On September 27, staff offices were closed and no classes were held, but everyone showed up for breakfast and a free T-shirt. The occasion was a designated community service day, when students, staff, and faculty were encouraged to participate in service projects on campus and in the wider community.
“As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Everybody can be great because everybody can serve,” said President Kevin. “That concept underlies our idea of a community service day, with the intention of interacting and building relationships with other organizations in the local area.”
Although he has a lifetime of service experience, Kevin was inspired by former President Obama, who participated in the 2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on the eve of his inauguration. Kevin participated in the same day of service with hundreds of Peace Corps alumni, in his capacity as CEO of the National Peace Corps Association.
Many of the projects for Marlboro’s community service day were familiar from Work Day. There was much weeding of gardens, gathering and splitting of wood, and turning of compost, for example. But other projects got off campus, like one led by chemistry professor Todd Smith to the Hogback Mountain Conservation Area, where participants helped paint an old ski patrol hut for future use by backcountry skiers and hikers.
“I’ve participated in Hogback work days in past years and met some really dedicated and creative people on those projects,” said Todd. “I knew the students would have the same positive reaction if I could just set up the connection. I think the participants had a great time, and it got them off campus and into the surrounding community. Sometimes there’s a campus inertia that limits students’ awareness of the immediate area around the college, and I think we broke out of that gravity well, into low-earth orbit, if I can extend that metaphor.”
Senior Clayton Clemetson led a group of students to Harlow Farm in Putney to “glean” 1200 pounds of winter squashes still left in the field, for donation to families in need. In addition to spending a beautiful blue-sky day out in the field “hunting for treasure” (the perfect squash), the project was a chance to learn from other active members of the broader community.
“It was a fun way to learn, contribute, and connect to issues of food insecurity in Vermont,” said Clayton. “We learned about food waste, got to work with our bodies, and had fun with fellow classmates. I think it is important to ground our intellectual work at Marlboro with action in the community. I think we can build community through this work.”
“I think community service projects are important for Marlboro students because it allows for a connection to the outside world that might otherwise be missing,” said freshman Danielle Scobey, who joined the gleaning expedition. “The highlight for me was just the feeling that I was doing something both fun and productive with a group of wonderful individuals.”
“When I came here four years ago, I said I wanted to bring the world to Marlboro, and Marlboro to the world, and this effort is part of that,” said Kevin. “Service is the gift that keeps on giving, as it engenders empathy for others and lasting relationships in the community, resulting in more effective and engaged citizens.”