From volunteering at our local food shelf and senior center to mentoring children and organizing Earth Day activities to hosting high school classes and assemblies, dozens of Green Mountain College students participate in community service and service-learning projects every semester. We truly believe that fostering a culture of civic engagement will enable students to always be active citizens in their communities and the world. Not only does this relate to a fulfilling life for our students, but it helps the College make a positive impact on the world’s social, natural, and financial capital as outlined in the strategic plan: Sustainability 2020. See alumni impact for more on the ongoing effort to quantify the positive impact our graduates have on the world.
Some recent projects and involvement opportunities in which we have been involved with the greater Poultney community include:
Annual Poultney Earth Fair
The Poultney Earth Fair is a grassroots event planned and organized annually by a Steering Committee that includes members of the Poultney community, teachers at Poultney Elementary School, Poultney High School, Li High, and faculty, staff, and students at Green Mountain College. The focus of the Fair is to provide an opportunity for all townspeople, but particularly children, to learn about environmental issues in a personal and festive way. The Steering Committee comes up with a new central theme every year. The changes in theme makes it different every year and the hope is that these themes inspire our community members to develop a sense of care for the Earth through sustainable and simple living! Past themes have included “Affordable Green”, “A Taste of Place”, “Growing Greener Together”, “Old Ways, New Days”, “The Faces of Our Community”, and “A Balanced Life, A Balanced Earth”.
Hosted by Poultney High School, the fair boasts many organizations running over 60 activities and booths. Some of these include Northeast Organic Farming Association VT, Poultney Historical Society, Poultney-Mettowee Natural Resource Conservation District, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Poultney 2020, Smokey House Center, Chartwells, and many more. At least 10 student volunteers on the day of the Fair are needed, along with many more to engage in activities with the school kids before the event.
The 8th Annual Earth Fair will take place in April, 2015, during Earth Week. Details are forthcoming.
Other ongoing projects at area elementary schools include:
College students teaching PHS students how to cook nutritious local produce
College students mentor 20 PES students through the DREAM Mentoring program.
Prof. Eleanor Tison and GMC students host the PES Nature Club.
The section of the environmental education course taught by Prof. Teresa Coker works with PES students to practice teaching methods and help enrich the curriculum in the Poultney schools.
Annual East Poultney Day
The Poultney Historical Society celebrates the annual East Poultney Day on the second Saturday of August from 9-3pm on the historic East Poultney Green. The theme and programming of the day varies every year and Historical Society Board Members and friends collaborate on the effort. Last year’s 78th annual East Poultney Day theme was “Growing Up in Poultney: Memories of the 1950s-70s,” a nostalgic look back at the recent past. The special events programming included two panel discussions, music from the Bluegrass Society, and a Q&A session with photographers Alan Nyiri and Fred Michel about the 4th of July Panoramic Parade Project. This project was a banner stretching 75ft long on the green that displayed photos of 2013’s parade spectators. As always, East Poultney Day hosted the Historical Society’s raffle and featured many informational booths and juried local vendors who sell unique crafts, folk arts, antiques and collectibles.
GMC has continuously collaborated with the Poultney Historical Society in preserving the history of Poultney and making East Poultney Day a great success every year. For more information about East Poultney Day contact the Historical Society at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Year Impressions (FYI!) Program
The Sustainability Office’s Community Outreach Program, First Year Experience Committee, and Environmental Liberal Arts Committee, together designed First Year Impressions (FYI!), a completely community based pre-orientation program at GMC. It was designed to give new students a fresh look at Poultney and the surrounding towns through unforgettable service-learning experiences. FYI! introduces students to the human and physical landscape beyond the college gates. Students have the chance to meet their neighbors, learn about the region, and think about the many assets that make our community so special. No day is ever the same! (See the program schedule for 2014.
New students are accompanied by a Program Coordinator and upper-class leaders, and together they go on “road trips” to tour the Town of Poultney and the greater Rutland Area, learn about the history, people, organizations, and involvement opportunities. Students spend part of the day tackling a community service project with local organizations such as the Poultney Food Shelf, Young at Heart Senior Center, Poultney Historical Society, or Rutland Area Farm and Food Link. Students also get the opportunity to spend evenings in the homes of community members to prepare a meal together and hear their hosts’ stories of life in Poultney. By the end of the program, students (new and upperclassmen) stay closely connected with each other, continue to develop their involvement in our community, explore the social and natural beauty of our region, and build friendship and collaborative partnerships with our neighbors and local organizations.
FYI! was inspired by the “Where Am I?” Program at Williams College. The first cohort of FYI! students included six new students, six upperclassmen, and many friends from Poultney.
Poultney Thanks & Giving
In November of 2013, a group of 22 dedicated Green Mountain College students (see list) planned a whole day of community service between the college community and town of Poultney, Vermont called “Poultney Thanks & Giving”. The idea was originated in the Fall of 2013 by student Jensen Morgan 14’ and GMC Outreach Coordinator, José Gálvez Contreras ’11 while they conversed and helped provide maintenance for the meditation labyrinth behind Sage Hall at GMC.
The day included numerous engagement opportunities at 24 different locations. These engagement opportunities included three free meals, volunteer opportunities, workshops, and free events. Some of the activities ranged from town wide clean up to maintenance of the Poultney Educational Trail to volunteering at the Young at Heart Senior Center. Over 350 participants made the inaugural event a huge success. Together they contributed an estimated 893 volunteer hours and 382 service-learning hours.
Plans are already underway for a second annual Thanks & Giving day to take place in November of 2014. GMC acknowledges the positive impact the event had in enhancing relations between the College and Town and it is committed to making it a new college tradition. GMC’s strategic plan Sustainability 2020 calls for more programs like this to help build social capital among the broader community. Toward this end, the College is also committed to having a mirror event every spring during Earth Week called Green Up day, which focuses on clean-up of the College campus. The tradition of Green Up day has been around a long time at GMC and has gone through many changes. For the 2013 Green Up, faculty, staff, and students raked leaves and picked up trash. Classes were involved and many staff offices were closed so that employees could participate.
Volunteering and Other Service Opportunities
GMC aspires to see positive results come out of all of the College’s sustainability efforts. We understand that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What goes around comes around! We are, therefore, committed to building a culture of service and civic engagement among our community. Faculty, staff, and students are highly encouraged to get involved in the community and lend a friendly hand to a neighbor or someone in need of help through volunteering the skills and knowledge of our Environmental Liberal Arts curriculum.
Our success in getting GMC community members involved strongly depends on our community partners in the Poultney area and Rutland County. Among our partners are the Poultney K-12 schools, local businesses and organizations, and local residents. Our goal is to create solid partnerships. In the academic year 2013-2014 we were able to contribute an estimated 47,241 hours in volunteer service.