Author Archives: William DiGravio

Three Students Join United Way’s Community Impact Funding Team

A meeting of the United Way of Addison County’s Community Impact Funding team. Hira Zeeshan ’22 is second from the left.

In January, the CCE advertised in our weekly newsletter an opportunity for students to join the United Way of Addison County’s Community Impact Funding Team. Since then, three college students, Lulu Zhou ’19, Hee Yeong Son ‘20.5, Hira Zeeshan ’22, have worked as part of the 27-member team.

The students have helped allocate thousands of grant dollars, which will ultimately be distributed to 17 local nonprofit organizations. The grant dollars aim to support programs that improve the physical, mental, and emotional health of Addison County residents, such as hospice services, domestic abuse support, support for elderly, summer recreation, meal programs for local students, and more.

According to the United Way of Addison County, in April, the team will convene to make funding recommendations to the UWAC Board of Directors, with the goal of focusing philanthropic dollars where they will make the largest impact. In the past three years, CIF grant reviewers helped UWAC invest over $990,000 in 33 programs covering 28 different agencies across the region. 

“We were fortunate to have three Middlebury College students on our CIF grant review team this year. Their thoughtful questions and comments have been top notch and their status as non-Addison County residents has brought a fresh perspective to the process,” said WAC Executive Director Helena Van Voost. “Their participation has truly been invaluable and we are very grateful.”

Student Lulu Zhou, who has been a member of the team for two years, called the experience one of the highlights of her community engagement and college experiences.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to concretely understand social issues facing local communities, learn about the diverse programs local organizations offer to promote equity, gain insights into grant applications and NGO programming, and work with a group of individuals dedicated to social justice,” Zhou said. “This experience certainly reinforces my passion for doing community engagement related work after Middlebury.”

If you have questions about being involved next year or other local volunteer opportunities, please contact UWAC’s volunteer coordinator, Linnea Oosterman at linnea@unitedwayaddisoncounty.org

Profile: CCE AmeriCorps VISTA Member Sarah Litwiller

Sarah Litwiller is the Middlebury CCE’s 2018-19 AmeriCorps VISTA member. She grew up in Northern California and graduated from Principia College in Elsah, Illinois with a B.A. in Religion and Global Studies. Since then, she has lived in India and worked within their foster care system, and, for the last two years, lived on a ranch in the Colorado Rockies as a director of a youth summer camp. Outside of work, Sarah likes to play outside and travel.

Are you interested in becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA member? Or learning more about the program in general? Then attend the National AmeriCorps Week Panel on Tuesday, March 12th from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. in the CCE Living Room. Come have all your questions and more answered by our panel of AmeriCorps members currently serving in Vermont. You will learn about the types of AmeriCorps service, how to apply, what AmeriCorps life is like, and opportunities both on campus and throughout the country. To learn more about working at the CCE next year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, visit go/ccevista.

In the meantime, learn more about the job from Sarah, below:

1. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your experience? 

My favorite and most rewarding part of my position is the advising I do with college students. I love meeting one-on-one with my advisees and working together to think creatively and to problem solve. I end up learning just as much from those experiences as I’m sure they do.

2. What is one thing that has surprised you?

While I wasn’t necessarily surprised, I was not sure what to expect in terms of office culture and my integration into the CCE staff. The CCE staff has fully embraced and respected me as if I were a regular full-time employee. I am constantly empowered and encouraged in my role, making this VISTA experience even more fruitful than I had expected.

3. When was a time you were challenged and grew from that challenge? 

When I stepped into this position I was faced with the challenge of advising organizations I knew little about. This made for a very steep learning curve that I had to navigate pretty quickly. I grew from this opportunity in many ways; I had to learn to trust myself a lot more, as well as how to be humble enough to ask questions.

4. Why should others consider applying for a role similar to yours?

The VISTA role in the CCE is an incredible opportunity. I have developed invaluable professional skills around leadership, advising, facilitating, decision-making, content and material development, and project management. I have a lot of autonomy, which has allowed me to grow in an extremely supported and well-resourced environment. If you’re looking to be a part of an amazing team of people who care about civic engagement, while also having the opportunity for professional development in areas of personal interest then this is the position for you!

Faculty Partner Profile: Shawna Shapiro

 

In the course of work done here at the CCE, students and staff members oftern partner with members of the greater Middlebury community and beyond. Below is an interview with one of one of our partners, Shawna Shapiro, associate professor of Writing & Rhetoric and the director of the college’s Writing and Rhetoric Program.

Which CCE student organizations/programs do you partner with in your work? What kind of work do you do together?

I’m the faculty sponsor for MiddROC, and have helped the group make connections to schools and other organizations in Chittenden County. I also talk through issues that come up in their work and advise on ways they can bring back to the campus in terms of knowledge and community-building. I’ve also done trainings with Juntos on English language pedagogy and other issues related to their work with migrant farmworkers. (I’ve also received AOE grants connected to my Intro to TESOL course- not sure if you want me to talk about that in this interview. Let me know, as that’s been where the community connections are a bit more involved). 

How have community connections impacted your teaching and research?

Community connections offer a number of benefits: First, they help students complicate their understanding of “community.” When students say “Vermont is all white,” I can say “Actually, it’s not—you might want to check out these organizations that serve minority populations.” It also helps students see that the issues we talk about in class (e.g., language prejudice, English language policies in schools, etc.) have real-world consequences not just “out there” (in other places) but right here. Having community connections as case studies also helps students understand the messiness of organizational/societal change: Sometimes complicate political dynamics within an organization, or differing narratives about goals and histories, can be a barrier to movement. In those cases, our goal has to be to understand what’s happening, even if we can’t do much about it.  For example, I’m currently working with teachers at Burlington High School to map out some curricular changes, but in our conversations, they’re starting to share more about all of the ways they’ve felt unheard and disrespected by school administration, which makes them leery to put a lot of effort into changes that once again might not be supported. It’s humbling for me to realize that my idealism comes from not having to deal with day-to-day struggles that teachers in this school are facing.

What is one important thing you have learned either about yourself or the world around you during the course of your community-connected work?

I’ve learned that impatience is one of my biggest weaknesses, and that I have to model for students the “long view,” helping them see that building relationships takes time, and there may not always be a tangible “outcome” that you can point to for years in the future. This is a good reminder for me, but it’s also great for students who see themselves as “activists” and are used to talking about change-making and problem-solving. I’ve also learned that in our desire to “help others,” we sometimes dehumanize those others, forgetting that they have agency, aspirations, and lived experiences that might actually teach us something.  So I think the b

How does collaboration contribute to your work? Do you have any advice for those who may seek to collaborate on a project?

Collaboration makes me aware of my privilege—not only as a straight, white, U.S.-born citizen, but also as a faculty member at Middlebury College. I didn’t realize until doing this sort of work that while Middlebury has a lot of prestige, many people in the community are skeptical of what scholars have to offer to real-world problems.  I see my community engagement work in some ways as “PR” for the college.  2 pieces of advice: 1) Spend a lot of time learning about the issues—this can take months or even years. When you find yourself thinking: “This isn’t that hard! Why can’t they just…[insert naïve solution here] assume that there’s something you are not understanding about the history and/or nature of the issue(s) at hand.  2) Ask genuine questions. Acknowledge the deep expertise that community partners have, and present yourself as learning from them, rather than “helping” them.

What is one of the fondest memories you have of collaborating with students in your work?

In 2016, we used funds from an AOE grant connected to my FYS “Language and Social Justice” to visit Nepali heritage classes at the Vermont Hindu Temple (I had consulted with the leaders to develop the program and curriculum and to get some startup funding).  When we got there, they had us all sit in a circle (Midd students, kids in the program, and teachers/helpers) and they taught us some letter in the alphabet. Then they asked me to remind students of why it is important for them to maintain a connection to their Nepali language and culture. At first I was taken aback, because I didn’t feel that it was my place to be making that argument, but one of the leaders said “You’re a professor. They’ll listen to you.” That was a moment where I realized that I could use my privilege to work WITH the teachers in reinforcing an important message to their young students.

My students also visited an Open House for the Nepali Program later in the semester, and they had some great conversations with students in the program about all sorts of things. And there was delicious food and fun music!

 

Know someone we should interview and/or spotlight? Email cceintern@middlebury.edu

Photo Story: Learn More About Privilege & Poverty National Internships

The Privilege & Poverty Academic Cluster integrates rigorous academic study and focused direct service to disadvantaged communities and persons, enriching the education of undergraduate students in all majors and career paths. This summer internship program provides students with an opportunity to extend their learning about poverty and inequality in the classroom out into communities, both local and national, through funded summer internships.

Local summer internships are available at WomenSafe, John Graham Housing & Services, HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects), Mary Johnson Children Center rural food programs and the Charter House Coalition .

National internships are coordinated through our participation in the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty summer internship program. Since 2005, Middlebury College has participated in the SHECP program to support students in summer internships with agencies that seek to work alongside vulnerable populations. Internships are available to non-graduating Middlebury students and are located in urban and rural settings throughout the United States with agencies that serve in educational, healthcare, immigration, legal, housing, social and economic capacities for the needs of individuals and their communities.

The deadline to apply is Tuesday, January 15th. 

To apply and learn more, check out the listing on Handshake. To get a glimpse into life as an intern, check out our photo story below.

National P&P interns attend an opening and closing conference during the course of their internship through the college’s partnership with SHECP. Here, Elizabeth Zhou ’18 presents at the closing conference in 2017.

Interns at the 2017 SHECP Opening Conference with CCE Director Tiffany Sargent ’79 and Professor and P&P Academic Director James Calvin Davis.

The 2018 class of Local P&P interns gather for a group discussion during the summer.

The 2018 class of local P&P interns goes through a workshop as they prepare to begin their internships.

Photo Story: Japan Summer Service-Learning Program 2018

This post is the first in a series highlighting some of the Middlebury College Center for Community Engagement’s international programs.

Below you will find a handful of photographs from the 2018 Japan Summer Service-Learning program. Since the program began in 2016, the CCE has sent college students to Japan, partnering with the Middlebury School in Japan and the Service Learning Center at International Christian University (ICU) in Mitaka, Japan.

To learn more about the program, click here.

To learn more about a student’s experience with the program, read Diana Lam’s ’21 reflection on the CCE Blog, here.

If you’re interested in participating in the program yourself, applications for summer 2019 will available in February 2019. Questions can be directed to Kristen Mullins at kmullins@middlebury.edu.

Participants assist in community cleaning, including a garden and pool. 

Part of the service experience includes visiting schools in the area, including the junior middle school below.

Program participants stay with a host family. 

TODAY IS ELECTION DAY: How We Can Help Get You to the Polls

 

TODAY is Election Day and MiddVOTE is committed to helping you get to the polls!

Here’s what they’re doing to help you get there:

Get a Ride to The Polls
Come to ADK Circle to catch a shuttle to the polls every hour, starting at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 6:00 p.m. The shuttle will drive you to and from the Town Clerk’s office! More information can found on Facebook here.

Party at The Polls
Students, faculty, staff, and local community members are invited to MiddVOTE’s #VoteTogether Party at the Polls! Stop by the tent at College Park (across from Shafer’s Market and Deli) to enjoy hot chocolate, pizza, face painting for children, and more on your way to the polls at the Town Clerk’s office and celebrate Election Day. More info can be found on Facebook here.

Register AND Vote in Middlebury
As a Middlebury College student, you are a resident of Vermont! This means you can register AND vote in Middlebury on Election Day. Check out this article by The Middlebury Campus on how to do just that.

And check out the paper’s coverage on elections here in the state of Vermont so you can be an informed voter!

Attend the Election Night Watch Party
Come join us tonight from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for a bipartisan midterm elections viewing party at Crossroads Cafe! Help yourself to pizza, cookies, chips, salsa, and soda as election results come in. Professors Matt Dickinson and Bert Johnson will provide commentary. The even is cosponsored by the Middlebury College Democrats, Middlebury College Republicans, and MiddVote. More information can be found on Facebook here.

Follow MiddVOTE on Facebook for updates throughout the day!

Community Partner Profile: Zoe Kaslow ’15 of Addison Central Teens

Last year, we at the Center for Community Engagement profiled leaders of a student-service organization here on our blog. This year, we are getting to know our community partners, leaders in Addison County and beyond with whom we partner in our work.

Our first profile is Zoe Kaslow ’15, the current executive director of Addison Central Teens, located in Middlebury.
 
What is the purpose of your organization and what does it look like on a day-to-day basis to meet that purpose in your role?
Addison Central Teens provides a Teen Center and after-school alternatives that are welcoming, safe and fun for all teenagers in the community. Teens have a place to hang out as well as opportunities to plan and participate in activities, special events and community service at the Teen Center and throughout the community. We are open every day after school from 3-6pm, and we have snacks, games, and programming!
 
Please share a brief story/moment/memory from your work that captures some of your favorite aspects of your job.
Serving students this summer from Middlebury Union Middle School, Middlebury Union High School, and other surrounding schools in the area, we offered five one-week sessions of summer camp this year with themes ranging from Outdoor Sports to Farm-to-Teen. Driving nearly 900 miles, stopping 7 times for creemees, and competing in 2 cooking challenges, ACT summer camp provided teens with an invaluable summer experience: tech-free hours, time outside, and new adventures. While the camp enjoyed old favorites such as paddle boating at Branbury State Park, hiking Snake Mountain, and milking cows at Shelburne Farms, they also participated in unfamiliar activities too. A highlight of our trip was a survivalist skills workshop in the Green Mountains with Josh Hardt of the Moosalamoo Center at Otter Valley Union High School. We built fires, ate cattails, and created shelters. Seeing teens take supported risks and learn about themselves through this activity was my favorite moment of summer camp!
 
When was a time you learned something surprising, either about yourself or the world around you, in your role?
As a graduate of Middlebury College, I have been surprised by how much I have learned about a community I lived in for four years. After graduating, I did two years of AmeriCorps service in Portland, OR before returning back to Middlebury. Since moving back I have learned so much about the nuances, challenges, and triumphs of Addison County, and I encourage students to get off campus and dive deeper into the larger community around them.
 
When was a time you felt challenged? How did you overcome that challenge?
I feel challenged everyday! I continue to learn about the teens, the community, and the work that we do. It’s never boring!
 
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone interested in doing a job like yours?
Plan well, be flexible. Let your most shameless, silly side shine through, and the teens will love you for it!