Twenty years ago, HWS students on Alternative Spring Break buried a time capsule. In March, a Zoom gathering celebrated the relationship between HWS and Mariam Boyd Elementary that has flourished ever since.
Twenty years ago, Michael Harms Matthews ’00 was in his second year of teaching at Mariam Boyd Elementary through Teach for America. The recent graduate invited Hobart and William Smith students to North Carolina to volunteer there during their spring break, starting the first annual Alternative Spring Break trip to Mariam Boyd Elementary School and Warrenton, N.C.
After a week of service, including tutoring, aiding in classrooms and helping an afterschool program run by the Norlina Methodist Church, HWS students joined Matthews’ class in burying a time capsule. The project was inspired by the elementary school students’ fascination with the book Holes by Louis Sachar. They placed artifacts, mementos, notes and wishes into the capsule for a future cohort of students at Mariam Boyd Elementary School to uncover.
“Is it really that hard to dig a hole?” Matthews remembers one of his fifth-graders asking, initiating the entire project.
This March, an assembly of students at Mariam Boyd Elementary School and members of the HWS community gathered on Zoom to celebrate the anniversary of the schools’ partnership. While the plan was to open the time capsule, after days of searching the grounds of Mariam Boyd Elementary, it couldn’t be found.
In the gallery above, Hobart and William Smith students are photographed in Mariam Boyd Elementary School over the years.
“With excitement and hope for the future, we sealed the capsule and lowered it into the hole, not to be touched until today – or at least that’s how we planned it,” Matthews said during the Zoom gathering.
Now living in Sudbury, Mass., where he is an educational consultant, Matthews flew to Warrenton, N.C. to attend the assembly in person. He reflected on the circumstances that brought the group together including the power of, “a curious question, a college friendship and a missing plastic box.”
While the principal of Mariam Boyd Kendra Davis says they will continue to search for the time capsule, the original intention of the project – to bond two schools together – has been exceedingly successful. With the exception of 2020-2021 during the coronavirus pandemic, Hobart and William Smith students have traveled to Warrenton, N.C. every spring break since the time capsule was buried.
In 2001, Jenna Logue ’01 was a part of the first Alternative Spring Break program offered by the Colleges. Since then, she has built her career in offering experiential learning opportunities to students.
“This is such a fond memory and I’m thrilled to be reminded of the time capsule,” Logue says. “We were very happy to collaborate with Mike and his colleagues to get this particular partnership off the ground. When we began Alternative Spring Break in 2001 with Pocahontas State Park, I never imagined these things would live on for future HWS students and staff.”
After 20 years, more than 100 Hobart and William graduates now have an enduring relationship with Mariam Boyd Elementary School. Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning Katie Flowers, who travelled to Mariam Boyd on three trips, asked graduate participants of the Mariam Boyd Trip to share one word that encapsulates their experience. Fifty-five alums contributed to the following word cloud, and their engagement with the anniversary celebration and re-connection with the school after the two year hiatus has helped ensure the relationship will persist.