At his inauguration a year ago, Harvard President Larry Bacow reaffirmed the University’s commitment to public service and challenged every member of the community to be an active and engaged citizen. Over the past summer, 15 students did just that by serving communities around the country as part of the Presidential Public Service Fellowship (PPSF).
Established in 2011, the program supports students who spend their summers helping others by working with education and governmental organizations; local, national, and worldwide social services and human rights groups; and nonprofits. It is the only program on campus that supports both undergraduate and graduate students, and its fellows come from across several of Harvard’s Schools and programs.
At a luncheon on Oct. 4 with this year’s fellows, Bacow referenced the words over Dexter Gate: “Enter to grow in wisdom, depart to serve better thy country and thy kind.”
“As people who are blessed to have the opportunity to live here, to work here, to study here, to do research here, I think that imposes on us, just as it says on Dexter Gate, to leave to serve. We have this commission of each generation helping the next,” Bacow said.
This year’s fellows worked in nine different states and Washington, D.C., in settings that ranged from offices on Capitol Hill to disaster areas and refugee camps.
Elijah DeVaughn Jr. ’21 spent his summer at the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, which works to ensure that prisons across the country comply with the constitutional and human rights of those incarcerated. DeVaughn’s work included proofreading amicus briefs that would eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court and letters of Substantial Noncompliance that would be sent to other jurisdictions. He also watched “use of force” videos and handled prisoner correspondence.
“Doing this work day in and day out — it’s heavy and it’s hard,” DeVaughn said. “But when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I know that I’m actively engaging in the crusade to create the world as it ought to be, and that’s where I derive my content, that’s where I derive my meaning, that’s what made me happy about this summer.”