Author Archives: William DiGravio

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.

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.

Vote in Nov. 7 Special Election (Early Voting Available)

Students who are registered to vote in Middlebury will be able to exercise their civic duty in a special election scheduled to take place on Tuesday, November 7 at the Town Offices at 77 Main Street. Students are also able to vote early until Thursday November 2.  More information can be found here.

The election will consist of a single ballot measure: should the town charge Vermont Gas for three pipeline easements the company is seeking on town-owned property? For more information on Vermont Gas and its role in the pipeline, read this story by John Flowers in The Addison Independent.

In September, a Middlebury resident gathered more than the required number of signatures to force a special election on the issue.

Here is the official article that will appear on the ballot:

“Shall the legal voters of the Town of Middlebury approve the current Deed of Easement agreements as approved by the Select board at their meeting on June 27, 2017 and convey three land easements (one behind the town office and Ilsley library, one near Mr. Ups Restaurant, and one on Mill Street) to Vermont Gas Systems?”

An informational meeting will be held prior to the election on November 6 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mary Hogan Elementary School cafeteria/gymnasium, located at 201 Mary Hogan Drive. More information can be found here.

Apply to Serve on HOPE’s Board of Trustees

Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) is seeking a student to serve on their board of trustees.

Applications for the position can be accessed here.

The board of trustees meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 3:30 p.m. at 282 Boardman Street in Middlebury. Please email questions and completed applications to Jeanne Montross at jmontross@hope-vt.org.

You may also mail applications to:

Jeanne Montross, HOPE

P.O. Box 165

Middlebury, VT

05753

About HOPE:

HOPE is a Middlebury-based organization that “assists low income individuals and families in many ways, depending on their needs and circumstances” throughout Addison County. Their services include providing meals through their food shelf, hosting cooking classes, providing financial assistance with housing and utilities, helping with urgent medical and dental needs, and providing job-related assistance including tools, uniforms, and tests.