Tag Archives: CCE

Student Reflection: MLK Day Jr. Legacy Dinner with the CCE

On January 13, 2023, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the Anderson Freeman Center, and the Scott Center collaborated to create Food and Fellowship: A Celebration of MLK Jr’s Legacy. The event was an interactive dinner that focused on MLK Jr’s legacy, open to both on-campus and community wide participants and hosted by Justice Elijah, AmeriCorps VISTA with the CCE, and keynote speaker Esther Charlestin.

As an Americorps member, we are responsible for organizing an event around MLK Jr and his legacy for MLK Jr. Day of Service. The celebration of MLK Jr. and his legacy is a prominent memory from my upbringing in southern Georgia. So, when I was tasked with curating a service related project– I wanted the event to feel like home. I wanted folx to be well fed, feel heard, and to learn something. Thus structuring an interactive dinner, a social media campaign and centering the black experience. Highlighting the atrocities and the fight black/brown people still having to face with an attitude described by Esther (the keynote speaker) as “YET, WE DID IT ANYWAY”. 

To help with planning this event, the CCE hired two student interns to help promote the event and provide day-of logistical support: Gabby Chalker ‘25 and Samimah Naiemi ‘26. We asked them to provide their reflections helping to support the event while also participating in discussion with other campus and community members.

-Justice Elijah, CCE AmeriCorps VISTA member 22-23


What were your first impressions and/or your experience attending the event as a participant after helping to plan it? 

Gabby:

As a J-term community service intern for Middlebury’s Center for Community Engagement, I had the opportunity to take part in Food and Fellowship: A Celebration of MLK Jr’s Legacy. I worked with Justice and Shannon at the CCE to assist them with any logistics in the planning of this event, which served to remind us of all of the work that has been done and that still needs to be done regarding racial justice in this country.

In preparation for this event, I researched civil rights leaders less popular than MLK Jr and posted them on CCE’s social media to educate students/community members about important historical figures. I also gathered marketing materials about the CCE to share with guests at the event and curated a donation list of Black-owned businesses in Vermont to put in our program, including food, hair stylists, nonprofits, retail stores, farms/agriculture, and civil rights/BIPOC affinity groups. Further, I helped develop reflection questions for after the keynote speaker’s address, gathered children’s books and games centered around diversity and racial justice for the children’s room, and developed the event program to be put at each attendee’s seat. Helping in this planning definitely helped me to appreciate the small details, like the time that went into the creation of the program, the coordination of catering such incredible food, all of the decorations, and the seating/name cards. If I hadn’t been involved in the planning process I probably would not have taken so much time to really appreciate these small additions and reflect on the effort (and usually collaboration) required for each.

Samimah:

As a J-term Community Service intern, I worked with the Middlebury`s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) that provided me with an opportunity to be part of Food and Fellowship: A Celebration of MLK Jr’s Legacy. I worked with Shannon and Justice in helping them with planning this event. 

Attending the MLK event was my first experience [with this holiday]. As an international student from Afghanistan, I learned about the importance of celebrating this day for the first time. The MLK dinner event played an important role in fighting social and racial injustice by bringing people in the community together to remind them about the existing social and racial injustice. Speakers in this event talked about how they fought for their rights against social and racial injustice and they reminded us that we can all fight it by coming together and discussing it. The MLK dinner provided an opportunity to discuss ways on how to reduce social and racial injustice.

I had not worked on planning a lot of events, so I did not know how much work and effort 

making an event requires. In helping plan the MLK dinner event, I learned how to get different tasks done such as making invitations, drafting emails, and making RSVP forms. I learned that a lot of planning, communications and work needs to be done in order to make an event happen. I would not realize this by only attending the event. I felt very accomplished to see the event that I was working on with my team brought  so many people together. I was inspired by a lot of people at the event, and I felt honored to be part of the planning of such an event.

What was your favorite part of the event planning process?

Gabby:

I feel like I learned most from creating the social media posts about other civil leaders aside from MLK throughout the week. Even if I was familiar with some figures already, doing a deeper dive into their upbringing, education, personal lives, etc. revealed a lot to me and provided me with more context about their work. This really shaped my understanding of civil rights leadership– what motivates/cultivates it, the different paths each took to leadership, the barriers that persisted even after success, how much community and teamwork was required to successfully create change.

I also loved discussions with the team (Justice, Shannon, Samimah) because I learned a lot about event planning logistics, as well as navigating discussions about race in Vermont – from a reflective and an administrative standpoint. The team really cultivated a community so quickly (in a matter of 1 week) and in that short time I felt I already had a support system that was extremely helpful in navigating the process of event planning, especially an event on a complex and important topic. This was important to me because I had others to look up to in this process of event planning I was unfamiliar with. Instead of just checking tasks off a to-do list, I was given genuine feedback on each assignment and was able to have honest conversations about pros/cons of different approaches to what was and wasn’t included in the event and about solutions as problems arose.

Samimah:

During planning the event, I learned even more than just attending it. It helped me learn how to plan an event, how to work with a team, and how to get tasks done on time. My favorite part of the planning process was working with the team. The team was supportive and they helped me find ways to [accomplish my work]. Working with them closely rather than just checking the task off from the list helped me feel more engaged with the work and the team. It was a feeling of community and collaboration.  

Where did you see community building at the MLK Day event? 

Gabby:

I was surprised to see so many Middlebury students there and excited to see several community members’ faces who I did not recognize. It made me feel more connected to the wider community, reminding me that it is not just students or our generation that is passionate about these issues. This made me feel more connected to Vermont as a place where justice and civil rights is a shared goal/virtue. The number of people there made me excited at the various stakeholders who were there to learn about, participate in, and celebrate MLK’s legacy. I also think that the different colored seating tags [to vary campus and community members at each table] and the reflection questions really facilitated dialogue and new connections amongst participants. 

The speaker, Esther Charlestin, was also very impactful in the energy that she created which everyone in the room felt. Her vulnerability in sharing her experience as a Black woman in Vermont set the tone for others to share in this open space. It was clear that each person in the room could resonate with at least one of her messages/statements. I feel this really built a community of people willing to listen, learn, and act from/with each other.

Samimah:

During the event I met so many people from different races, different ages and backgrounds- students, faculty, community partners, and so on. I made a good network with a lot of good people from Middlebury and outside of Middlebury’s circle. I found it very valuable that this event really brought so many people together to share about their experiences and hear about others. I felt very connected to the community outside the Middlebury College for the first time because many of us could relate to social and racial  injustice existing in society. When the speaker as a Black woman shared her story of facing racial injustice, many of us in the event could relate to her story. This really brought people in the community together which reminded them that we all relate to painful experiences of each other that were caused by racial injustice. 

What was your biggest learning moment being part of this event (either through the planning process or during the event itself)?

Gabby:

Collaboration is crucial to the facilitation of an event which truly fosters community engagement and collective learning, reflection, and action. This collaboration was fostered through experiential learning about community engagement and event planning via my work with more experienced staff members to learn about the community stakeholders and diverse perspectives that must be represented in justice-oriented events.

Samimah:

Everyone in the team had a role and a voice. Every task was done with good communication and collaboration among the team. I learned that we learn more when we work together. The good result of the team work was what made this event happen and seeing this was the biggest learning experience. 

Throughout the planning, Shannon and Justice were very nice and supportive. This made me feel more comfortable with them. When I had a moment where I did not know what to do, I had the courage to ask them instead of panicking. This helped me feel more motivated to get the task done as well as I felt more confident. 

Conflict Transformation Spotlight: CCE Updates from 2022

Middlebury’s Center for Careers and Internship Students pictured with United States Senator Bernie Sanders in Washington, D.C.

This blog post draws from the remarks of Kailee Brickner-McDonald, Interim Director at the Center for Community Engagement, which were shared at the 2022 Clifford Symposium staff and faculty panel.

In September 2022, Middlebury College hosted the annual Clifford Symposium. This year, the Symposium focused on conflict transformation and the myriad ways Middlebury faculty, staff, and students address conflict at home and around the world. The keynote speaker at the Clifford Symposium was John Paul Lederach, Professor Emeritus of International Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame. Author of 22 books, including “The Little Book of Conflict Transformation,” and with experience designing and conducting training programs in 25 countries across five continents, Lederach is known for pioneering conflict transformation work, illustrating conflict transformation requires “both solutions and social change.”

Fourteen CCE students funded through the Conflict Transformation Collaborative presented at the student poster session on how their community engagement activities fall within conflict transformation. The Clifford Symposium also included a panel in which Middlebury faculty and staff shared experiential opportunities for Middlebury students to explore conflict transformation across the institution. As a panelist, Kailee Brickner-McDonald explained why the CCE’s mission focuses on providing community-based experiences to students: “Community-based experiences allow relationships and critical moments to emerge into spaces we can consider more expansive questions, social context, and complexity. The Conflict Transformation lens encourages us to build programs and relationships with more intention and support to make the most of those inevitable, challenging, messy spaces.”

Conflict transformation work with communities encourages students to expect and embrace the tensions that arise while working towards a collaborative solution. “This collaborative work,” Kailee said, “prepares students for lives of meaning and impact through community connection.” She outlined how the hopes of the Conflict Transformation Collaborative align well with the CCE’s mission for students to develop their civic knowledge, skills, and identities. Through their connections in communities, students can explore curiosities in three areas:

  1. Civic Identities: How do I contribute to conflict and peace? What are my responsibilities to and choices in my communities? How do my values and experiences drive my personal engagement?
  2. Civic Knowledge: How do I critique the situation from multiple lenses and perspectives? Do I understand the role of power and justice? What resources already exist in the community?
  3. Civic Skills: How can I practice cultural humility in interpersonal communication? How do I approach dialogue across differences? In what ways can I facilitate collaborative relationships? 

In each of these areas, what starts as a tidy-sounding, community-connected experience gets complicated by collaboration, gets real because of relationships, and gets instructive because of inquiry. The conflict transformation lens says to expect and embrace the tensions that arise from working on complex issues among different people and approach them as gifts– spaces where change can happen. Experiential learning opportunities embedded in community building activities offer:

  • Growth points in students’ development of their civic knowledge: students learn to critique their situations from multiple lenses and perspectives; students build their understanding of the role of power and justice
  • Places to apply skills that require practice: students practice cultural humility in interpersonal communication and try out dialogue across differences; students have a chance to facilitate collaborative relationships
  • Sparks that guide students to explore their Identities: students get to ask critical questions like: “How do I contribute to conflict and peace? What are my responsibilities, choices, and positionality in my communities? What do I still need to learn?”

On the panel, Kailee provided several examples of this work, including one from the CCE’s 2022 History in Translation trip:

Students participating in the History in Translation program (Experiential and Intercultural Exploration of Executive Order 9066) visited a “War Relocation Center” for Japanese Americans in World War II. “There they learned the language they’ve grown up using (like “internment camps”) is harmful and sanitizing– to their guide at the incarceration site who’s giving them a tour, and others.”

How did History in Translation explore this conflict on their trip?

CCE staff member Kristin Mullins, Assistant Director of Intercultural and Global Programs, worked with colleagues to bring students from Middlebury College and International Christian University in Mitaka, Japan, together for shared exploration, reflection, and conversation on this piece of US history. Despite the differences in geography, culture, and identities, all participants reflected on who they are and why certain language matters to them. Everyone learned something different about the far-from-homogeneous movement to recognize the impacts of Executive Order 9066 and the nuances and evolution of language choices and memory of the conflicts. Check out the program’s website to see how their work evolved– it captures the documents they collaboratively translated, photos from the experience, and reflections on their learning: History in Translation – Learning through translation (middcreate.net).

The CCE’s work explores conflict not just through topical exploration of current and historical conflicts but also in interpersonal dynamics embedded in all relational programs. Kailee provided another example working with two student leaders of an alternative break program at Middlebury:

The co-leaders/friends were preparing for an environmental justice-themed trip, but after one felt like her voice didn’t matter in their decision-making, their friendship started to erode, and one considered leaving the team. CCE staff worked with them to navigate their interpersonal conflict, support collaboration, and create a positive and affirming space for both students. As Kailee put it, “The collaborative, relational aspect of community engagement work–in this case, the co-creation of a logistically-heavy, team-based learning experience–created a hurdle, and a chance for these students to practice the appreciative inquiry, listening, and participatory decision-making skills they gained in their leadership training and discussed in staff advising conversations, to try out navigating interpersonal conflict in a new, restorative way.”

The CCE’s programs, reflective and inquiring spaces, and interpersonal dynamics contribute to how we address conflict transformation here at home and abroad. Kailee provided one last example to demonstrate how conflict transformation shows up in our work with students who are engaging with various communities:

A student in a Privilege & Poverty summer internship was working with a community organization that addresses housing access. After multiple experiences seeing clients return to the shelter due to factors beyond which the organization can support, the student zooms out to question the policy choices and social constructions that make houselessness a possibility in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. They bring these questions back to their internship cohort gathering and, through reflective conversation, realize they’re not alone in questioning the adequacy of direct service and their role in social change. Students begin to marvel at the interconnectedness of their work across different social services organizations and begin to identify how much they don’t know that they want and need to know, with an eye to the next semester’s course catalog. Students also build connections and develop mentors at their internship sites, allowing them to connect with others about how they’re sustained in doing this challenging, necessary work.


In closing, Kailee remarked, “Working with students to develop their civic knowledge, skills, and identities certainly leads to personal change, but that change also translates into how students engage as humans strengthening communities and contributing to the public good– at the personal, interpersonal, local/community, and national/global levels.”

The CCE is excited to be involved in this challenging and far-reaching work alongside other partners at Middlebury and to see how our work with communities grows and develops throughout the Conflict Transformation grant. For more information on the Conflict Transformation Collaborative, visit the Conflict Transformation website and Instagram.

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.

Semester Highlights!

As the year comes to a close and the winter break approaches, the Center for Community Engagement would like to As the year comes to a close and the winter break approaches, the Center for Community Engagement would like to take time to reflect upon and appreciate all the opportunities we had this semester to lead impactful initiatives, build lasting relationships between students and community partners, and connect with one another.

Student Activities Fair

First-year students visited CCE student-led Community Engagement Organizations and local community partners at the Student Involvement Fair to learn how they can get involved in the community! The Center for Community Engagement prepares students for lives of meaning and impact through local, national, and global community connections. By strengthening students’ civic identities, knowledge, and skills, our programs work to strengthen communities and contribute to the public good. Students at this year’s fair had the unique opportunity to meet community partners from local organizations and learn more about how to make connections with the Middlebury community both on- and off-campus. 


The Involvement Fair was just one of the ways the CCE connected with new students this fall. The CCE also hosted over twenty programs during Orientation that reached over 200 students in the incoming class to connect them with the broader Middlebury community and ways to get involved in community-connected programs. For more information visit the CCE website or follow us on IG @MiddCommunityEngagement.

Three students sitting outside the CCE enjoying pizza at sunset at the Privilege & Poverty pizza social.
Privilege & Poverty pizza social.

Students in the Privilege & Poverty (P&P) academic cluster gathered over pizza to discuss what they’re learning in class about systems of oppression and how power and privilege impact social change. The Privilege & Poverty Academic Cluster integrates coursework with experiential learning to critically examine the causes and consequences of economic inequality. 

This fall, students had the opportunity to take a variety of classes like American Consumer Culture, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, Environmental Justice in the Anthropocene, and more. P&P students apply theory to practice by pairing their classroom experiences with a hands-on internship which can take place either locally or away. Local internship opportunities include working with organizations within Addison County including Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE), WomenSafe, Open Door Clinic, and more. For more information on the P&P Academic Cluster, visit the P&P Website!

Five students participating in Language in Motions mini-MAlt trip.
Language in Motion (LiM) Mini-MAlt Trip!

Aniketan (AK) Pelletier ’25 enjoys a break at the West Rutland Art Park with Rutland High School (RHS) students during the fall Language in Motion (LiM) Mini-MAlt trip. The trip was a culmination of a pilot LiM/RHS collaboration, bringing global perspectives to the study of local history. 


Language in Motion (LiM) is an educational collaboration that connects Middlebury’s international, study abroad, and upper-level language students with Addison County elementary, middle, and high school teachers, students, and classrooms. With support and training, Middlebury College students prepare and deliver lessons that promote global awareness, intercultural competence, and world language acquisition. This semester, 24 new and returning undergraduates and teaching assistants (and two alum) participated in the Language in Motion program. They collaborated with 11 teachers at five different Vermont schools to develop and deliver 17 classroom presentations. For more information about LiM and how to get involved, visit the LiM website!

Middlebury student and their mentee posing with their name necklace at Community Friends match day.
Community Friends Match Day.

New Community Friends mentors met their mentees for the first time as part of Match Day, an annual event that has been held virtually since the start of the pandemic. Community Friends, a one-on-one mentoring program that has been around since 1960, matched 20 new students with youth in mentoring relationships this semester. The program got special permission to hold Match Day in person with COVID precautions. Mentors, mentees, and families spent time talking, making crafts, and playing games with each other. 

Community Friends is a one-on-one mentoring program that matches Middlebury College students with children ages 6-12 in Addison County. The pairs meet regularly, often on campus, to play games, make arts & crafts, visit fun areas around campus, and sometimes attend group events. Throughout this experience, students make long-lasting meaningful relationships with kids in the community.  For more information about how to get involved in Community Friends, go to the Community Friends page.

Three Juntos board members in a meeting at the CCE with a CCE advisor's dog, Flash.
Juntos Board’s Compass Sub-Committe Meeting!

The Compas sub-committee of the Juntos Board met to set goals for their remote and in-person English language tutoring for the semester, with the support of their CCE advisor’s dog, Flash. The mission of Juntos is to build a strong, safe, respectful, and socially just community with the long-term vision of equal social, economic, and human rights. Juntos seeks to uproot discrimination, exploitation, violence, and human rights abuses on Vermont farms. Through education, advocacy, and action for policy, Juntos works to support and be in solidarity with the migrant community. 

This semester, Juntos met weekly with Compas participants, collaborated with Allianza to host a Dia de los Muertos dinner, brought on new Board members, and connected members with advocacy opportunities. For more information, go to Juntos Presence Page!

Four students cooking in the CCE kitchen for the community supper.
Charter House Coalition Student Organization cooking community supper. 

The Charter House Coalition Student Organization works closely with Charter House Coalition, a local social service agency that provides emergency shelter, meals, and essential items for individuals experiencing homelessness. The Charter House team provides many supportive services to help people reach their goals of finding and keeping permanent housing. 

Throughout the semester, student volunteers meet in the Center for Community Engagement’s kitchen to prepare hot meals to take to Charter House. For more information about Charter House Coalition, you can view the Charter House Coalition’s Meal Schedule, or learn more about how to get involved with the Charter House Coalition Student Organization, you can visit their Presence Page!

Middlebury NOM participants posing for a picture while working in the community garden located Mary Hogan Elementary School.
Nutrition Outreach and Mentoring (NOM) working in the community garden at Mary Hogan Elementary School.

Nutrition Outreach and Mentoring (NOM) partners with local schools and organizations to provide education and mentoring focused on access to nutritious foods and building healthy habits. NOM is a student organization at Middlebury College that aims to create community and connect people through food and food education. Our student-run group organizes volunteering events and classes with the purpose of both exposing young people to healthy local foods and food practices, and to acquire the independence and knowledge that comes with this life skill. The aims of our initiatives are to establish healthy eating and cooking habits and to raise awareness about nutrition and current food issues among the youth population. 

This semester, NOM hosted over 20 meal kit prepping events, in-person and virtual cooking classes, and community garden events with Mary Hogan Elementary School, Middlebury Union Middle School, and Addison Central Teens. For more information go to NOM’s Website!

Three Page One students pose for a picture as they work on making craft kits for the Ilsley Public Library.
Page One Literacy Project making craft kits for Ilsley Public Library. 

This semester, Page One Literacy Project made over 50 craft kits that Ilsley Public Library will give out to local youth to encourage a love of literacy.  Page One Literacy Project aims to foster a love of learning in local elementary school students through weekly programming and community events like read-a-thons with Mary Hogan Elementary School and the Halloween Spooktacular. As mentors, organizers, and program leaders, Page One volunteers take an active role in promoting literacy in all of its forms. For more information about how to get involved, visit the Page One Presence page!

Ashley Laux (L) meets with, from L to R,  Lisa Viau and Phil Geier of DUWCSP, and Betsy Vegso and Antonio Baker-Médard the incoming staff for Projects for Peace, now based at CCE.

Projects for Peace, a global program which encourages young adults to develop innovative, community-centered responses to the world’s most pressing issues, is now headquartered at Middlebury’s Center for Community Engagement. Each year, Projects for Peace provides funding for around 100 projects. The program was formerly administered by the Davis United World College Scholars Program. 

Middlebury students who are interested in getting involved with Projects for Peace can reach out to the Projects for Peace Campus Liaison within the Innovation Hub. For more information on Projects for Peace, you can visit their new website

Cross Cultural Community Engagement Grant Funding Available – Deadline 12/1

Applications are open for Center for Community Engagement’s Cross Cultural Community Engagement Grants! Application and more information at go/crosscultural. This grant program supports intercultural service-learning and community-building internships and/or related volunteer service opportunities. This is a great way funding source to help cover project expenses if students are considering a J-Term internship or self-designed project beyond campus. The grant can project expenses for in-person or virtual experiences.

For January Term 2022 projects, the priority deadline for applications is December 1, 2021.

Optional info session on Zoom: November 10th 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. register here to participate

These community-engaged internships and service initiatives may be student-designed. Preference is given to those opportunities in a culture distinctly different from the applicant’s background, usually outside of the U.S., and projects that are mutually-beneficial for the applicant and the communities who the applicant is engaging with. Funds are available throughout the academic year and for summer experiences. Cross-Cultural Community Engagement grants can also be used to attend conferences or events (e.g., travel, registration fees, etc.) with an intercultural theme in the U.S. 

Funding is available to current, returning undergraduates. Graduating seniors are not eligible to apply for funding for activities that occur after graduation.

Read this blog post to hear from recent students about their funded experiences.

Feel free to reach out with any questions!

Finding Community and Connection: Yellow House

Eight individuals stand in front of a yellow van, smiling at the camera. They have yellow paint splattered on their blue Yellow House t shirts.
Mady and friends painting a van for the demo derby at field days sponsored by G Stone motors.

The following reflection has been thoughtfully composed by Madelyn Lander ‘23 who participated in a 2020 summer internship with the Yellow House Community in Middlebury. Madelyn is working to create the Yellow House Community Club, a community engagement organization focused on connecting Middlebury College students to the residents of Yellow House Community through planned collaborative activities and dialogues about disability inclusion. To find information about joining Yellow House Community Club, you can email Madelyn Lander at mlander@middlebury.edu. Updates about upcoming Yellow House Community Club meetings and events can be found in the Center for Community Engagement’s weekly newsletter. Like Mady, if you have an idea or inspiration for a community engagement project, you can reach out to the Center for Community Engagement for support through advising, grant funding, outreach, or community partner connections. 

When classes ended this past spring I didn’t have to travel very far after campus closed. I packed everything out of my dorm room and into my car before driving about half a mile from my dorm to a small apartment on Weybridge Street, right next to two college owned houses my friends had lived in the year before. My internship at the Yellow House Community (YHC) right here in Midd started in seven days and I had no idea what to expect.

The first few weeks flew by and I suddenly found myself in July with the first few weeks under my belt. Every day was different, and every week I discovered a new part of our community here in Midd that I had never known existed before. With Yellow House I traveled to farms in the area, volunteering with Yellow House residents to give back to the community which supports us, went on more hikes than I could count, and spent hours in the kitchen making lunches and helping to prep dinners with everyone. The essence of my work at YHC was to assist the daily support staff in the fulfilment of the program’s mission: to provide adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities with safe, residential family households, meaningful vocation, and the support to continue developing skills, interests, and relationships, but as I completed my midsummer reflection for the CCE I realized that it didn’t feel as serious as it sounded when I wrote it out. Essentially what I did everyday was wake up, spend seven hours with people whom I was forming strong and deep friendships with, explore the local area, and go home each night feeling fulfilled.

Through this experience this summer with YHC I learned that community connection is founded in the interdependence we all require to survive. None of us exist in isolation, and for the work we are doing to be meaningful it must honor this truth, whether that connection be within your workspace, or a broader network. Through this experience I not only learned about residential care for adults with disabilities, but also discovered what it feels like to work in a space where everyone wants to see everyone else succeed.

Thank you to everyone at CCE, as well as Yellow House, for this experience which has shaped me and will continue to affect the choices I make about my own future and the type of life I want to live. I hope that I can continue to live my life in connection with others, and inspire others to do the same, casting off the isolating idea of individuality that permeates many college campuses.

Community Connected Learning Course Spotlight: Cassie Kearney ’22

In the fall of 2020, Cassie Kearney ‘22 participated in the Center for Community Engagement’s first Community Connected Learning course. Here is the reflection she shares on her learning experience from the semester.

Last fall, Cameron Weiner (2020.5) and I engaged in service-learning through a partnership with the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) to complete a final deliverable/product for the Community Connected Learning course. Founded in 2004, CAE is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that strengthens the Hardwick and greater Vermont food system by implementing programs that increase farm and community viability. Our interests and aspirations to diminish food insecurity while forming intimate connections with Vermont communities aligned well with CAE’s mission. For our final project, we constructed a COVID-19 impact assessment, which we titled, “Voices of the Pandemic: Perseverance, Hope, and Community.” We wove together personal narratives and published research to identify successes of CAE’s impacts on Northeast Kingdom (NEK) communities, specifically Hardwick, and to recognize needs and gaps where individuals were lacking/slip between the cracks. Our deliverable only contains one small glimpse of CAE’s COVID-19 response and impact, featuring the voices of farmers who have received resources and support from CAE, participants in the Hardwick Community Meals program, garden bed recipients, Grow Your Own workshop leaders, and community organizers involved in the Hardwick Area Food Pantry (HAFP) and the Hardwick Area Neighbor to Neighbor (HANN) group. By discussing personal narratives and pandemic data, we hoped that it would become evident how relief programs had been fruitful thus far and how these initiatives could be more diverse and effective as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

I loved my experience in this class because of how service was naturally intertwined within an academic curriculum. Understanding why communities are in need of resources, specific assistance, or care is the first step in deconstructing dominating power structures and dismantling the inequalities that sustain them in the first place. The overall success of the partnership made me so grateful for the opportunities provided by Middlebury, and working with CAE has been one of the most enriching, rewarding experiences of my college career so far. I was able to have an unparalleled, immersive semester in collaboration with CAE and community members despite never physically being present in Hardwick. I believe that this success speaks to the significance of the two-way street and reciprocity inherent in service-learning. Accountability and a shared knowledge of each side’s capacities, limitations, strengths, and weaknesses are critical in forming partnerships. If students are not wholly committed and focused on how they can best contribute to a specific community’s needs and strengths, then the organization can suffer detrimental effects – ultimately, the partnership could develop into a time and energy sink. Fortunately, that was not the case at all in my work with CAE.

My favorite part of the course/my project would definitely be forming relationships with the CAE staff and Hardwick community members. The enthusiasm, generosity, and mission of the CAE staff, along with the passions and excitements of my course instructors, made this service-learning experience so fun and fulfilling. The workload for the class never really felt like actual homework – I enjoyed what I was doing and realized I could actually help others in a virtual manner. In general, community engagement is so important to me because I love helping other individuals. Also, all of the community members that I interviewed or spoke with were so welcoming and receptive even though I was the outsider. I was very careful when navigating this line between learning about the community for my project and intruding on the good of the community/studying the community for academic obligations. Published literature shows many issues with short-term service-learning and the goals of higher institutions of learning. My supervisor, Lylee, once mentioned: “The best partnerships are the ones when both sides feel like they got the better deal.” I always tried to maintain reciprocity in my collaborative work with CAE, and I think that our partnership turned out the most fruitful that it could have been in COVID-19 times.

Seeing what I was learning in class being put into action or experiential learning was so valuable for my future goals to do nonprofit work in the Public Health field. I could witness how academic principles played out in my own experiences with community members and the CAE staff. Throughout the course and my partnership, I learned how to best identify and describe self-reflective practices, active listening, social location, privilege, and positionality. Fully comprehending how these personal factors impacted my perspectives and evaluations of a community separate from my own challenged me and pushed me to analyze common judgements and stereotypes. I learned to never take anything at face value; assumptions often automatically create barriers and further exclude members of society who are discriminated against or disadvantaged. Lastly, I have become mindful of the dangers of shaping communities as entities in deficit and shifting my frames of references to understand the situations of individuals divergent from my own situation here on campus and in the broader Middlebury community.

After Middlebury, I plan to get a higher degree in Public Health with a concentration in community or behavioral health. I would love to engage in nonprofit collaboration, so this course and partnership definitely prepared me for my future endeavors. This summer, I will also be working in a similar partnership program through the Forest Foundation. I will be making my own project by working with a nonprofit in the Boston area (organization is TBD). In addition, this course taught me how to concretely explain my goals and intentions (even when they aren’t fully formed!), to have confidence when facing obstacles or uncomfortable interactions, to utilize my creativity without fear, and to research and examine issues independently with a great deal of freedom.