Tag Archives: Student Stories

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.

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)

Student Org Leader Spotlight: Caroline Muggia, Friends of John Graham Shelter

The John Graham Housing and Services (JGS) was established in July of 1980 to address Addison County’s need for emergency short-term housing. JGS provides a safe, clean place for individuals and families to stay, as well as case management and outreach services.

A small group of students travels to Vergennes at 5:00 p.m. every Wednesday and at 6:00 p.m. every Thursday. The Wednesday group provides whatever help may be required at the center, from homework help to a relaxing hour of arts and craft to ESL help. The Thursday group is involved in planning a menu and cooking a healthy, nutritious dinner for the residents. Together, these groups comprise Friends of John Graham Shelter, one of the CCE’s service organizations.

Below is an interview with Caroline Muggia, one of the co-presidents of Friends of John Graham Shelter.

Why should folks join Friends of John Graham Shelter? What will they take away from the experience? 

People should join our organization because it provides students with the opportunity to engage in the local community. The residents at John Graham greatly appreciate the weekly home cooked meals. By the end of the semester the members of org have created meaningful connections with the residents and often form great bonds with one another.

Why did you first join Friends of John Graham Shelter?

I first joined Friends of the John Graham Shelter because I wanted to make an impact beyond the Middlebury community. I wanted to understand the challenges facing residents not too far from our campus.

What has been your most memorable experience as a member of Friends of John Graham Shelter?

My most memorable experiences as a member has been interacting with families at the shelter. It is really fun to play with the young kids and see their faces light up when we bring a meal they have been looking forward to.

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

I have learned that at Middlebury we are often in a little bit of a bubble. Right down the street there are people that need our help. At the least we need to connect with more people who are different than us. I have seen the immense value in creating friendships with individuals from entirely different backgrounds than your own.

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

I am from Wellesley, Massachusetts and I am an Environmental Studies major. In addition to being the director of John Graham, I teach yoga on campus and am the Co-director of SGA student health and wellness.

SCB Senior Reflection by Kristina Frye

I first got involved with the Service Cluster Board through Page One Literacy, which organizes after school reading programs to promote literacy in the local community. Besides the semester that I went abroad to Moscow, I ended up volunteering with Page One for all 4 years. Each program is a semester long, so they’ve varied greatly depending on the school, age, and reading level of the students. Each program is also run by 2-3 student volunteers, allowing you to get to know other Middlebury students you might not have known otherwise. One of my favorite parts of Page One has definitely been revisiting favorite childhood authors such as Roald Dahl while picking out books for the program.

After serving on the board of Page One for 2 semesters, I learned about the SCB Coordinator position at the Center for Community Engagement. Being an SCB Coordinator has been entirely different from working with Page One, but what I’ve enjoyed most is getting to know students from other service orgs. and working in the CCE office. Everyone is extremely friendly, and there are so many more ways to organize service projects and receive funding than I could have imagined. I’ve been very lucky to work with the SCB co-coordinators that I have, because each one has been an amazing partner to work with in different ways. It’s encouraging to see so many students finding different needs to address in Middlebury and building relationships with community partners. I think if anything has changed in terms of my perspective on working with SCB in the past 4 years, it’s that I now see those community partnerships as just as, if not more, important than the service itself.

-Kristina Frye ’17