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BARD COLLEGE TRUSTEE LEADER SCHOLAR PROGRAM HELPS STUDENT LEADERS DEVELOP AND PURSUE COMMUNITY SERVICE PROGRAMS
Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
Many Programs Assist Local Hudson Valley Communities
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Entering its 10th year, Bard College’s Trustee Leader Scholar (TLS) Program continues to cultivate student leaders who are dedicated to serving their local communities. “Many colleges have excellent service-learning programs that provide hours of student labor in local communities, but the students in these programs do very little of the fundamental organizing,” says TLS director, Paul Marienthal. “We use community service as the means to create capable, fearless organizers.”
Founded in 1996, Bard’s TLS Program accepts about 50 students on a rolling, year-round application basis. Students in the program turn their own passionate ideas into articulate, feasible, and sustainable action. TLS students create their own service projects—taking on the planning, organizational, financial, and hands-on responsibilities associated with their mission, often raising funds through grants, donations, or sponsorship independent of the TLS Program. Students receive stipend and transcript recognition for their work in the program. Many TLS projects span several years, continuing to serve Hudson Valley communities after founding Bard students graduate.
Since 1997, The Astor Home for Children Bard Volunteers has brought hundreds of Bard student volunteers to the Astor Home for Children in Rhinebeck—a residential facility for children with serious and persistent emotional disturbances—to offer weekly extracurricular activities such as creative writing, arts, crafts, photography, gardening, sports, chess, or musical and theater performance. The program has fostered a deep relationship between Bard and the Astor Home for Children. “The Bard volunteers are special to the Astor Home children,” says Patrick Paglen ’07, who currently leads the project. “Our classes mean a lot to them and they look forward to us coming because we aren’t teachers—we’re just bigger kids. For Bard students it’s a rewarding experience. Our volunteers have the opportunity to share activities we love with kids who are genuinely interested.” Each semester, about 20 Bard students teach for one hour a week at the Astor Home for Children in Rhinebeck.
Kit-Kat Mentoring, led by TLS student David Martin ’08, is a one-on-one mentoring program for youths in Rhinebeck. Founded in 2004, the project was created in direct response to a Rhinebeck school district survey asking what parents believed their children most needed: mentoring was a major request. “The purpose of the program is to give the kids the ability and desire to do what they need to do to become successful—to know what they want and who they are,” says Martin. “I am trying to achieve this in two ways: by giving them a strong community to rely on, and time to come to know themselves through a close bond with someone else.” Kit-Kat Mentoring pairs 10 Bard student mentors with 10 Rhinebeck middle school students.
Bard Buddies, run by TLS student Allison Cekala ’06, is a group of Bard students who spend one Sunday each month with Hudson Valley residents living with intellectual disabilities or special needs. “Since last semester, we’ve been visiting the same group of 14 buddies from Saugerties, N.Y.,” says Cekala. “I’ve come to know each of them closely—where they are from, what kinds of music they like, who their friends are, what their job is, what makes them laugh. [They] live in an assisted living complex that makes everyday living regulated and monotonous… Something as simple as friendly attention [can] mean so much.” Cekala’s other initiative, Astor Alternative Music Education Project, offers music lessons by Bard students to emotionally disturbed kids at the Astor Day Treatment Center in Poughkeepsie, where music is not part of the regular curriculum.
Red Hook ESL Center teaches English as a second language to Hudson Valley residents from Mexico and other Hispanic countries, Buddhist monks from Tibet, and Chinese and Korean immigrants, among others. Started in 2002 by TLS student Kate Grim-Feinberg ’04 in partnership with Literacy Connections, the drop-in center is staffed by Bard students and local volunteers, and focuses on teaching basic grammar, building vocabulary, and developing conversational skills. Outreach programs to educate residents on important local issues, such as health care workers speaking about Lyme disease, are also organized at the center, which is open Mondays 7:30–9:30 p.m. and Thursdays 6–8 p.m. at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 7420 South Broadway, Red Hook. Childcare is provided.
La Voz, in its second year of publication, is a free Spanish language magazine providing Mid Hudson news, arts, and entertainment, as well as information about health, legal, education, and daily life issues, to the local Hispanic working community. “Although migrant workers, academics, Hispanic students and business people share the same regional space and even the same language,” says TLS student Nevena Gadjeva ’06, “before La Voz there was no common place for these various voices to meet.” Launched in 2003 by TLS students Emily Schmall ’05 and Mariel Fiori ’05, La Voz has established an on-campus editorial office and is currently working to expand its format, publish monthly, and increase circulation to an estimated readership of 4,500.
Academic Advancement Program (AAP), founded by TLS student Cesia Minemann ’06, is a workshop-based program that guides disadvantaged Hudson High School students through the college application process, including application for funding, scholarship, and loan programs. “I went to a school that didn’t have books,” says Minemann, who comes from Bushwick, Brooklyn. “As a high school student, I had to teach an algebra class for two weeks because there wasn’t a professor or a substitute teacher. I had to work hard to get up to standard academically, and I know how stressful and complicated the college application process is for kids who do not have resources. Now I am on the other side of that curve and I want to give back.” Last year, all of Minemann’s students were accepted to universities and colleges with scholarships. “College is a medium. It broadens the spectrum for what you want to become later on,” says Minemann. “I want to provide these students with choices.” The AAP workshop is held on Fridays 3–4:30 p.m. at Hudson High School.
Eco-Discoverers, formed in 2004 by Bard environmental studies majors Anne Christian ’05 and Max Leer ’05, is a group of 20 children, ages 8–11, from local communities including Red Hook, Rhinebeck, Barrytown, and Hudson. The children meet with Bard student volunteers every other Saturday and go on field trips designed to educate them about local ecology. “Most people don’t spend much time outside,” says TLS student Ariana Jostad-Laswell ’08, who coleads the program with Rachel Sanders ’08. “These children are at the age when it is easier to change those habits and break down fears about nature and local wildlife.” This semester, Eco-Discoverers are focusing on farm and agricultural life. “We want to get the children thinking about where their food comes from,” says Jostad-Laswell, “to show them there are different kinds of work—not just jobs in an office.”
Flying Fiddlers Mentoring Program was established four years ago by TLS student Sophia Mak ’06 in association with the Flying Fiddlers String Chorale, a nonprofit organization that brings a comprehensive string ensemble to youngsters, ages 9–14, from diverse backgrounds. Bard student teachers offer private lessons, music theory, and small chamber ensemble classes in Kingston, N.Y. “Teaching is a difficult thing. Sometimes it feels like you’re not getting anywhere,” says Mak. “But there are amazing moments when your student just wows you and their playing is incredible. The kids feel it and so can the mentors.” The work culminates in a series of performances throughout Ulster and Dutchess counties, and on Bard campus.
Wayfinder Experience, led by TLS student Patrick Paglen ’07, uses the philosophy of cooperative play as a means to foster an environment of trust, creativity, and inclusiveness. “Play itself is a natural and powerful healing mechanism,” says Paglen. This semester, Paglen’s group is working with at-risk and traumatized youth at the Astor Home for Children in Rhinebeck to stage a “Story”—an improvisational theatrical production where traditional boundaries of performance and audience are challenged. There is no script or stage; all participants become involved, helping to determine the outcome of the Story as it happens. Next semester, Paglen plans to bring the Wayfinder Experience to at-risk youth in Hudson.
Founded in 2001, Migrant Labor Project (MLP), now led by TLS student Owen Thompson ’06, is a student-based organization that works to improve the conditions of migrant laborers and their families in New York State, particularly the Hudson Valley. As part of his work with MLP, Thompson interviewed local farm workers for academic research, demonstrated in Albany and New York City on behalf of migrant laborers, and interned with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida. “What impressed me even more than the poverty they lived in and the dangers they had to brave to work in this country was the absolute invisibility of the population,” says Thompson. “There were dozens of farm workers within a 15-minute drive from Bard, yet members of the Bard community would have no reason to see them in their daily routines.” This semester, MLP will bring to campus representatives of the National Assembly of Ex-Braceros in Tlaxcala, Mexico; the poster artisans of Beehive Collective; and the Mexico Solidarity Network.
Bard-Hudson Mentoring Program pairs 10 Bard mentors with 10 at-risk Hudson youths from grades 8–10. They meet a few Fridays a month on the Bard campus to share time together at film screenings, workshops, lectures, or doing Internet research, talking, and studying. “Socially there is a lot of pressure at their age to join gangs, or use drugs and alcohol,” says TLS student Diana Vazquez ’06, who has led this project for four years. “It’s a borderline period for these kids—they can go either in the direction of defining and pursuing their dreams, or dropping out of school.” The kids with whom Vazquez works are dealing with difficult issues such as foster home relocation, family substance abuse, young teenage pregnancy, or being in the court system. “I try to use all the resources we have on campus to give them opportunities to see themselves in a college setting, to make academics a strong presence in their life,” says Vazquez.
Other current TLS projects include the Red Hook Residential Reciprocal Education Project, a small group of Bard students who lead weekly writing workshops for young men at Red Hook Residential Juvenile Detention Facility; Children’s Expressive Arts Project (working at the Astor Home for Children in Rhinebeck), training students to facilitate Expressive Arts workshops that provide disadvantaged children with artistic tools that will help them cope with everyday life and lay foundations for constructive life change.
Bard College’s TLS Program supports student-initiated action that is dedicated to making a difference in Bard’s neighboring communities. Leadership development happens in the context of hands-on community service projects. “Students come to me with an idea that I know they are passionate about,” says TLS director Marienthal. “It’s my job to help them shape their vision—as largely as I think each student can manage—into sustainable and substantial projects.”
This event was last updated on 01-29-2007