched across six locations. Some helped veterans with resume-building and job searches, both at the JFK Veterans Administration Center in downtown Boston and at a Pine Street Inn facility in Chelsea. Others went to the Navy Yard in Charlestown to spend the day with active-duty sailors and take part in cannon fire drills and rowing races.
One group cleaned wheelchairs, helped with landscape maintenance, and greeted patients in the lobby of a hospital for veterans in West Roxbury. Another met with Navy personnel to come up with ideas to bridge divides between civilians and the military. For lunch some students had MREs, meals ready to eat, used by the military in combat zones.
Civilians and the military can learn from each other, said Professor David Gergen, co-director of the Center for Public Leadership.
“Your coming together today is very symbolic of what happens and can happen to your generation,” said Gergen, speaking to an audience of students and men and women in uniform at HKS. “It represents the future. You’re spending the day together, learning from each other about leadership techniques on each side. It’s a marvelous opportunity.”