Expo Spotlights Involvement
Issue   |   Wed, 09/14/2011 - 00:26
Photo by Brianda Reyes '14
The Peruvian Education Initiative group was among the organizations that tabled at the expo.

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) held an evening full of soapbox speakers, organization representatives and school faculty to expose students to the possibilities of community involvement last Thursday.

Unlike past iterations of this event known as Community Action Day or Action Week, the Community Engagement Expo provided students with “a much broader definition of community engagement,” said Molly Mead, director of the CCE. About 300 students attended the event, designed to expose students to the different ways in which they can engage in the community effectively.

“We wanted students to understand that there are more ways to engage in a community than they can even imagine and we wanted students to begin to see both the excitement and the complexity of engagement,” Mead said.

Aiming to accomplish this, the CCE utilized the floor plan of Keefe Campus Center. It allowed students to tour the headquarters of the CCE, get informed about community organizations in the atrium, learn about internships in an upstairs lounge, converse with faculty about their involvement in the community and learn about more social organizations while listening to others speak about their unique involvement in the community.

Destry Sibley ’09 spoke of her involvement in the No One Leaves Initiative, an organization that raises awareness of the high foreclosure rates in Springfield, Mass. Professor Barry O’Connell advocated for public education reform, acknowledging that the philanthropic act of stuffing education systems with excess funds fails to yield the intended results of a better opportunity for educational success. Katherine Berry ’12 informed others of her involvement in the Polaris Project Human Trafficking Hotline, a resource for victims that addresses the fact that 20,000 American youth are trafficked each year. Benjamin Miller ’12 described his documentary on public education across America and his intent to develop the documentary into a theatric play.

As students won prizes playing Jeopardy with Community Engagement Leaders, wrote their thoughts regarding feminism on a word collage set up by the Feminist Alliance and tested their knowledge of the first lines of novels with Kathryn Libby ’11 of the nonprofit organization Reader to Reader, they also were exposed to community volunteering representatives.

Kimberly Stender is the volunteer coordinator of Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools, where their students “directly benefit from the mentorship and positive role models Amherst College students provide each day.” According to Stender, the CCE is a vital “part of a student’s college experience and provides many unique altruistic vehicles from which an individual can grow and contribute to society whether local or global.”

“It is essential for Amherst College students to realize that there is a world just outside the campus parameters which eagerly welcomes their energy and ideas,” Stender said. “The greater Amherst community serves a diverse population with various needs.”

She explained that a student’s years at the College should not be spent solely within the campus but also become involved with organizations and networks aimed towards human services in the Pioner Valley area.

Mead considered the event successful as she thought that every organization that was part of the expo had something different to offer for the students.

“We had a variety of passionate, articulate soapbox speakers who did a fantastic job of conveying why they are involved in the work they are, whether that is the arts, public education, community organizing or the environment,” Mead said. “Any Amherst College student should have been able to find at least one organization that spoke to their interests.”

According to Mead, the exposition would not have possible without the Campus Center Staff and the Dean of Student Activities, Hannah Fatemi. She also credited the community groups and student groups who came to display their work as well as the faculty, community leaders, alumni and students who informed the attendees about their accomplishments.

For future events, Mead plans to “keep all the elements of this year’s event and make some modest changes.”

“There was so much excitement in the atrium...that some students did not make it to the second floor,” Mead said.

Among the speakers on the second floor was Michael Hayes, principal of Amherst Middle School. While informing attendees of the Vela Scholar Program, he reminded them of the Amherst mission to carry out lives of consequence.