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).

Zoom video call screen shot with 15 faces in a grid
Community Friends student coordinators meet to discuss remote mentoring plans on Friday each week. This meeting on May 1st welcomed new members of the coordinator board to the growing team.

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 (pictured below during a weekly FaceTime check-in with mentee Anna) 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’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 (see Julia Fairbank ’23 pictured with letter above)!

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!

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