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The Dartmouth
February 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Students explore, influence and volunteer in Upper Valley

The Dartmouth bubble refers to the perception that students are limited to the College's people and activities. The Upper Valley community, however, offers a wide variety of ways to explore the environment, provide service to others and contribute to local politics. Dartmouth's natural environment sets it apart from many of its peer institutions and gives students the opportunity to actively explore the outdoors. Adam Schneider '15, a cabin and trail leader in the Dartmouth Outing Club, said hiking options are limitless.

"Dartmouth offers more opportunities than you can find at any other school in the Northeast to get into the wilderness," he said. "You walk outside campus and you're on the Appalachian Trail. There are so many great hikes so close to here that the opportunities are just almost endless."

The DOC allows students of any skill level to participate in hikes that range from relatively easy outings to the Presidential Traverse, an arduous hike gaining 8,500 feet of elevation.

Students who are interested in volunteer work may become involved in the Upper Valley community through the Tucker Foundation, Dartmouth's center for service, spirituality and social justice. Many Upper Valley residents face challenges that student volunteers can help solve, said Helen Damon-Moore, Tucker director of service and educational programs.

"It's a really interesting mix of assets and challenges, and many of the challenges don't show," she said. "We live in a beautiful area geographically, and at the same time there is a great deal of poverty that is hidden."

Volunteering also allows students to explore and learn about the greater community outside of Dartmouth.

"Too many students think that the Upper Valley is the Hanover CVS to Occom Pond, and I have known students who have never been anywhere but there," Damon-Moore said. "There is a great deal of need and a great deal of resources that students should really avail themselves of as volunteers."

Students involved with local service work through Tucker can participate in programs such as the Generations Project, which works with the elderly on computer skills.

Language in Motion, another Tucker program, allows students from different cultural backgrounds to share their experiences with under-resourced Upper Valley schools. Almost all Tucker programs are open to freshmen.

On Sept. 6, Tucker will launch Vital Community, a new program that will take place between DOC First-Year Trips and orientation. One hundred first-year students will be chosen on a first-come, first-served basis for a day of community service in the Upper Valley. Participants will learn about the Upper Valley by volunteering and participating in a "Valley quest" scavenger hunt.

Tucker is also involved in sponsoring community-based learning courses that encourage students to do volunteer work as part of their curriculum. Many of these courses visit the Upper Valley Haven, a nearby homeless shelter in Vermont.

Students Fighting Hunger is one Tucker program that incoming freshmen may join right away, said Julia Kannam '15, a volunteer. Volunteers cook dinner for the Upper Valley community at a nearby church every Friday, and a different campus organization pitches in to help sponsor the event and cook every week.

Kannam said one of the most rewarding aspects of Students Fighting Hunger is the enjoyment community members who attend the dinners receive from interacting with student volunteers.

"You can just tell that one of the highlights of their week is coming to this dinner and getting to hang out with the Dartmouth students," she said.

Dartmouth also offers many opportunities for students interested in local politics, Rockefeller Center director Andrew Samwick said.

The College Democrats, College Republicans and College Libertarians focus primarily on national politics and are especially active since New Hampshire is a swing state.

"Because of the way national politics get determined, the localities in New Hampshire play an important role," Samwick said. "So all three of those groups cooperate in the process of helping Dartmouth host whatever presidential candidates we can get."

In the academic realm, the Rockefeller Center Policy Research Shop offers students the opportunity to become actively involved with the local legislative process. Legislatures in Vermont and New Hampshire, which do not meet year-round, lack the resources necessary to conduct their own policy research. As a result, Dartmouth students enrolled in the program have the opportunity to research for policymakers and stakeholders in the area and present their findings as testimony in the states' capitols.

"We've made the whole two-state area our classroom," Samwick said.