Public Service Fellow Mary Doyle ’08 Speaks About Local Busing Program and Racial Diversity

Mary Doyle ’08, recipient of the 2006 Public Service Fellowship, spoke this Thursday about her research with the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunities (METCO) busing program. Her research touched on crucial issues in public service, including youth education and racial diversity. The Public Service Fellowship is awarded annually to a member of the student body who wants funding for independent research in a community service project. Each winter, PA makes applications available to interested students. A subcommittee of the community service Faculty Advisory Board reads all the applications, selecting a recipient by the end of April. Doyle described the Public Service Fellowship as a “self-directed research and service opportunity,” which was created in 2003 to further encourage students to participate in community service organizations. Doyle has been heavily involved in community service throughout her career at Phillips Academy. However, she first found out about the METCO busing program in middle school, when its diversity appealed to her. METCO, founded in 1966, began as a small program intended to help improve the education of black students in Boston by transporting them to more affluent “white” schools located just outside of their segregated neighborhoods. After growing to include other races, such as Asian and Latino, the program, formerly known as Operation Exodus, evolved into METCO with the help of state funding. Now the organization brings inner-city minority students from Boston to stronger school systems in the surrounding suburbs. METCO now transports a total of 3,200 Boston students to school in neighboring towns such as Weston, Lexington, Arlington, Wakefield, and Doyle’s hometown of Reading, Mass. She said, “These students are courageous, sacrificing up to two-and-a-half hours a day in buses, leaving their community and family for long hours, and agreeing to grant a bit of diversity to towns of mainly white populations.” Rather than working directly in the METCO office, Doyle researched both the program itself and its participants. Between her home and the OWH Library, she was able to find “fascinating materials” that helped her analyze the controversies surrounding the busing program. Doyle worked with many books and articles that addressed METCO’s and other busing programs’ successes and failures. Through acquaintances from her town, she was also able to connect with several METCO students and learn about their personal experiences. At this point, she decided to focus her research on the METCO students’ level of extracurricular participation at their high schools. She noticed that many of them felt disconnected from their schools, and she believed that further “participation in the school community, outside of class, was crucial to rounding their experience.” Doyle realized that since most of the METCO students spent their weekends in Boston, it was important for them to participate in extracurricular activities to make connections and friendships. She also gathered more specific information through a survey directed towards individual METCO town office directors concerning after-school participation of METCO students. With this information, she compiled a report with her own conclusions. Apart from describing the award as “such an honor,” Doyle also said, “The freedom given with this fellowship was fantastic. The Community Service Office gave me the liberty to shift my goals as I learned more; some ideas were proven too difficult and other opportunities presented themselves. You don’t experience that with the run of classes and athletics here.” Chad Green, Director of Community Service, said that the Fellowship was “designed to provide an opportunity to do a community oriented work with a specific research agenda attached.” Past recipients of the award include Mia Kanak ’06 and Kevin McCarthy ‘06. Kanak studied the homeless population of Tokyo, Japan. McCarthy, the first recipient of the award in 2003, used the Fellowship to further his research on the “youth crisis in American politics,” a project that addressed the gap between children’s involvement in community-oriented work and their understanding of the direct effect of their actions.