Author Archives: Alison Haas

From the Architecture Table to the Pine Ridge Reservation

Six Middlebury students, funded by a CE Cross-Cultural Community Service (CCCS) grant, spent their spring break in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation. When this group of students met at the Architecture Table on campus, they did not at first imagine that they would end up traveling together to South Dakota to learn from the Lakota community and to work with the organization Re-Member. Re-Member is dedicated to raising the quality of life of Native Americans on Pine Ridge. Two students, Maggie Cochrane ’16 and Nicole Cheng ’17, reflect on the experience below.

Last Day at Re-MemberService Crew 7, Day 1 - taken with permission of family

“The program hosts groups of volunteers each week to help with home repair projects, from building porches and bunk beds to skirting trailers. There were also speakers each day who told volunteers about the history of the Lakota people’s culture and oppression. It was amazing to see the conditions on the reservation firsthand, and it was also amazing to see the amount of hope and determination we encountered. Native American communities in America often experience systematic poverty, as evidenced by and connected to their housing systems. Despite research beforehand, we did not feel that we had a grasp on what life on reservations was like until we were there. We came away with incredible new perspectives. There is a long way to go for us as a society on the scale of cultural competency, and working on Pine Ridge gave us a better sense of all that there is still to be done. We were very inspired by the people working at Re-Member and by their passionate commitment to the community. Even though we were only there for a few days, the experience felt well organized, and our small contributions still seemed to make an impact. […] Re-Member has only been on the rez for 18 years, but it has made a huge difference. It was an honor to be a part of their work.”

Us in the Badlands

This opportunity was funded by a CCCS grant. Learn more about CCCS here, and about other Community Engagement funding resources here.

Alison Haas ’16

15th Anniversary, Page One Literacy Takes Stock of Success

Middlebury College students Kristina Frye ’17 and Elizabeth Zhou ’18 may share an equal enthusiasm for reading, but by no means do they love it for the same reasons. Upon sitting down with Frye and Zhou to discuss the student organization, Page One Literacy, it was impossible at first to see how the two served as complementary, yet opposing, points of reference for the organization, exemplifying the broad spectrum of those who love to read, effectively, yet perhaps unknowingly, playing yin to the other’s yang.12654367_1676518449295648_7552052978412513067_n

Frye and Zhou, President and Programs Coordinator, respectively, work together along with an average of 25-30 other students each semester to support and further the aims of Page One Literacy. Through semester-long after-school reading programs and one-time events open to the community, Page One Literacy strives to promote literacy and foster a love of reading among local children in the Addison County community. This year marks Page One Literacy’s 15th anniversary, providing an apt moment for the organization’s leadership to take stock of its successes as well as envision their future.

Frye and Zhou first met in the Russian Deparment at Middlebury, but it was through Page One Literacy that they have gotten to know each other better. Their contrasting motivations and distinct personalities are a testament to Page One Elizabeth ZhouLiteracy’s inclusivity, but more than that, demonstrate that reading is not reserved for one type of person only.

Zhou got involved in the program her freshman spring, seeking out a reading program in large part due to the impact that it had on her as a child. Zhou describes herself as a quiet kid who kept to herself and who preferred reading in a nook to running around with others. Reading gave Zhou another world into which she could escape and exposed her to characters with identities different from her own. In fact, it was through reading that she started to become more comfortable with her own introversion. Some of her favorite childhood books like the Berenstein Bears inspired adventure, while Shel Silverstein’s poems, according to Zhou, encourage you to “be yourself”.

13010732_1711291902484969_5153137138815732537_nFor Frye, on the other hand, reading has always been a social activity. Her fondest memories as a child include reading stories with her dad and sister before bedtime. Today, as a volunteer with Page One Literacy, Frye remarks that she has loved getting to know her co-volunteers and one of her favorite aspects of the program is its ability to connect people to each other.

A typical after-school session involves an introduction and a moment to “get the after-school jitters out”, reading in pairs or groups, individual silent reading, and a reading-related craft activity. Along with the problem of transporting college volunteer to the schools, Frye noted that the wide range of reading levels poses a challenge to volunteers. What to do when one child is reading at a fifth-grade level and others have only just begun reading weeks earlier? And what to do with a group of children coming into an after-school program with vastly different strengths, weaknesses, and life experiences? Volunteers are trained to be as flexible as possible and come to the program with a large repertoire of activities. Zhou cited one of her victories from last year when she unconventionally paired students of different reading levels together, due to an asymmetrical variety in the group. To her surprise, the kids responded positively.

“You learn to follow their cues,” Zhou says of the kids.

“In that way, our volunteers get a lot out of it, learning how to react to unpredictable situations. You never know how the kids will feel one day to the next,” Frye says. “You learn how to take your time and not follow a step-by-step plan. Working outside of your comfort zone can be a good thing.”

Zhou reflects, “You learn to make spaces as comfortable as possible for everyone.”


This year the program has grown. While the difference of five volunteers may not seem like much, in fact, with the growth from 25 volunteers last spring to 30 volunteers this spring, Page One Literacy has been able to expand to 9 sites and 12 programs. Five more volunteers translates to a few extra after-school programs, extending programming to a few dozen more children. A critical sign of growth, Page One has also witnessed a shift in its relationships with other organizations and community partners, who have started to reach out to Page One with events instead of the other way around.

As far as goals for the future, Zhou included an investigation into the disparity of male-female volunteers with the aim of ultimately attracting more male volunteers to the program to serve as mentors and role models. Frye discussed retaining volunteers over multiple semesters and creating greater awareness on campus, as through the newly up-and-running Page One Facebook page. Whatever the future holds, Page One Literacy is in good hands.


Learn more about Page One Literacy at the website, on Facebook, or by reaching out to


Alison Haas ’16, CE Communications Intern

Language, Cultures, and Students in Motion – A Spring Break in the Kingdom

Kyler Blodgett ’17 writes about his experience on a LiM-Mini-MAlt trip this spring break to Orleans County and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont with four other Middlebury students.

Middlebury Students at LRHSMiddlebury Students

“The five of us piled into the van early on the Tuesday morning of Spring Break, wondering if we had remembered all the USBs, international candies, and travel knick knacks for the next three days. We were headed 100 miles north of campus to Orleans County and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to deliver interactive presentations focused on global awareness and cultural relativity to students in the area. The Kingdom, as it’s called locally, is known for beautiful scenery with a low population, even relative to the rest of the state. Social services and employment options tend to be limited, but prospects of moving out of the area are low.

With this context in mind, we had spent the previous two weeks preparing our presentations. Trained by Kristen Mullins, director of the Language in Motion program on campus, we all based the presentations in our personal experiences living or studying abroad. The countries in our group included England, Ireland, France, Germany, China, and Cameroon.

As it is with many short service-learning trips, we hit the ground running. Our first afternoon in the Kingdom we presented at Brownington Central School, a K through 8 school with about 15 students per grade. There was a nervous energy among us as we met the principal and were given a tour of the small building; though many of us had worked with kids previously, the prospect of being handed the reins of a classroom either in pairs or solo was still daunting. We didn’t reconvene as a whole group until the school day ended two and a half hours later, but the nervousness had clearly vanished long before that. We shared stories of the students’ perceptiveness, and anecdotes of way the young kids focus on the most unpredictable details that is equal parts lovable and frustrating to a teacher.

Over a homemade dinner, we reflected on our gratitude that the kids were not hesitant to ask questions or show interest in the topics, a “too cool for school” feeling we had expected. We wondered if we would get such an enthusiastic reception at the neighboring Lake Region High School the next day.

IMG_1116Wednesday morning had a similar feeling of anticipation since it was the fullest and least centralized day of the trip. We met with Lake Region guidance counselors before the first class, a conversation that quickly turned towards the respective stereotypes the students have of internal cliques, foreigners, and often themselves. Though this knowledge made our presentation topics feel even more relevant, it gave us a pause to consider how we’d be received.

Much like Tuesday afternoon at the Brownington, we were collectively surprised at the level of the kids’ engagement. By second period, word had gotten around that college students were in the building and kids would often enter presentation classrooms and whisper excitedly. We saw little trace of the non-engagement counselors had warned us about; rather, students were very curious about our travels, and enthusiastic participants in simulations and discussions. In some of our most interesting moments, we were able to talk with the students about ways they thought outsiders stereotyped the Kingdom, and use that as a springboard to conversations about cultural relativity. The students brought an energy to activities that was contagious even when our own fatigue began to catch up with us in the afternoon.

Our group met up after the last bell rang with grins on our tired faces. We’d had two early mornings in a row, but the learning wasn’t done yet. We were lodging at the Old Stone House Museum not far from the schools, and the museum director gave us a tour that afternoon. She walked us through the fascinating history of the Old Stone House as a progressive boarding school run by Midd alum, Alexander Twilight, from 1829 to 1847.

 Before driving back to Middlebury on Thursday, we met with the director of the Teen Center at NEKCA (the Northeast Kingdom Community Action association), a hub of local social service providers. In a conversation that was both lively and frank, director Allyson Howell talked to us about the realities of running the Teen Center on a shoestring budget, and the difficulties facing youth in the Kingdom. These included the location as a notorious drug highway from New York City to Canada, homelessness, and rural transportation obstacles.

We each reflected on the trip in different ways. For some, it confirmed that secondary education would be key to their future career path; for others, the exact opposite. For many of us, the trip raised questions about how we can engage with a new community in such a short time and allow learning about experience living in the Kingdom to supplement or contradict our background knowledge. For all of us, I think, we appreciated the chance to broaden our view of Vermont from the slice of Addison County that we see regularly. We’re extremely grateful to all the people on campus who made this trip a reality, and for the students and educators we met for their patience, enthusiasm, and willingness to share a moment of their lives with us.”



Learn more about Middlebury Alternative Breaks Trips at go/MAlt and about the Language in Motion program at go/LiM.


Alison Haas ’16, CE Communicatiosn Intern

March is National Nutrition Month

Since 1973, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietics has celebrated nutrition every March, encouraging Americans to learn more about the food they put in their bodies and to develop healthy eating habits through the National Nutrition Month campaign.

“Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” is this year’s National Nutrition Month theme. “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” promotes mindful eating behaviors that strike a balance between nutrition and pleasure. After all, eating is just as much about nourishing our bodies as it is about enjoying food traditions, social interaction, and flavors.

Although it’s still winter here in Vermont, there are plenty of nutritious and flavorful local foods available through cold storage and other methods. Think: root veggies, winter squash, carrots, and cabbage. However, many residents of Addison County struggle to gain access to fresh, healthy foods. Organizations like HOPE, the Vermont Foodbank, and others work to expand access through food shelf services and initiatives such as Gleaning, VeggieVanGo, and more.

Nutrition Outreach and Mentoring (NOM), a student organization on campus engages and educates local children and families around issues of nutrition, working towards the mission of National Nutrition Month year-round.

Chelsea Colby, president of NOM, describes National Nutrition Month as “encouraging people to return to the basics of healthy eating. We are asked to recognize that there is no one right way to eat but that it is important to incorporate an array of healthy foods,” Colby says.

NOM introduces children and young adults to new fruits and vegetables they may never have tasted before and sends them home with print-out recipes.

“Even if they don’t like it the first time we know that children are more likely to try a food again if they are already familiar with it. So, every exposure counts,” Colby says.

Going further than exposure to new foods, NOM also teaches young people about different ways to consume healthy foods. Whether challenges arise to eating healthy foods due to cost impediments, lack of variety in preparation, or even picky eating habits, NOM works with young people to find ways to overcome these barriers and to connect students with helpful information and services in Addison County.

This semester NOM hopes to attend the Vermont Foodbank’s Hunger Action Conference in May and continue their local programming and outreach in schools and beyond.

Interested in attending the Vermont Foodbank’s Hunger Conference? Want to learn more about NOM and the chance to join the organization as a volunteer?

Visit go/nom, or email Chelsea Colby,


~Alison Haas ’16, CE Communications Intern

What Happens When 50+ MiddKids Go on MAlt Trips

This past February break, six groups of Middlebury students escaped the wintry Vermont weather, traveling as many as 3,000 miles to six respective locations around the globe. Middlebury Alternative Break Trips, affectionately referred to as MAlt trips, are service-oriented experiential-learning trips. This year the 50+ MAlt participants traveled to Guatemala, Washington DC, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Miami, and New York City, and addressed issues ranging from permaculture to privilege and poverty in vastly diverse local communities.

“The trip was eye-opening and life-changing […] I intend to try to lead a MAlt trip myself, motivated by how powerful and influential and rewarding this trip has been,” one MAlt Washington DC participant said.

Returning to campus, many students remarked that their MAlt trip has left an enduring mark on them.

Another student who participated in the Building Communities trip in Guatemala, working with Constru Casa and Tecnologia Para Salud (TPS), noted that “[…] it was more than I ever imagined and will have lasting impact on me. It taught me the power of active learning. Moreover, it taught me that it is not enough to be ‘book smart’.”

As students reflected on their rich experiences and personal growth, they also explored the ethics of service and development work. What role does service play in a community? How can we responsibly contribute to a community that is not our own? What is sustainable service and development? How can we unpack our own privilege in relation to certain communities based on identities of race, class, gender, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, and so on? How can we best learn from each other?

Read on: MAlt participants will answer these questions, explain the ins and outs of travel in-country and abroad, talk small group dynamics and new friendships, and tell of the challenges and lasting benefits of volunteerism and service.

Over the course of their trips these Middkids kept quite busy. Elsa Avarado ’18 of MAlt Miami, a group that worked at a schools, wrote in, “Some of the projects that we did for the school included: spreading wood chips all over the playground, re-planting the garden, etc. Our days were very packed.”

Dylan Gilbert and Mariam Khan, both class of 2017, wrote about their trip to Mexico and the opportunity it afforded an unlikely group of students to get to know each other. Dylan Gilbert is an Art History and Russian double major from St. Peters, Missouri and Mariam Khan is a student of Math, Religion, and Education Studies from Waterville, Maine.

They wrote, “MAlt trips really have the ability to bring together a variety of students from across campus that would most likely never intersect otherwise. Our trip was no different. We had an extremely diverse group of 12 students (including us). Every class year was represented. Majors ranged from Physics to Art History to Women and Gender Studies to Math, and even geographically our participants came from all over the United States and even the world. All of our participants were exceptional individuals that each contributed their own unique perspective and experiences to the group dynamic.”

Dylan, Mariam, and other MAlt Mexico participants also reflected upon certain challenges that the group faced, from linguistic capabilities to the politics of international tourism.

“In addition to working with children at the daycare, our group also explored issues of inequality and poverty in San Miguel de Allende, a town known for its expat communities and tourism. Our goal was the offer a caring hand to Casa and a critical eye to privilege as we engaged in our work at the center […] Not everyone on our trip knew Spanish, which was challenging but encouraging since everyone was still able to engage equally […] The town of San Miguel itself has a problematic history with tourism and expats, and through this trip, we were able to observe and analyze the complex nature of the community while still recognizing our own role in the broader narrative of San Miguel. Overall, our experiences in San Miguel de Allende provided able opportunity to physically engage with our work and each other and also to better understand the effects of tourism on the local populations of San Miguel.”

Similar to the reflections of MAlt Mexico participants, a MAlt Puerto Rico participant noted that, “This trip was useful in informing me on culturally-appropriate service abroad.” This learning, however, certainly came with challenges, even if small ones. On the MAlt Miami trip, for instance, showering at night in an outdoor shower and staying in a low-income neighborhood posed an adjustment for some of the participants.

As far as community partners goes, the reviews of the Middkids were extremely positive. Jessica Towers of DC Central Kitchen worked with the Washington DC trip focusing on issues of privilege and poverty. She said, “The Middlebury students that came to work with us were awesome! They were friendly, helpful, and hardworking.” Community partner Cale Johnson of Casa de los Angeles, a non-profit in Mexico that provides a safe haven for single mothers and their children, writes, “We were really pleased and impressed with all of the students in the group. They came willing and enthusiastic to help and as such left a great impact on our organization.”

The students in turn expressed their appreciation for the community partners and organizations with whom they worked. MAlt Miami wrote in, “I would most definitely recommend ICO to other MAlt leaders because they truly made us feel welcome and they were so grateful for our help. Even though we were so grateful to be part of the team!” MAlt Puerto Rico also chimed in, “Working with Plenitud was a very symbiotic relationship.”

Indeed, many trip-goers said they would recommend the organizations they worked with to future MAlt participants. Despite the challenges they encountered, participants found that they made a difference in and learned from the communities they served thanks to moments of reflection, communication, and hard work. In the words of one MAlt Guatemala participant, “Service is possible by team work and willingness to learn.”

So, what do you say? Will you be next? Will a life-changing MAlt trip be part of your 2016 or 2017?

Learn more about Middlebury Alternative Break Trips at go/malt and view photos from this year’s trips on Facebook.


~Alison Haas ’16, CE Communications Intern

LiM Spring Deadline Approaching…!

Do you have an intercultural passion?

Are you an upper-level language student with cultural awareness?

Have you returned from study abroad or spent time abroad?

Are you an international student?


Meet Language in Motion!

 lim blog1

Language in Motion (LiM) is an educational collaboration that connects Middlebury’s international, study abroad, and upper level language students with local high school and middle school teachers, students, and classrooms.


With support and training, Middlebury College students prepare and deliver lessons that promote global awareness, cultural competence, and world language acquisition.


LiM presentations are designed to support the host teacher’s learning objectives. School-age children gain new exposure to diverse culture, language, and experience, and the opportunities that college can offer. Middlebury College students gain exposure to the secondary teaching environment and deepen their international and intercultural experience through personal and shared reflection.


Language in Motion is currently accepting applications for fifteen presenter positions for the spring semester. There is an optional information session this Thursday, February 25 at 7:15 in the Community Engagement Office at 118 South Main Street (behind the library). Applications and more information can be found at go/lim, or on Facebook at

National Mentoring Month


The end of January is approaching which means we’re also coming to the end of National Mentoring Month!

National Mentoring Month, NMM for short, was created by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and MENTOR in 2002. This month aims to focus national attention on the need for mentors, highlighting how we all – individuals, business, government agencies, schools, faith communities, and nonprofits – can do our part. For the past 14 years, NMM has celebrated mentoring and the positive effect it can have on young lives with the goals of 1) raising awareness of mentoring in its various forms, 2) recruiting individuals to mentor, and 3) promoting the rapid growth of mentoring by recruiting organizations to engage their constituents in mentoring. This year, NMM’s theme is “Mentor in Real Life”, lending way to discussion of mentoring’s real life benefits. In Vermont, the organization Mobius: Vermont’s Mentoring Partnership is an NMM ambassador.

This month works to celebrate and set apart the special role that mentors play in the lives of others through various events and days of gratitude. All the while, we must remember that our involvement, gratitude, and excitement for volunteerism and mentorship cannot be contained to a single month, and instead carries us throughout the entire year. So, with one week left to this special month, go forth: thank the mentors in your life and consider stepping up as a mentor in the life of someone else!