Author Archives: Ellie Carr

Middlebury College Responds

Read below to learn how Middlebury College students, faculty, and staff have supported Addison County as it deals with the impacts of COVID-19.

How do we support Middlebury College’s experiential, community-based learning and service when we are unexpectedly spread around the world mid-semester? Students, faculty, and staff got creative and maintained our commitments to engaging as active citizens in innovative ways this spring. Below we’ve compiled a few of the ways the CCE has re-imagined and shifted our work. We are especially inspired by the initiative and creativity of students in adapting programming, and we think you will be too!

Apart Together: Survey & Discussion
Thirty-four CCE-engaged students responded to our Apart Together survey, helping us to better understand the programs and projects they have been able to continue; the emergent needs and opportunities they are considering; and how CCE can best support their efforts, ideas and challenges.  CCE staff Kristen Mullins facilitated a community discussion over lunchtime as a follow-up to the survey – Apart Together: Considering the Challenges and Opportunities of Remote Engagement.     

Language in Motion
Fifteen Language in Motion (LiM) participants have pitched in to develop a virtual LiM library for host teachers; populated with introductory letters (for letter exchanges) and pre-recorded video presentations.  Two participants have also “visited” Middlebury Union High School language classes via video-conference. To learn more, read LiM student Ho June (Sean) Rhee’s reflection.

The Wild Middlebury Project
WildMidd students created regular social media posts with videos and outreach about the Wild Hometowns project, to help connect people to nature as they maintained social distance, spread around the world.

Healthy relationships with adults are critical for healthy development, especially during periods of change and anxiety such as those brought on by COVID-19. In addition to transitioning to remote schooling and sheltering away from family and friends, many youth are experiencing added stresses in their homes as parents navigate fear, job loss, and the difficulties of working from home while also caring for and teaching children. Four of our youth and mentoring programs– Community Friends, Middlebury College Access Mentors, DREAM, and Nutrition Outreach & Mentoring– shifted to remote programming to continue supporting Addison County youth this spring.

Community Friends
The eleven-student Coordinator Board of Community Friends met weekly to support mentoring for those among its 140 mentor/mentee pairs who continued to meet remotely. Weekly ideas emails (remote field trips, letter-writing prompts, crafts to do separately but share together, etc.) and a training on Zoom on how to talk about the pandemic and build connections helped maintain meaningful relationships across the distance of COVID-19. One example: First-year student Madeline Hiller met weekly with her mentee, Addie. Addie taught Madeline origami, and the two baked cup cakes for Addie’s birthday to ‘share.’ Community Friends also recruited, selected, and brought on five new Coordinators who will start on the Board in the fall, and honored its 60th Anniversary celebrations with a listening project that they synthesized into an audio story (go/cfstories).

Middlebury College Access Mentors
Twenty MiddCAM mentors are providing remote support to their mentees, Middlebury Union High School juniors, as they navigate the college applications process. Each mentor-mentee pair’s remote communication looks a little different: some text, some email, some video chat, and some do a combination of all three. No matter what form it takes, the relationships are providing crucial support to the high school students as they navigate canceled tests, canceled college visits, and the uncertainties of a global pandemic on top of the uncertainties already inherent to the college applications process. The mentees are not the only ones benefiting from the relationships, of course. Eleanor Pontikes ‘22.5 writes, “Throughout all the craziness and abrupt change to daily life, my weekly FaceTimes with my mentee Anna have not only been grounding, but also fill me with hope for the future. Anna, like the rest of the MiddCAM mentees, is so hardworking, dedicated, and compassionate—it has been such an amazing program to be a part of.”

DREAM
DREAM’s 15 mentors got creative to shift their weekly, in-person group activities to the virtual sphere. In addition to weekly Zoom meetings with the kiddos where they play fun games (so far: lots of online Pictionary), mentor-mentee pairs have stayed in touch through letter-writing!

Nutrition Outreach & Mentoring
NOM has worked with community partners at Mary Hogan Elementary School and Addison Central Teens to produce and share healthy recipes, cooking videos, and more with Addison Central School District youth.

In addition to transitioning many of our regular programming to remote programming, the CCE has also been involved in Middlebury College’s response in the local community. Here are a few of the ways that the college has supported the larger community in new ways:

  • Middlebury College Dining Services is working with Charter House Coalition and the John Graham Shelter to provide three hot meals daily to approximately 50 food-insecure Addison County residents.
  • A network for students under the name Middlebury Volunteer Tutors is providing tutoring services for faculty and staff families given new needs as K-12th schools moved to remote learning.
  • The College provided urgently needed temporary housing for a small number of University of Vermont Health Network/Porter Medical Center employees.
  • Middlebury College received a donation of 10,000 masks from parents and are donating 4,000 of the masks to local agencies and frontline workers.
  • Middlebury College’s Bookstore donated unused graduation gowns to Gowns for Good, an initiative founded at UVM.

Thanks to all for their innovative, responsive community engagement that supports healthy communities at this challenging time!

Middlebury Alumni Educator Spotlight: Natasha Causton ’96

The transition to remote learning brought the crucial role of educators to the foreground. We wanted to take this time to reach out to some Middlebury alumni educators teaching in Vermont and recognize them for all the work they do, including their efforts to stay connected with students during this isolation period.  

Natasha Causton ’96 majored in Spanish & History and now teaches World Languages at Middlebury Union High School. When asked what drew her to staying and teaching in Vermont, she said: “I have always been an idealist and wanted to connect with students. I wanted to be able to have ‘discussions’ about literature and the meaning of life.  I started off my career as an English teacher and found my way into teaching world languages.

The transition to remote learning has been fairly smooth for Natasha, although she misses her students a lot! For her, it is essential to stay in touch with her students. So, she has been keeping in touch with them through video chats and exploring other strategies to maintain this connection. However, she does worry that she cannot have the same depth and breadth of education experiences to her students due to isolation. 

Last week, a Language in Motion student made a presentation to her virtual class, and she is using educational materials created by another LiM student through LiM’s vitual library! 

Thank you for your commitment to your students and this community, Natasha! 

Stay tuned for more stories from Middlebury Alumni Educators!

Language in Motion is Back in Motion

Language in Motion (LiM) student staff member Ho June (Sean) Rhee ’21 writes about LiM’s transition to remote programming.

As the schools in Addison County closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers, including those in our Middlebury College community, have been adjusting to these unprecedented events. However, after a brief hiatus and swift adjustment, CCE’s Language in Motion (LiM) is back in motion

The LiM team–comprised of student presenters, student staff Michelle Liu ‘22, Francoise Niyigena ‘21, Martin Troska ‘21, and Ho June (Sean) Rhee ‘21 with LiM Coordinator Kristen Mullins–is safe. We are practicing social distancing, and carrying on with new–hopefully temporary–lifestyles in our respective areas–from the Middlebury campus to all around the world.

Social distancing, however, does not mean social isolation. As students are now learning online, the LiM community has also been finding ways to stay connected with the students and teachers in Addison County beyond our usual in-person presentations. Although LiM presenters are not able to visit classrooms physically, they are just one click away from being in the same virtual classroom. 

During the past weeks, we have been building two virtual bridges to the Addison community: letter-writing and prerecorded/recorded video presentations. These platforms discuss not only our repertoire of global awareness, cultural competence, and world language acquisition, but also share the changes that COVID-19 has brought to our lives. For instance, two presenters, Avery Dyer ‘21 and Ho June (Sean) Rhee ‘21, recorded a co-presentation in Spanish to discuss how their Middlebury and quarantine lifestyles differ from each other with language students in Middlebury Union High School and Mount Abraham Union High School.

To date, 22 Language in Motion participants have indicated their interest in engaging with our local schools remotely. Thirteen of these 22 have already begun developing materials for our “virtual library,” and seven have been matched with collaborating teachers.

Martin Troska ’21 prepares a video presentation that will populate a virtual Language in Motion library for collaborating teachers.

We–students, teachers, and presenters alike–are going through these troubling times together and it is only natural to feel overwhelmed in the face of uncertainty every once in a while. Although it is challenging to find a silver lining when we are in the eye of the storm, we hope that these letters and virtual interactions will provide a sense of solidarity and company to the students and teachers in our community.

Even when this pandemic has physically set us six feet apart from each other, we continue to communicate, share, and engage with our communities virtually and emotionally. Please take good care of yourself and those around you.

Celebrating National AmeriCorps Week: Luna Shen ‘19.5

This week, we are celebrating National AmeriCorps Week by highlighting recent Middlebury graduates currently serving as AmeriCorps members in Addison County!

AmeriCorps is “a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that each take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement.” Members, including some of our recent Middlebury graduates, commit to serving the community by engaging in youth and mentoring, fighting poverty, increasing academic achievement, and more. 

The state of Vermont produces the 3rd highest rate of AmeriCorps members per capita! We are proud of our alumni who contribute to that ranking and the role that their community engagement experiences as students played in their decisions to serve as AmeriCorps members in Addison County.

Read below to learn more about AmeriCorps member spotlight, Luna Shen ‘19.5, and her trajectory from student to AmeriCorps member with John Graham Shelter in Vergennes.

What did you study at Middlebury, and how were you involved on campus?

I studied Sociology and was heavily involved with visual arts while at Middlebury College. I was also Chair of the Charter House student organization, and involved with a Fall Dance Concert and a collaborative arts piece.

How did community engagement shape your time as a student at Middlebury? 

I have been involved in the community in a variety of different ways. Perhaps my longest and most profound connection is with Charter House Coalition. I volunteered weekly at Charter House Coalition since my first year at Middlebury College. I was also a J-Term intern at Charter House and served as the Chair of the Charter House student organization on campus. I also spent a summer interning with HOPE. In addition to working with local non-profits, I do CrossFIT with a group of college and non-college affiliated community members and attend Middlebury’s Congregational Church.

Being a part of all these groups has led me to see familiar faces wherever I go in Middlebury. As an introvert and not too outgoing person, it has been a nice surprise to see so many people I know around town. 

How did these experiences deepen your understandings of civic engagement and service?

My experiences in the community have widened my understanding of what it means to be an engaged citizen. To me, being an engaged citizen means caring for the people around me, and it doesn’t have to take the form of explicit social service work. Service looks like so many things!

I’ve also learned that service is difficult because so much of it requires me to purge my own misconceptions and see and reflect on my blind spots — When am I impatient? Why am I being snappy? Why is it hard to practice self-care?

Being an engaged citizen means caring for the people around me, and it doesn’t have to take the form of explicit social service work!

Luna Shen ‘19.5, AmeriCorps Member

My understanding of service has shifted in that I am asking myself what I get excited about and what I am proud of having done after a day’s work. Knowing what excites me helps with sustaining service. For example, I do visual art, and I’ve been able to bring that into my work with John Graham shelter!

What led you to decide to serve as an AmeriCorps member with John Graham Housing & Services in Vergennes?

I decided to stay and take my current role in part because I knew I would need a strong emotional support network to transition smoothly from college to post-college life. I have a community here, and “adult friends” I hang out with. Serving with John Graham in Vergennes was an exciting and effortless decision because I was familiar with the Director already, and felt confident learning to become a service coordinator at John Graham because of having worked with Charter House.

How has living as a non-student in Addison County been for you?

I have really enjoyed being a non-student in Addison County. I have enjoyed seeing my friends who are still in college, including my partner. Addison County had become my home over the past few years.

Addison County has become my home.

Luna Shen 19.5, AmeriCorps Member

Have you given any thought to what comes next?

While I am not sure of next steps yet, I could see myself reapplying to my current position as AmeriCorps member of John Graham Shelter. Or, I could see myself working in Burlington!

Thank you to Luna and all Middlebury College alumni who have served or are currently serving as AmeriCorps members in Addison County!

Celebrating National AmeriCorps Week: Nicholas Leslie ’19

This week, we are celebrating National AmeriCorps Week by highlighting recent Middlebury graduates currently serving as AmeriCorps members in Addison County!

AmeriCorps is “a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that each take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement.” Members, including some of our recent Middlebury graduates, commit to serving the community by engaging in youth and mentoring, fighting poverty, increasing academic achievement, and more. 

The state of Vermont produces the 3rd highest rate of AmeriCorps members per capita! We are proud of our alumni who contribute to that ranking and the role that their community engagement experiences as students played in their decisions to serve as AmeriCorps members in Addison County.

Read below to learn more about AmeriCorps member spotlight, Nicholas Leslie ‘19, and his trajectory from student to Addison Central Teens’ AmeriCorps State/National member.

Nicholas Leslie ’19, AmeriCorps State/National Member at Addison Central Teens

Where are you from? What did you study at Middlebury? How were you involved on campus?

I’m from Lexington, Kentucky, and after starting with an interest in Spanish, I switched my studies to history. Throughout most of my time at Middlebury, I was involved in the scene shop in Wright Memorial Theatre and Seeler Studio Theater, mostly producing sets for shows but also doing some prop manufacturing.

How did community engagement shape your time as a student at Middlebury? 

My first foray into the community was a rather small step, with the community choir that met in Mead Chapel twice per week. Although it was still on campus, it was nice that most of the people involved weren’t students because the conversations I had with people never revolved around schoolwork, so it was a decent reprieve from some of the more intense parts of campus culture. I began to get really involved with Addison Central Teens, the teen center in Middlebury, during the latter half of my senior year.

How did these experience deepen your understandings of civic engagement and service?

In the latter half of my senior year, I began volunteering at the teen center twice per week, which was definitely a more immersive experience in the greater Middlebury community. When I was a student, I saw all these other amazing MiddKids fighting for these massive causes that truly needed and still do require people’s participation. That said, I think many of us forgot about the little battles being waged in our own community that cradled us through our student careers. Engaging in the greater Middlebury community definitely reminded me to look not only at the big picture but also at the small details that create it.

I saw all these other amazing MiddKids fighting for these massive causes…I think many of us forgot about the little battles being waged in our own community.

Nicholas Leslie ’19, AmeriCorps Member

What led you to decide to serve as an AmeriCorps member at Addison Central Teens?

I actually left Middlebury for a few months after graduating this past May. I initially thought that moving away from Middlebury would be the best thing for me, but the next few months saw me missing the community and the connections I had made at the teen center. With prompting from some friends and a lot of overthinking, I applied to the position and got it. I was especially happy that I would be able to come and help the teens that I had come to know.

I initially thought that moving away from Middlebury would be the best thing for me, but the next few months saw me missing the community and the connections I had made at the teen center.

Nicholas Leslie ’19, AmeriCorps Member

How has living as a non-student in Addison County been for you?

Being a non-student in Middlebury has been an interesting transition. Life seems to have slowed down from the fast pace that campus was for me, and things are significantly quieter at night, which I have zero complaints about.

Have you given any thought to what comes next?

To be completely honest, I’m already planning on applying for a second term of service at the teen center when my first is up. I want to be a consistent figure in the teens’ lives so that I can best support them through this tough time of change in their lives.

Stay tuned for more upcoming blog posts about our other Middlebury alumni AmeriCorps members!

Celebrating National AmeriCorps Week: Nicholas Leslie ’19

This week, we are celebrating National AmeriCorps Week by highlighting recent Middlebury graduates currently serving as AmeriCorps members in Addison County!

AmeriCorps is “a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that each take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement.” Members, including some of our recent Middlebury graduates, commit to serving the community by engaging in youth and mentoring, fighting poverty, increasing academic achievement, and more. 

The state of Vermont produces the 3rd highest rate of AmeriCorps members per capita! We are proud of our alumni who contribute to that ranking and the role that their community engagement experiences as students played in their decisions to serve as AmeriCorps members in Addison County.

Read below to learn more about AmeriCorps member spotlight, Nicholas Leslie ‘19, and his trajectory from student to Addison Central Teens’ AmeriCorps State/National member.

Nicholas Leslie ’19, AmeriCorps State/National Member at Addison Central Teens

Where are you from? What did you study at Middlebury? How were you involved on campus?

I’m from Lexington, Kentucky, and after starting with an interest in Spanish, I switched my studies to history. Throughout most of my time at Middlebury, I was involved in the scene shop in Wright Memorial Theatre and Seeler Studio Theater, mostly producing sets for shows but also doing some prop manufacturing.

How did community engagement shape your time as a student at Middlebury? 

My first foray into the community was a rather small step, with the community choir that met in Mead Chapel twice per week. Although it was still on campus, it was nice that most of the people involved weren’t students because the conversations I had with people never revolved around schoolwork, so it was a decent reprieve from some of the more intense parts of campus culture. I began to get really involved with Addison Central Teens, the teen center in Middlebury, during the latter half of my senior year.

How did these experiences deepen your understandings of civic engagement and service?

In the latter half of my senior year, I began volunteering at the teen center twice per week, which was definitely a more immersive experience in the greater Middlebury community. When I was a student, I saw all these other amazing MiddKids fighting for these massive causes that truly needed and still do require people’s participation. That said, I think many of us forgot about the little battles being waged in our own community that cradled us through our student careers. Engaging in the greater Middlebury community definitely reminded me to look not only at the big picture but also at the small details that create it.

I saw all these other amazing MiddKids fighting for these massive causes…I think many of us forgot about the little battles being waged in our own community.

Nicholas Leslie ’19, AmeriCorps Member

What led you to decide to serve as an AmeriCorps member at Addison Central Teens?

I actually left Middlebury for a few months after graduating this past May. I initially thought that moving away from Middlebury would be the best thing for me, but the next few months saw me missing the community and the connections I had made at the teen center. With prompting from some friends and a lot of overthinking, I applied to the position and got it. I was especially happy that I would be able to come and help the teens that I had come to know.

I initially thought that moving away from Middlebury would be the best thing for me, but the next few months saw me missing the community and the connections I had made at the teen center.

Nicholas Leslie ’19, AmeriCorps Member

How has living as a non-student in Addison County been for you?

Being a non-student in Middlebury has been an interesting transition. Life seems to have slowed down from the fast pace that campus was for me, and things are significantly quieter at night, which I have zero complaints about.

Have you given any thought to what comes next?

To be completely honest, I’m already planning on applying for a second term of service at the teen center when my first is up. I want to be a consistent figure in the teens’ lives so that I can best support them through this tough time of change in their lives.

Stay tuned for more blog posts featuring other Middlebury alumni currently serving as AmeriCorps members in Addison County!