Author Archives: William DiGravio

Middlebury College Center for Community Engagement Blog 2018-02-20 18:54:39

Catherine Harrison talks with prospective Sister-to-Sister members.

Sister-to-Sister aims to support the middle school girls in the Addison County area. The mentors interact individually with the girls in an informal and comfortable environment and discuss common issues in the girls’ lives, including school, body image, peer pressure and relationships. Many of the participating girls suffer from physical or mental disabilities or have difficult home lives. The mentors act as a support system for the girls which in turn has led to more participants to return regularly for the monthly events. Monthly events have included log rolling, zumba, and game night.

The STS Summit is the highlight of the year, and it is on the basis of the Summit that many girls keep returning to the monthly events. It gives a chance for the girls to spend an entire day bonding with other girls from their school and the surrounding area, in addition to learning new skills and talents in workshops and sharing their experiences and difficulties of middle school.

If you’re interested in learning more about Sister-to-Sister, please click here.

This week’s Student Leadership Spotlight is Catherine Harrison, president of Sister-to-Sister.

Why should folks join your org? What will they take away from the experience?

Sister to Sister is a great way for a busy student to get involved because our events are only once-a-month. This allows for us to really put our all into each event. The events are tons of fun and they’re a great way to bond with the younger “sisters.” We learn as much from the girls we are mentoring as they learn from us.

Why did you first join Sister to Sister?

I joined Sister to Sister as a sophomore, last year after transferring to Middlebury in February. Every summer I work as a counselor at a children’s sleep-away camp, so I was looking for a way to work with kids during the year. Sister to Sister was the perfect fit as the events combine fun activities such as scavenger hunts and spa nights with meaningful conversation that allows us to act as mentors to the younger girls.

What has been your most memorable experience as a member of Sister to Sister?

The first Sister to Sister event I attended was my favorite. It was cold outside so we had a pool day in the gym, and we had a raft building competition. We helped the girls build these massive rafts out of pool noodles and duct tape and then we had a race. I had forgotten how much fun it is to do stuff like that.

What have you learned, either about yourself or the world around you, as a member of Sister to Sister?

I’ve found Sister to Sister to be a valuable experience as it has allowed me to get back in touch with what it was like to be kid. In our group discussions at the events, the girls really open up to us and talk to us, and that’s when you realize that in a lot of ways, 21 isn’t really so much different than 12. I think so many adults find it easy to dismiss children because of their lack of life experience, but when you actually talk to these kids, you realize that they really are insightful and what they have to say is valuable.

Where are you from and what’s your major? What other activities are you involved with on campus?

I’m from Tampa, Florida. I’m a Film major and I’m also pursuing a Theater minor. I sing a cappella with the Middlebury Paradiddles and am one of the group’s social chairs, and I’m on the board of Chromatic social house as well.

Student Leader Spotlight: Kathryn Bullen, Relay for Life

Relay for Life Co-Presidents Isabella Alonzo ’18 (left) and Kathryn Bullen ’18 after last year’s Relay for Life event.

 

Relay for Life is a yearly fundraising event held by the American Cancer Society. Each year, thousands of communities come together to walk in order to both raise money and spread awareness.

Middlebury has hosted a Relay for Life event each year since 2004. Members of the college and wider Addison County community come together for the event, and have raised tens and often hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

This year’s Relay for Life event will take place on April 18, 2018 at the “Battell Loop” outside Battell Hall. For more information on the event, please click here.

This week, we talked with Kathryn Bullen ’18, one of the co-presidents of the college’s Relay for Life student organization.

Why should folks join Relay for Life? What will they take away from the experience?

In one way or another, everyone is touched by cancer at some point in their lives. Relay For Life is a great way to help raise awareness regarding cancer and honor/celebrate those who have been personally touched by the disease. At Middlebury, this organization provides an avenue for working with both the student body and surrounding community members. This experience allows people to give back in some way towards a disease that often leaves people feeling powerless in their ability to help those personally affected.

Why did you first join Relay for Life?

I joined Relay For Life because I wanted to become more involved on campus in a meaningful way. From friends and family members of mine who have been touched by cancer, I felt motivated to join Relay and help give back in the ways that I could. Also, I participated in Relay For Life growing up and they were always fun events to attend.

What has been your most memorable experience as a member of Relay for LIfe?

I think my most memorable experience as a member of Relay is always the luminaria ceremony. During this part of the event, everyone walks around the loop, which is lined with luminaria bags in honor/memory of people affected by cancer. As we walk, each bag gets a glow stick and it truly turns into a beautiful moment where everyone can reflect on what the event is truly all about.

What have you learned, either about yourself or the world around you, as a member of Relay for Life?

From being a member of Relay For Life, I have learned so much about how to organize a large-scale event on a long-term basis and how to be an effective student leader. I have definitely realized how much planning truly goes into events like Relay and the importance of having a great committee to delegate tasks to and help with all the details throughout the year-long planning process. I also think Relay For Life is a unique organization in that it requires targeting both college students and Middlebury community members, which necessitates almost two separate marketing tactics. While this has been a challenge for our committee, it is an aspect of our event that we definitely have put greater emphasis on this year.

Where are you from and what’s your major? What other activities are you involved with on campus?

I am from Cleveland, Ohio, and am a psychology major and double minor in political science and global health. I am on the Women’s Swimming and Diving Team and a captain this year. I also am a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

Student Org Leader Spotlight: Omar Valencia, Habitat for Humanity

Middlebury students (from left) Shougat Barua, Omar Valencia, and Juliana Dunn join community members on a Habitat for Humanity build.

A partner of the Addison County Habitat for Humanity chapter, the college’s Habitat affiliate seeks to address the need of simple, decent, affordable housing by working on local building sites, fundraising for the local Addison County chapter, assisting the chapter in its publicity and fundraising events, educating peers at Middlebury about the need for affordable housing around the world, and more. If you’re interested in learning more about the organization, please click here.

This week’s Student Leader Spotlight is Omar Valencia, the president and weekend build organizer of the college’s Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

Why should folks join Habitat for Humanity? What will they take away from the experience?

I think a lot of people say they feel trapped in the “Middlebury Bubble” and feel that they never really get to interact with any of the Vermonters in the area. I certainly felt that, and what I found in Habitat for Humanity was a way for me to break out of the bubble. I think folks should join our org because we do go out to meet people from the local community and, certainly in my case, make meaningful and lasting relationships with people from the area. Also, there’s just something wonderful and raw about the work that goes into building. Especially when I know that I went out and contributed to building someone’s home.

 

Why did you first join Habitat For Humanity?

I joined Habitat because of an assignment given by my First Year Seminar Professor, Matt Kimble. The class revolved around the topic of positive psychology and how we could use the research of psychologists to help enrich our own lives. One of our initial readings was on experience, and how some of the happiest experiences we have in our lifetime is when we join our local community in some sort of communal activity. Our professor asked that we join one student or local org and write a paper relating to our experience. When I joined Habitat, I just really liked what I did and then just kept doing it. Eventually, that led to me being offered a position on the board and now I help organize weekend builds.

 

What has been your most memorable experience as a member of Habitat for Humanity?

During one of my first builds in Cornwall, VT, me and another student, Mike Nunziante, were asked to paint the exterior of the house. First, we had to start from the second floor and then work our way down. The scaffolding we used seemed a little old, but, at least according to the foreman, was safe. To go down there was a lever that we actually had to kick so it could drop down. It took us some time to sum up the courage to eventually do it, but, once we finally moved down, it turned out to be less dramatic than we envisioned it to be.

 

What have you learned, either about yourself or the world around you, as a member of Habitat for Humanity?

Habitat builds usually pair people off, so typically people will find themselves working with the same partner all day. Needless to say, the conversations that then ensue while working on something are deep. I’ve learned that everyone has a story, and when someone is comfortable enough, they may just share it. I have always known that I am an active listener, but something Habitat has given me is a space where I am encouraged to also talk about myself and all the different facets of my life.

 

Where are you from and what’s your major? What other activities are you involved with on campus?

I am from a working-class town east of Los Angeles. I come from immigrant parents, and am constantly amazed by what my parents have done to get me here into the states. Currently, I am a Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Major and an Art History Minor. I am also involved in the Ceramics club, where I enjoy making pottery for myself and friends.

Atwater Res Life Gets Pied For MALT Trip Fundraiser

Members of the Atwater Commons Residential Life Staff got pied in the faced on Wednesday night as part of a fundraiser for a Middlebury Alternative Break Trip (MAlt) to La Push, Washington. Members of the trip can be found in the above photo.

Students will live and work with members of the Quileute Tribe in La Push, Washington through Xperitas, a community partner invested in cultural immersion and building global community. The trip is focused on social justice and participants will work to deepen their understanding of community issues through intercultural learning.

The fundraiser was organized by Sandhya Sewnauth ’20, who is one of the trip’s leaders and a Residential Assistant for Atwater Commons. First year students in Atwater were able to bid on a chance to pie their First Year Counselors, as well as the Commons Residential Director, in the face. Enjoy some photos of the event below, and if you would like to donate to any of the CCE’s MAlt trips, please click here. If you’d like to learn more about joining the Residential Life Staff, please click here.

 

Members of the Atwater Commons Res Life Staff pose after getting pied.
From left (back): Irene Margiotta ’19, Samantha Pearl ‘18.5, Will DiGravio ’19
From left (front): Doug Desrochers, Dominick Tanoh ’18, Michael Caminear ’19

Click to view slideshow.

Become a Reading Mentor at Mary Hogan Elementary School

Everybody Wins! Vermont is a statewide, nonprofit, children’s literacy and mentoring program. EW! VT mentors read with a child at Mary Hogan Elementary School during lunchtime, one day a week. Together, you explore books and literacy activities and build a meaningful friendship, within our school setting. You help a child build strong self-esteem, reading skills, and a lifelong love of books.

Consider filling out an application now to mentor a child starting in February OR sign up now so you can start up this Fall 2018. There is currently a waiting list of 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th graders hoping for a reading mentor. The time commitment is less than one hour per week and is very flexible when mentors have other obligations and time commitments. The program only runs for 6.5 months, from October through April. Mentors and meet on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays, from either 11:30 to 12:15 or from 12:05 to 12:50. 

For more information about becoming a reading mentor, visit the organization online here. If you have questions, e-mail Angela Landis at middlebury@everybodywinsvermont.org

The online application can be accessed hereIf you’d prefer a paper application, please email me Angela.

STUDENT ORG LEADER SPOTLIGHT: Luna Shen, Charter House Coalition

The college’s Charter House Coalition (CHC) student org affilliate is a volunteer-based, community supported service organization that partners with the Charter House Coalition, a nonprofit located in the town of Middlebury that provides shelter, transitional housing, free meals and a friendly face to families and individuals in the Middlebury area who need assistance.

Per their website: 

“Charter House Coalition was founded in 2005 in response to critical food and housing needs in Addison County. Our programs have expanded quickly since then. In 2014 we had a volunteer base of over 950 community members contributing 23,500 hours of service every year.”

Below is an interview with Luna Shen, who is president of the Charter House Coalition’s student organization affiliate at the college.

Why should folks join the Charter House Coalition? What will they take away from the experience?

One of my favorite parts of volunteering for Charter House Coalition (CHC) is building meaningful relationships with other volunteers, staff, and guests at CHC. I have gained a deeper sense community and awareness of issues in Addison County.

Student volunteers at CHC tend to want to learn more about food and home insecurity in our community, and enjoy that the CHC is a space to engage with non-college students. Also, student volunteers gain a more nuanced view of homelessness and food insecurity.

Why did you first join the Charter House Coalition?

Before coming to Middlebury College, I knew that I wanted to meet people outside of campus and feel more connected to Addison County. My first time at CHC was during United Way’s Days of Caring as a volunteer, a friend had invited me. Prior to that experience, I didn’t know that there was an urgent need to alleviate home and food insecurity in our community. I also didn’t know that a place like CHC existed. The CHC staff we met had so much passion and commitment for CHC. I immediately knew that I wanted to volunteer again and be a part of the meaningful work that CHC does.

What has been your most memorable experience as a member of the Charter House Coalition?

I befriended a guest last winter season. We would discuss topics ranging from the anthropology of communal eating to socialism. We were both interested in fine arts and showed each other our works. I always looked forward to chatting with him whenever I went to volunteer.

What have you learned, either about yourself or the world around you, as a member of the Charter House Coalition?

The most valuable things I have learned include being a better listener (through engaging in conversations with guests at CHC), thinking about myself less, and being sensitive to the language I use when talking about poverty. There are many harmful stereotypes surrounding homelessness and food insecurity. When I talk to others about the CHC and poverty, I have become very conscious of the ideas I imply through the language I use.  

Where are you from and what’s your major? What other activities are you involved with on campus?

My home is Beijing, China (at the moment). I am a Human Ecology major. At the moment I’m involved with Middlebury’s Privilege and Poverty Academic Cluster (check it out!!), a crossfit group, and a Christian fellowship.

STUDENT ORG LEADER SPOTLIGHT: Margaret Weber, Middlebury First Responders

Middlebury Regional EMS Staff photo including students Margo Reigle ’19, Margaret Weber ’18,
Marie Vasitas ’18, and David Cohen ’20

Middlebury First Responders (MFP) is a student organization for student first responders and students who are interested in emergency services. They aim to provide support, mentorship, and training to student first responders including EMTs and Firefighters. For more information on their work, visit go.middlebury.edu/mfr.

Below is an interview with Margaret Weber, co-president of Middlebury First Responders.

Why should folks join your org? What will they take away from the experience? 

Middlebury First Responders is an opportunity to join a close-knit community, actively engage with Addison County, and help those who need it most in our community. MFR is a great place to start for anyone interested in supporting first responders or participating in first response while at Middlebury. We are not a responding agency but work closely with both Middlebury Regional EMS and Middlebury Fire Department to support their student programs. On campus, we provide resources, trainings, community events, and volunteer opportunities to students interested in first response! 

Why did you first join Middlebury First Responders?

Marie Vasitas, Alex Browne, and I first started Middlebury First Responders last March to provide peer support to student EMTs and firefighters. Over 50 students are certified EMTs or Firefighters with many more than that certified in Wilderness Fire Response, Technical Rescue, Ski Patrol OEC, CPR or First Aid. The organization grew out of our mentor Ed Sullivan’s work after he passed away in the spring of 2016. Student first response was Ed’s vision that he brought to reality as an employee at the college and first responder in Addison County. Middlebury First Responders is a continuation of Ed’s works driven by student initiative with support from our community partners and related departments at the college.

What has been your most memorable experience as a member of Middlebury First Responders?

Last May, we hosted our first, of hopefully many, Annual Middlebury First Responders Banquet. Staff from Middlebury Regional EMS and Middlebury Fire Department joined students to thank our partners and celebrate a great year of growth!

What have you learned, either about yourself or the world around you, as a member of Middlebury First Responders?

Working in my community as an EMT, I see people on one of their worse days of their lives, a healthcare system that falls short for many of our community members, and the prevalence of drugs, abuse, and poverty. While many of our calls are routine, every once and a while one sticks with you. It is very easy to get weighed down by our work and overwhelmed by suffering. Middlebury First Responders has taught me the importance of community support to be able to process what we see as first responders and work together to engage with our community. 

Where are you from and what’s your major? What other activities are you involved with on campus? 

I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and am a Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Major with a Studio Arts Minor. On campus, I am also a Coordinator for Community Friends, a member of Chromatic, and a volunteer at the Open Door Clinic. 

Front Row (Left to Right): Zoe Keskey (EMT, MC’18), Marie Vasitas (EMT, MC’18),
Margaret Weber (EMT, MC’18)

Back Row (Left to Right): Teena Betourney (Middlebury Regional EMS Director), Kate Ingwersen (Middlebury Regional EMS Training Director), David Shaw (Middlebury Fire Department Chief),
Dylan Montagu (EMT, Firefighter, MC ’20)