Serving During Spring Break – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Serving During Spring Break

Eleven HWS students, led by Assistant Professor of Psychology Brien K. Ashdown, will serve as tutors during spring break at both the Galloway Early Childhood Institution and the Coke’s View Primary School in Petersfied, Jamaica.

“Working with a local community organization gives volunteers a chance to contribute their skills while absorbing the stories and strength of people working to build a better future for their community,” says Assistant Director of CCESL Jeremy Wattles, noting that the program is coordinated through Amizade, an organization committed to empowering individuals and communities through service and learning.  “We chose to work with Amizade because we felt that their unique model of long-term service and commitment to just a few communities around the world really emulated the Colleges’ own dedication to meaningful service.”

The Jamaica program is one of four spring break trips that were organized were organized by HWS this year. Others include the Rural & Migrant Ministry in Lyons, N.Y.; Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield, Va.; and Mariam Boyd Elementary School in Warrenton, N.C.

In addition to serving the community of Jamaica, the students will live in homestays for the duration of the service and also participate in cultural events that will help them to learn more about the country and culture in which they are volunteering. Cultural events will include a tour of a local sugar cane factory and visits both a tourist beach and a beach for locals in order to see the contrasts between the two.

“I’m a cross-cultural psychologist, so I think that cultural experiences are vital in shaping a world view that values diversity,” notes Ashdown. “When I learned about the trip, I jumped at the chance to help support a group of students as they (and I) have one of those important cultural experiences.”

In preparation for the trip, students are enrolled in a half-credit course with Ashdown. Similar to a Reader’s College, the students read several articles and books prior to the trip. After returning from abroad, the students will again meet to talk about their experiences and produce a final project.

In Lyons, N.Y., seven students will work with Rural & Migrant Ministry, a state-wide, non-profit organization that advocates for social change by educating students on the working conditions of migrant farm workers.

“I was interested in the Lyons, N.Y. trip because I am interested in migrant workers’ rights and the work we’d be doing to help further them,” explains Zoe Van Nostrand ’14, a social justice major with a double minor in Latin American studies and theater. “I also liked that it was a local site, because that meant I had the option of working with the organization again in the future.”

In Chesterfield, 10 students will spend the week at Pocahontas State Park, where they will clear land for an educational nature trail, install drain pipes, build bridges and rebuild fishing piers.  The group will be led by IT Senior Technician Support Specialist Chad Goulette.

“I chose this trip because I’m interested in forest conservation so that future generations can explore and learn about the history and diversity found in our state parks,” explains Molly Bilinski ’13, a chemistry major with a minor in theater, who participated in the same trip last year.

In Warrenton, N.C., 11 students, led by German Fulbright Teaching Assistant Tanja Bruxmeier, will spend the week tutoring students at the Mariam Boyd Elementary School. They will provide one-on-one tutoring, group reading and math help, and general classroom assistance. Students will also prepare crafts and activities for children to participate in during the after-school program run by the Norlina Methodist Church.

“I was excited to read about the Alternative Spring Break trip to North Carolina,” says Jenny Lee ’15. “I have always wanted to teach students and this trip sounded like a great opportunity that would provide me with that experience.”

Jenna Davidson-Catalano ’14 agrees, noting that she is currently enrolled in the Teacher Certification Program at HWS. “I am very interested in child education and decided to participate in the North Carolina trip so that I could spend my spring break giving back while gaining experience in the field,” explains Davidson-Catalano, an arts and education major with a minor in dance.

The photo above features students at Coke’s View Primary School in Jamaica, one of the places HWS students will be volunteering during spring break.