Service Above Self

Written By: Daniel Warnecke 17′

University breaks are meant for kicking your feet up and relaxing—or are they? The Castleton University Rotaract Club thinks otherwise. The club just recently broke this stereotype, during the university’s winter break, by attending an awe-inspiring, amazingly successful mission trip to Vero Beach, Florida, through Epic Missions, Inc. The Rotaract Club understands that there is nothing wrong with rejuvenating oneself over a break, but the club also understands that nothing beats the “high” one feels from a fruitful service trip.

When one thinks of Florida, poverty doesn’t really cross the mind, but the Rotaract Club witnessed poverty, and a great amount of it, first hand. Vero Beach, Florida is seen by many as the land of the rich, with sprawling, ocean-side mini-mansions as far as the eye can see. But, this mindset is not the complete truth. What people don’t see within the outskirts of the city could easily leave them in a state of shock. Poverty is a common word in the Vero Beach area, and the need that we witnessed as a club was incredible. Homes were falling apart, roadways were overgrown, crime was a normalcy, and families, everywhere, were broken. At times, some club members stated that they forgot that they were in the United States; they felt like they were in a third-world country, not the richest country in the world. So, the Rotaract Club got to work—and quickly. The club cleared land for a future homeless shelter for pregnant women, stocked shelves at local thrift stores and discount food stores, painted a family home in dire need of a facelift, cleaned up the facilities of a nonprofit organization called Operation Hope, and even had the amazing opportunity to visit with young children (who were less fortunate than most Americans) within local schools to play and teach.

The Rotaract Club is an officially recognized Rotary club within Rotary International—a worldwide, nonprofit organization. Rotary International’s motto is “Service Above Self,” and the Rotaract Club’s Vero Beach mission trip truly lived up to this motto. But, the Rotaract Club’s actions also lived up to something much closer to us all: the Castleton way. Castleton University has always been a place of love and service to others, and the Castleton way was evident within many of the Rotaract Club members, throughout the mission trip. The trip helped the club members gather a better understanding of the real world, and country, that we are apart of daily. I, the club’s very lucky President, have been blessed to see this unfold within the minds of multiple Rotaract Club members for the past four years—something that I will always personally cherish.

My hope for the future of the Rotaract Club is that it continues to create these eye-opening moments for students, and my hope for our amazing university, with a BIG heart, is that it continues to move forward in the direction of the true Castleton Way. Helping others is always the answer.   

 

Castleton Engaged 2017: Engaging!

Written by: Charlotte Gerstein, Castleton Reference & Instruction Librarian, guest blogger

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Castleton Engaged, held on February 2 in the Campus Center, was energizing and satisfying this year. I am on the Civic Engagement steering committee and a member of the Bridge Initiative so I have been to this event each year since it started in 2014, and had this year’s on my radar for months.  It is always great to see and hear what our community-minded students have been doing out in the field, but this year the format worked so well, and the students were so, well, engaged, it was particularly enjoyable.

The students who presented at the flash panels were amazingly poised, as if they had been doing presentations like this all their lives.  Emma Blaiklock, in a new “Service House” t-shirt, kicked off the flash panel and shared what’s been going on at “Service House” where she is the Community Advisor, like a community dinner celebrating international students and lots of volunteering.  Emma is one of the most engaged students on our campus and will be a dynamo and an asset to her future employers and community.

Tegan Waite shared her experience traveling to Kenya and fundraising stateside to support a nonprofit called HEAL Kenya.  She clearly had a life-transforming experience visiting a HEAL site in Kenya last summer. While engaging with this worthwhile cause as a student she is practicing leadership skills and caring citizenship that she will bring to any future endeavors.

Abigail Hackman shared her pilot project composting food waste from the dining hall. Zoey St. Denis shared her experience with a voter registration drive, explaining why it’s needed and why she cares so much. Amanda Clement shared a project called “Improving Biodiversity Consciousness Using Environmentally Sustainable Practices.” Kelly Mesler and Molly Perkins shared their experience starting a tutoring program for area children as part of a civic engagement psychology course. Patrick Cote-Abel and James Britt shared how they learned about, and wanted to do what they could to help with, the plight of Syrian refugees.  One action they took was to put on a Middle Eastern dinner as a fundraiser.

After the panels, the audience was free to partake of appetizers, and wander and talk to other students at tables around the room with various visuals to share about their community engagement experiences. Senior Matt Gay was obviously engaged and knowledgeable about his project.  He has been the SOS for Bill Kuehn’s FYS class for the three years since he was one of its students.  This class takes on a project to clean up an illegal dumping site just over the border in New York. He had a great story about catching one illegal dumper whose W2 form was among the garbage he dumped. The police were able to locate the man and fine him for this crime.  The class and the professor have been lucky to have such an engaged SOS, and Matt has benefited from this leadership opportunity and an opportunity to learn a lot about this problem and possible solutions.

Another enthusiastic and prepared senior was Karsen Woods who started a student organization supporting Planned Parenthood and educating the campus about its work. She seems ready to step right out of Castleton into a career in this work. She is hoping another student will take over leadership of this group when she graduates. Students from Megan Blossom’s psychology civic engagement course had several projects to share. First year student Reilly Knipes was passionate as she shared the research she did as part of her First Year Seminar, on race and incarceration in Vermont and nationally.  She was prepared with a Powerpoint presentation on her computer. Kat Haseltine shared about a workshop she put on with the Academic Support Center about financial literacy modelled after the Game of Life board game. Super-senior Zachary Hampl had a poster about the Brough pond project.  Several students and professors are working to get support to clean up Brough Pond, behind the North, South and Audet houses, to beautify it and make it safer and a valuable community space.

The community partner award, presented by Director of Community Engagement Chrispin White, this year went to Meals on Wheels and we were treated to a short history and anecdotes about the relationship of Castleton to Meals on Wheels by retired Academic Dean Joe Mark.  Meals are delivered three days/week, so the program always needs more volunteers. Contact Penny Jones at 775-0133 if you are interested in volunteering, or talk to Chrispin White or me to learn more about the program.

The Civic Engagement steering committee is lead by Dean of Special Academic Programs Ingrid Johnston who, with Chrispin White, headed up this successful event.  I am always very grateful for their leadership and promotion of these opportunities for students, and providing this chance for the campus community to learn about their work.  It is interesting to learn about all these projects, to think about community needs and the ways our campus community can help and is helping, but I especially like to see how these experiences have enriched our students.  The confidence and knowledge they gain is visible, and makes it easy to see these particular students (or any who get as involved as they have) stepping right out into the work world (and their roles in their communities as adults) with valuable, marketable skills, not the least of which are enthusiasm, a sense of agency, and effective communication.

Verdict:  Castleton Engaged 2017 was particularly engaging and our students rock!

Keeping it Kluehn

Written By: Matt Gay 18′

13 years ago Professor William Kuehn started a community service project in the Whitehall, New York/ West Haven, Vermont area at the Buckner Preserve.  The class works in collaboration with the Nature Conser16295238_10207918061529192_1481547762_nvancy to clean up the area. The project’s main focus has been to clean up the preserve, teach students about the impacts of illegal dumping, and work towards minimizing and eventually eliminating illegal dumping in that area all together. Every fall semester, Professor Kuehn’s first year seminar group travels to the Buckner preserve and picks up, searches through, and catalogs trash and non-natural items they find. In doing this, the group hopes they can find an address or name linking the garbage. I have been involved in this project for three years now. I began as a student participating in picking up from the illegal dumping for a First Year Seminar. These last two years I took on a new perspective through being a student teacher for the class. I have helped to mentor the students in the class. I felt it was important to stay involved in this project over the years because as a first year student, it was very eye opening that this was such a big issue. I felt that it would be really cool to help future students see that as well. This project is an important aspect of the course because as a sociology class, we are really focused on what groups of people do, and why. It is vital to become civically engaged in our communities. Being civically engaged helps to build our community and it shows that as a University we don’t just care about ourselves but also our surroundings. 16237044_10207918061609194_1845202653_n

Killington Friendship Program Success With More to Come

Written By: Kelly Mesler 17′

The Killington Friendship Project, first founded as the Castleton Mentoring Program, began after the devastating effects hurricane Irene had on the Killington community. Flooding during hurricane Irene severely damaged homes, roads, businesses, and many other parts of Killington. Students in the ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) class in the psychology department saw this as an opportunity to step up and help the Killington community using their knowledge and skills learned in the classroom.

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The mentoring program began as a way students of KES (Killington Elementary School) could connect with the college students from Castleton. Using the principles they learned from ABA, Castleton students worked on building lasting relationships with the students of KES as well as being their role models, leaders, and mentors during the tough time their community faced.

A couple of years later, there was a need to continue the program at Killington. As a new member of the ABA class, I was looking for a project to take on and the devastating effects of hurricane Irene hit close to home for me. Many parts of my hometown in Vermont (about 45 minutes away from Killington) were also heavily affected by the flooding.  I took this opportunity to continue the program and fulfill my predecessors’ achievements to my best ability.

I met with the KES guidance counselor and we discussed goals for the project, making a detailed plan for what we hoped to accomplish. The project was renamed Killington Friendship Project with hopes that the program would be geared less towards mentoring and more towards social and personal self-esteem building.

To promote self-esteem and social skills building, team building and mindfulness activities are implemented into recess and lunch time during weekly meetings with students. Students’ self-esteem is measured with Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale, so far showing a slight increase over time on certain aspects of self-esteem. I have noticed more qualitative rather than quantitative changes but hope as the project continues; I will be able to better measure the successes and shortcomings.

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The project is now continuing in its third year under my coordination. The connections built through the program have helped establish a relationship between the university and Killington that was not as prevalent before. I will continue to volunteer at Killington during my senior year at Castleton with hopes that another ABA or Civic Engagement student will be eager to become involved in the program and at some point take over the project as their own!

An Education is Not Only Learned From Inside the Classroom

Written By: Rebekah Robichaud 18’protest-4

Not only am I part of the community of Castleton University, but I love Castleton. I am always looking for ways to get involved to make the University a better place for fellow and future students. Therefore when the opportunity presented itself to participate in action for change I wanted to be involved. A peaceful protest to change future years fall semester ending date, and to have a student representative on the calendar committee. The idea for the protest was birthed from a discussion derived from the seats of a fleet van over the course of several hours on the road of Student Government Association representatives. The discussion began with the initial problem of the current and more importantly future exam schedule, but quickly involved into frustrated feelings of having our voices become lost in the maelstrom of administration. The exam schedule is inconvenient and causes problems for many students including some international students, athletes, and individuals wanting to go home and spend time with their families. However, the exam schedule was not the heart of the protest.

The pulse of our protest, what made it come alive was the fact that we wanted transparency, communication, and to be treated as equals. We are adults. We wanted to be taken seriously and to get the administration’s attention. The more we talked the more we realized we wanted to be active participants in decisions that affect us directly. We felt that not only was it our right but also our responsibility to our student body to be fully engaged on campus and in campus administration. Being engaged is more work, it means doing our research, scheduling meetings, and having diplomatic respectful conversations with faculty, administration and students alike. When students put in that kind of extra work for no credit and when these efforts are sometimes met with opposition and condescension it means one thing. It means we really want it. This is a new generation. We are no longer sitting on the sidelines asleep. We are curious individuals. We want to know how decisions are made, who makes them, and why. We want a well-rounded education that goes deeper than writing papers and taking notes on lectures.

protest-2That is the real reason why over 20 individuals stood outside Woodruff Hall on Wednesday November 30th. Among the students was a combination of faculty, international students, and Student Government representatives. I participated in this protest because I firmly believe that as culture and society evolves so should our approach to education. During the protest, some of the students discussed with a faculty member our platform for discussion and resolution, the faculty member commented and said “that’s the problem with compromise though, everybody loses”. But, I say the great thing about compromise is that everybody wins. Please understand I don’t say that from a place of naivety or idealism but a place of hope. Hope that we can come together both administration and students to a place of communication, involvement, and compromise. That’s the kind of world I want to live in and the kind of education with which I want to graduate.

Red High Heels are For More Than Just for Walking

Written By: Stephanie Heisler 17′

The Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter hosted their second annual Walk a Mile event this fall. The event took place on Sunday October 2. This event raised money and awareness towards ending sexual and domestic violence. Community members registered to walk the route, with the option of wearing a pair of red heels. Participants could bring their own set of shoes or borrow a clean pair at the event. Attending this event was eye opening; people of all sizes, shapes, and sexes came out and walked. Sponsors and community partners brought munchkins, bagels, orange juice and apple cider to kick off the cold morning and ending the course with warm chili. Everyone who attended seemed to have a great time.thumbnail_img_0113

There were three of us members of the Community Service house who showed up to assist with registration, cheering, clean up and set up of the event. We were able to interact with a large amount of diverse groups who came out to support the event for a variety of reasons. The event ended up having about 300 participants and raised over $30,000. This event is the biggest fundraiser that the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter hosts during the year. Overall, the day was a huge success in my opinion. I was able to walk in the race and represent the Castleton University Cheer Team who were decked out in full uniforms of green, white and silver. Being able to represent my university through my involvement in different groups was a wonderful feeling.

It was important to those of us who volunteered for the event to show that on our own university campus we do not stand for these actions against anyone. Anyone can be affected by sexual or domestic violence, there are no barriers of age, gender, economic background, race, religion, major or any other differences between people here on campus. At Castleton University, we are fortunate to have a multitude of resources available to those who have been affected by sexual and or domestic violence. Being at the event and seeing the massive amount of support from the community around this issue was very inspiring.

It was great to be involved with this event and the wonderful people and groups who showed their support. Our community adviser in North House, Emma Blaiklock, is on the Board for the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter and was the one who encouraged us to get involved. If anyone else is looking to get involved with this wonderful organization and help to support those who have been affected and to make a stand against sexual and domestic violence in our community, get in touch with Emma.

My hope is that in future years they host the event at a time when Castleton University is not on break, so we can see more of our campus community connecting with our local communities on this important issue. I am incredibly glad I was able to be involved with this amazing event and can’t wait to see how the event continues to grow over the years!

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Small Competitions Bring in Over 5,500 Items to be Donated to Local Charities

Written By: Emma Blaiklock 17′

15320400_10209557764673512_577036300_nThe Friday after Thanksgiving, lines form miles down the streets for people waiting to trample each other to get great deals on stuff. Three days later, everyone is anxiously searching the web for the best bargains without having to leave the comfort of home or their office. Following our national day of giving thanks for what we have are two days centered solely on getting more things. “Giving Tuesday”, the day following Cyber Monday, began five years ago as a way to bring the focus back to being charitable and kicking off the giving season around the world.
 
Castleton University partook in Giving Tuesday for the second year in a row. Last year about 3,000 items were collected between the community, athletics and student government clubs. It was overall an incredibly successful day and we aimed to beat last year’s record for this year. My focus with helping to plan the events of the day that were centered around incorporating athletics, the student government clubs and the residence halls and increasing all of their involvement to help bring the whole campus together for the day.

e-blaiklock-givingAthletic teams competed against one another in a canned food drive, bringing in a total of 4,373 non-perishable food items! Men’s Ice Hockey ended up winning in the athletics competition with an average of 48 cans per team member. Eric Horsfield was able to organize and motivate not only the athletes but the entire athletics department through his dedication to the project, which alone helped us to surpass our goal of the previous year’s collection total.

On the clubs side of things, there were donations of clothing items, toiletries and non-perishable food items totaling around 1,100 items. HEAL Kenya, Rotaract, and the Student Nurses Association (SNA) were the top three donating clubs (listed in order of first to third). This year’s clubs will be donating their winnings (a total of $900 between the three groups) to local chapters of organizations that focus on working to better individuals lives in different ways.
Other clubs who participated in the day included (in no order): the History Club, Spectrum Pride, Sustainability Club, The Spartan, Business Club, Sports Admin Club, Men’s Rugby, Habitat for Humanity, PlanesWalkers Club, Democratic Leadership, Republican Club, and the Equestrian Club Team. Volunteers from Community Service House, and the Student Government Association contributed a combined total of about 90 hours on the day volunteering their time collecting items, counting and sorting them into distribution piles.
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The day was incredibly successful thanks to the support of all the participating teams, clubs, faculty, staff, administration, community members and volunteers. This year we collected a grand total of 5,528 items to be donated to local organizations for distribution into the community. The benefiting local charities include: Castleton Cares, the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter, Fair Haven Concerned and the Rutland Community Cupboard.
On the academic side of campus the Gift of Life Marathon blood drive took place at President Wolk’s House, and the Giving Office collected monetary donations all day from sponsors around the country. It was really wonderful for me to see everyone on the campus able to get involved and be integrated into this important day through a variety of opportunities. I am looking forward to being an alumni and seeing the potential this day has to grow exponentially here on our campus as we all do our part for #GivingTuesday.
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Environmental Hackathon

Written By: Devin Perry ’20

On September 30th, the Campuses for Environmental Stewardship held an ‘Environmental Hackathon’ at the University of New England. The purpose of this event was to bring to light the issues the environment faces today. Both the students and the faculty voiced their views on these issues. Additionally, the students had a chance to discuss environmental issues on their campus and come up with a solution to that issue. Once a solution was developed, the students spoke about their plan in an attempt to attain a $500 mini-grant to kick start their project. This grant was the purpose of the ‘Hackathon’ aspect of the event.

I attended the event with three faculty members and a fellow student. Along with being nice individuals, they were all very motivated to learn more about sustainability efforts being made by other campuses and their students. I enjoyed being able to connect with new people about a topic I am very invested in and care a lot about.

My advisor told me about the event and recommended I go to it. I was honored to go, as I am an environmental science major and it would inform me on the issues that I could possibly face down the road. Additionally, I knew I would be able to gain knowledge on how to better face environmental issues, and bring that information back to Castleton.

I learned a lot from going to the ‘Environmental Hackathon’. Before the event, I did not realize the motivation of some people, to make a difference in the environment. The participation of the other students blew me away. Lastly, from trying to think of an environmental issue on Castleton’s campus, I realized Castleton does very well with being environmentally conscious and campuses struggling with environmental issues should look at Castleton as a model. We are not perfect, but we are far ahead many of the other schools represented at the conference.

The event opened my eyes to many things and made me realize making a difference isn’t as difficult as it seems to be. The best way to make a difference is to get the word out. Informing others of your cause will get them on board with you to spread the word as well. I would consider going to other events like it to gain more knowledge on the idea of sustainability and stay up to date on how arising issues are being handled. I would encourage others to go to these events because, as I said, if you want to make a difference, telling others about your plan can set the plan forward with other people supporting you.

The Power of a Candy Wrapper

Written By: Daniel Warnecke 17′

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Parades are always something to look forward to, and the Halloween Parade in Rutland, Vermont certainly excites and lives up to expectations! The floats are elaborately decorated, and there is an enormous amount of candy given out—the perfect parade combination. This amount of excitement brings in huge crowds every year, and every year one BIG aspect of the parade is overlooked: trash build-up. The accumulation of more trash at public events that bring in large crowds is just something that happens—and that’s okay.

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The excitement of a parade makes it that much easier to forget about candy wrappers or plastic bags that plummet to the ground. One has to understand the unfortunate reality that parades bring in a lot of people that have and create a lot of trash, so it’s great to know that Castleton University students stepped up to the plate to do something about the extra trash this year. On the morning following the Rutland Halloween Parade, the streets that once held masses of people the night before were now full of roaming students, equipped with rubber gloves, trash bags, and smiles, of course. The students were simply picking up all of the trash that had been left behind from the night before, and although the trash did not seem to be too prevalent on the streets while driving on them, the 11 large, stuffed bags of trash that were accumulated at the conclusion of the cleanup painted a much different picture.

Simple cleanup events and community service projects may not seem to make too much of a difference up front, but they truly play a huge role in exciting the public, influencing them to make a difference within their communities. Public community service is like a “positive” disease; it serves as a reminder that we all have a duty to do our part—even if “entitlement” leads to thinking differently. I, myself, have been involved with the Castleton University Rotaract Club for four years now, and being a member within the club is emotionally rewarding, constantly reminding me that there is always need within our community and our world, and there always will be. I get to make a difference through community service, free of charge—something that continues to amaze me to this day.

Thank you to the members of the Castleton University Student Government Association, the Rotaract Club, the Castleton Community Service House, and the members of the Rutland Young Professionals group. Your constant service to your local communities does not go unnoticed, and because of your services, others continue to be reminded of their duties in this life. Who would have thought that picking up a few candy wrappers and trampled float decorations would prove to be so important?

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Connecting Castleton to Kenya

Written By: Tegan Waite 18′

t-waite-kenya-2The summer of 2016 was one for the books. I had the opportunity of a lifetime and spent three-and-a-half weeks in Kenya. I spent time at the Rapha Community Center, an orphanage and school, in Nyahururu-which is located in the mid-central highlands of Kenya. My days were spent observing classes, tutoring students, playing with children, learning how to REALLY play “football”, reading to students, learning phrases and words in Kikuyu, learning their cultural songs and dances and embracing every moment. I fell to sleep each night to the sound of whispers, and giggles in the girls dorm, and I woke to the sweet sound of them singing as they prepared for their day.  It changed my life, breathed new energy into my spirit, and gave me purpose. I have never met more positive, happy, spirited people, and the things that these children have lived through, seen, heard, and endured are so much worse than many of us could ever imagine. The way those children changed me, is more than I ever could have ever imagined, and I count the days until I get to see their bright smiley faces, hear their singing, and feel their little hands in mine again.

 

HEAL| Raising Our World, One Child at a Time was founded by a role model and friend Jennifer Musick Wright in 2007, while she was a college student. HEAL stands for Health, Education, Ample Nutrition, and Love. “Rapha” is HEAL in Hebrew. HEAL provides care, basic needs, education, and most importantly love for more than 45 children, and 80 students.

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Here at Castleton I have founded a club that is in partnership with the Rapha Community Center. Last year I hosted a Shoe-give-a-thon to raise money to dig a well for clean water. Many Castleton students got involved and were able to hear Jennifer speak. Fall 2016, after the club was official, we partnered with the HEAL committee in Rutland and hosted the first annual “Kenya Run?” We had 52 runners and raised more than $2,200. Our next project will be the giving-challenge on “Giving Tuesday”. We are committed to raising awareness on campus and in the greater community. We are committed to advocacy and sharing our passion with others. We are able to help give these children the tools they need to be successful. What we do is not a handout, but rather a hand up. Being apart of something that is bigger than yourself changes you in the best way. Being apart of HEAL, being with the children, has changed and impacted me more that those children will ever be changed or impacted by me.

 

You have the opportunity to get involved right here in Castleton! If you are interested and would like more information please feel free to email me at tegan.waite.2014@gmail.com. We would love to have you join the HEAL team. Make a difference, do what you are passionate about and know that every little bit counts.t-waite-kenya

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