Tag Archives: Student Leader Profiles

Student Org Leader Spotlight: Elissa DeNunzio, Community Friends

Community Friends is a one-on-one mentoring programs that matches Middlebury College students with children ages 6-12 in Addison County. The program was originally founded in 1960 by the Counseling Services of Addison County, and now runs as a Student Organization advised by the Center for Community Engagement. Mentors meet with their matches for at least two hours per week. Matches can have fun exploring campus, crafting, attending sports events, eating in the dining halls, and much more! For more information, check out their webpage here.

Below is an interview with Elissa DeNunzio ’18, the lead coordinator of Community Friends.

Why should folks join Community Friends? What will they take away from the experience? 

Community Friends is a great opportunity to connect with a child in the local Addison County community. Mentors are able to develop a new friendship and have fun while doing it!

Not only can mentors help their mentees with problems at school or with their peers, but mentors can also learn a lot from their mentees about Addison County and how to build a meaningful relationship. Mentoring is not just a one-way relationship, but we can learn a lot from our mentees too! Plus it is always fun to run around campus, watch movies in Axinn, or make amazing dining hall creations in Proctor! 

Why did you first join Community Friends?

I joined Community Friends because I am interested in becoming an elementary school teacher. I wanted another opportunity to engage with children outside of the classroom. I participated in a Big Brother Big Sister program in high school and wanted to continue my mentoring experience in college. I was excited to have the opportunity to build another relationship and connect with Addison County in the process. 

What has been your most memorable experience as a member of Community Friends?

As a coordinator, I have loved being able to watch the program grow. Over the past few years, Community Friends has had up to eighty matches at one time. I love watching matches interact during our monthly events, whether that is playing an intense game of football, decorating cookies, or showing off magic tricks. I am excited to see how the program becomes even more successful throughout the rest of the school year, especially with our new mentor training series! 

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

During my work as a coordinator, I have had several discussions about effective techniques for communicating and engaging with children. In our recent new mentor training, Laura Basili shared the importance of active listening skills. I have learned about the importance of listening instead of trying to solve other people’s problems. I have gotten to put these techniques into practice while meeting with my mentee and even in conversations with my peers on campus. Community Friends has provided me with the skills to better communicate with peers in and out of the program. 

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

I am from Darien, CT. I am a double psychology and elementary student teaching major (the first one!). On campus, I am on the varsity diving team and work at the student mail center. 

Club Leader Spotlight: Conner Gilbert, Page One Literacy

Leaders of Page One Literacy, from left to right: Conner Gilbert ’19 (President and Treasurer), Claiborne Beary ’20 (Programs Coordinator), Lily Massaro ’19 (Webmaster and Publicity Coordinator), and Mari Odoy ’20 (One-time Events Coordinator)

Page One Literacy is an organization that aims to foster a love for reading and enthusiasm for learning among students at local Addison County elementary schools. Through weekly reading programs and special one-time community events, Page One hopes to help children find a creative outlet and improve their comprehension skills. Through volunteering at programs and events, Page One aims to venture outside the campus to forge strong, positive connections with the Middlebury community. For more information on Page One, click here.

Below is an interview with Conner Gilbert ’19, the president & treasurer of Page One:

Why should folks join Page One? What will they take away from the experience? 

Aside from the obvious experiences of meeting new people, escaping campus each week, and rereading your favorite books of your youth, I think one of the clearest lessons that I have learned is that there is so much beyond the confides of the Middlebury campus. As a student body, we truly have the power to make a lasting impact by sharing our passion and experience with individuals in the community. As we often get trapped in our Middlebury bubble, it is truly refreshing to escape for an hour a week and make an impact for children in the community.

Why did you first join Page One?

Throughout high school, I ran the tutoring services for a local low income after school program in my hometown. My six hours every week at the center was genuinely the highlight of my week. After talking with one of my friends about my experiences with this, she encouraged me to join Page One. From there on out I was hooked. Starting as a member, I have since served as Programs Coordinator, Treasurer, and most recently my role as President, a role I plan to stay in for the rest of my Middlebury career.

What has been your most memorable experience as a member of Page One?

While I have had so many memorable experiences, one of my most treasured was during my first semester with Page One when I was working with a group of five students. For the first session, the students were clearly not excited however each session I watched them become more excited about reading. It was at the moment that I realized that we were making a difference and showing that reading is truly valuable and not just a chore in life.

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

While I have seen myself grow so much as an individual during my time with Page One, I think learning the importance of diligence and passion have had the starkest impact on my life. Our work as an organization is not always easy and it requires immense work on the part of our volunteers, board, and community partners as we constantly look to grow, improve, and reorganize to make sure that we are making the largest impact possible. While I have watched our organization improve immensely, our work will never be done and that’s okay. Most people fail to recognize how much work a successful service organization is to manage however it is all worth it when the results are seen. Coming together with a shared common goal and a dedication to children can bring about some pretty awesome results.

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

I am from Georgia, VT and major in Environmental Economics. I am also a board member for MiddCAM and serve as a Community Assistant for Atwater Commons.