Author Archives: Lyford, Shannon M.

Democracy at Midd: Beyond the Ballot

The following reflection was inspired by Lily Buren ‘26. Lily helped coordinate the Beyond the Ballot event series in October 2022, which hosted local Vermont candidates for a nonpartisan discussion about the importance of civic engagement.

Lily Buren ‘26, a first year student at Middlebury College, has been involved in civic engagement from a young age. As an 8th grader growing up in Vermont, Lily had the opportunity to work as a Legislative Page, living at the state house and working with local legislators. As a Page, Lily delivered messages to local representatives and witnessed firsthand what the legislative process looks like in Vermont. Through this experience, Lily became comfortable approaching legislators and learning from them how to become civically involved.

Lily credits the accessibility of participating in the political process in Vermont for her early interest and involvement in civic engagement. This past summer, Lily worked with her Town Representative to help organize events for local candidates to talk about their campaigns and the issues that matter most to them. By working to bridge the gap between legislators and citizens, Lily has helped break down barriers and build connections for people to get involved in their communities and make a direct impact. 

These experiences have helped to shape Lily’s path and influenced her desire to bring local candidates to Middlebury campus for two nonpartisan Beyond the Ballot events in October, prior to the midterm election. In collaboration with Center for Community Engagement staff, Lily helped organize and coordinate the Beyond the Ballot events, including contacting legislators, coordinating schedules, and facilitating both events. Lily was able to secure statewide candidates Joe Benning (Republican), Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (Democrat), Mike Pieciak (Democrat) and David Zuckerman (Progressive) to visit campus during the busy election season. They joined Middlebury students, staff, faculty, and community members for nonpartisan discussions focused on the importance of civic engagement.

Efforts from students like Lily and MiddVotes–a nonpartisan student organization dedicated to increasing student civic engagement, especially around voting–have made Middlebury College a leader in student civic engagement. In the 2020 Presidential election, the Middlebury student voting rate was 85.7%, an increase of over 23% from a voting rate of 62.3% in the 2016 Presidential election (NSLVE, 2021). Washington Monthly recently ranked Middlebury College the 2nd best college for student voting out of 230 colleges and universities. Middlebury was also recognized by ALL IN To Vote as part of the inaugural cohort of “Most Engaged Colleges for Student Voting”. As Joe Benning (R) said, “You have it in your power to change things that our generation may have overlooked.” Way to go, Midd!

Civic engagement does not just end with casting your vote; it begins there. “Voting is the floor, the most basic fundamental way to be involved,” David Zuckerman (P) explained. As Mike Pieciak (D) put it, “you are either on the field playing or in the stands watching.” Conversations have now turned to working together to address some of Vermont’s most challenging issues. The candidates on the Beyond the Ballot panels reflected on the importance of collaborating and finding common ground across political differences. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D) reflected, “We must continue to engage with those who seem to be across that divide or we are going to lose democracy.” Joe Benning (R) suggested that to start, we “find a simple problem and bring separate entities together and work together on that problem.” David Zuckerman (P) suggested if you have 15 minutes a day to do your hair, you have 15 minutes a week to devote to our democracy.

For more information on how to become involved in civic engagement at Middlebury, visit go/democracyinitiatives or contact Kristie Skor, Democracy Initiatives Coordinator, at kskor@middlebury.edu.

Seeking donations for HOPE Holiday Shop

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) is collecting donations for the HOPE (Helping Overcome the Effects of Poverty in Addison County) Holiday Shop. HOPE aims to improve the lives of low-income people by working with individuals to identify and secure resources needed to meet their basic needs. Parents who do not have the funds with which to purchase gifts for their children may come to HOPE’s Holiday Shop and select new books, toys, games, and other items for their children, free of charge.

The CCE is hosting a donation box to collect items for the Holiday Shop this year. If you wish to donate, see the wishlist below for items that are most needed. The donation box is set up at 26 Blinn Lane (CCE, behind Ross Dining Hall) right inside the front door. Our office is open for donation drop-offs during business hours, 9-5 Monday through Friday.

Items Needed

  • Games – Hed Banz, In a Pickle, Rebellion, Would You Rather, Soggy Doggy, Count Your Chickens
  • Activities – Crayole Sketcher Projector, Doctor Dreadful Alien Autopsy Playset, Play-Do sets, Activity Books, Art Supplies, Science Kits, Craft Kits
  • Electronics – string lights, headphones, earbuds, wireless speakers
  • Cars and Trucks – large construction vehicles, remote control cars, tractors
  • LEGO sets – 200 pieces or more, please
  • Balls – soccer balls, footballs, basketballs
  • Winter clothing – warm gloves, hats, socks, scarves for teens
  • Insulated water bottles
  • Gift cards – H & M, Old Navy, Target, Subway, Yogurt City
  • Children’s books – visit https://www.hope-vt.org/holiday-shop-books for suggested titles
     

You can drop off unwrapped items at the CCE during office hours (9-5) Monday-Friday! Email the CCE at cce@middlebury.edu with any questions.

Student Reflection: Dia de los Muertos

Damaris Neaves ’24 (she/her/ella) has provided this reflection about her work organizing the 2022 Dia de los muertos celebration as a Community-Connected Project Assistant at Middlebury College. Damaris helps lead Juntos and the Compañeros program, which provides English language tutoring to local migrant workers. Find more information about Juntos and Compas on Presence. To learn more about our Community-Connected Project Assistant program, visit our website read or our previous blog post written by two Community-Connected Project Assistants, Student Reflection: Teaching Assistant (*note: since this blog was written, we have renamed our Teaching Assistant to Project Assistant). 

The Día de los muertos Celebration and Procession was a collaborative interdepartmental, interdisciplinary, and community effort that aimed to gather as an inclusive Middlebury community to honor our ancestors and departed loved ones through art, song, dance, togetherness, and creativity. This project included many workshops and events that led to the main November 2nd celebration: an hour-long community procession that went all throughout campus and included song, dance, artistic performances, and community altars. 

As the Project Based Learning Community-Connected Project Assistant, the role was to aid in the creation, production, and coordination of an immersive campus-wide celebration for all. This meant collaborating with both on and off campus groups interested in participating; curating educational and recreational workshops and events in the weeks prior to the main celebration; being a liaison for students, student organizations and clubs, and external community groups; sourcing local musicians to participate in the Nov. 2nd procession; working closely with external community members and find ways to collaborate; and, ultimately, including the participation and performance of the students in ARDV 0116A The Creative Process instructed by Prof. Olga Sanchez Saltveit within the Nov. 2nd procession.

Throughout this process, we formed many connections with external organizations, communities and individuals. Whether it was leading a fun workshop, catering Mexican food for community members, supplying traditional sweet bread for altars, or organizing a Spanish-language mass for the public, we were able to bridge the gap between the Middlebury College and surrounding community, offering a welcoming space. In all, this celebration came to fruition with the support and participation of 6 Middlebury College academic departments, 6 external community entities, 7 Middlebury College centers and resources, 10 student organizations and clubs, and the attendance of over 200 people in the Nov. 2nd celebration. 

At its core, the Día de los muertos Celebration and Procession was a way to engage in reciprocal community connectedness, create new traditions among the college and students, provide a space for the Middlebury College community and beyond to heal from the universal experience of loss, and, fundamentally, celebrate the living and dead.

Student organization teaching high schoolers about financial literacy and investment!

Do you have a high school-aged student who is interested in learning more about the stock market and how to invest money? First Generation Investors (FGI) is a national nonprofit that provides education around financial literacy and investment. The Middlebury chapter is currently working with the Boys & Girls Club of Vergennes to provide afterschool financial literacy programming to high schoolers in the Addison County community. After completion of the program, FGI provides real money for the students to invest.

If this sounds like an opportunity your high school student would be interested in, please reach out to FGI student leaders at fgi@middlebury.edu to learn more about their upcoming dates at the Boys & Girls Club of Vergennes.

Student organization teaching high schoolers about financial literacy and investment!

Do you have a high school-aged student who is interested in learning more about the stock market and how to invest money? First Generation Investors (FGI) is a national nonprofit that provides education around financial literacy and investment. The Middlebury chapter is currently working with the Boys & Girls Club of Vergennes to provide afterschool financial literacy programming to high schoolers in the Addison County community. After completion of the program, FGI provides real money for the students to invest.

If this sounds like an opportunity your high school student would be interested in, please reach out to FGI student leaders at fgi@middlebury.edu to learn more about their upcoming dates at the Boys & Girls Club of Vergennes.