Growing Change Outside of Dartmouth

by Kate Yuan | 10/23/19 2:15am

Many students at Dartmouth are aware of the concept of the “Dartmouth bubble,” or the fact that Dartmouth is a relatively isolated college community that inhabits an area that is more affluent than many of the areas around it. However, there are programs at Dartmouth, like the Center for Social Impact, that work to break down barriers between Dartmouth and the area surrounding it. One way that the center does this is through the Youth Education and Mentoring programs.

Growing Change is one of six YEM programs offered by the Center for Social Impact. Of the groups, Growing Change is the youngest, founded in 2011. The organization was founded with a mission to educate children of the Upper Valley about food systems and healthy living and has grown over its eight years of existence to do so, with roughly 30 members at present.

The program is directed by Ellie Wilson ’20, who said that she has been involved in Growing Change since her freshman fall. She said that she was initially drawn to the educational aspect of Growing Change because it gave her an opportunity to teach children, but has learned a lot about sustainability since joining the program.

Growing Change represents just one way of sustaining relationships with communities outside of Dartmouth. Growing Change partners with Dothan Brook School in White River Junction and visits once a week to give lessons to students. According to Wilson, the classrooms are usually made up of students in early elementary grades, and Dartmouth students visit for six weeks a term.

“It allows Dartmouth students to see a bigger picture of the Upper Valley. I think it’s a great way to break out of the bubble,” Wilson said.

For Wilson, it is extremely important that the teachers and students are getting the most out of these visits. She said that Growing Change strives to focus on what the teachers want rather than making more work for the teachers by coming in and enforcing Growing Change’s own agenda.

Growing Change is a farm-to-school program. To educate students about sustainability, it helps keep a garden at Dothan Brooks to keep in line with healthy eating and lifestyles. Wilson talked about the benefits of the garden for the children.

“It’s good for them to see that it is possible to grow these healthy vegetables in your own backyard and see how that works,” Wilson said. 

In addition to helping in the classroom, Growing Change holds a fundraiser at the end of each term called Swipes for Hunger in collaboration with Dartmouth Dining Services and Willing Hands, a non-profit organization based in Norwich that distributes food and grocery items to food pantries in the Upper Valley. Swipes for Hunger allows students to donate their unused swipes and leftover DBA to Willing Hands, which then uses the money to deliver food that would otherwise go to waste to those in need. According to Wilson, the goal of the fundraiser is to reduce food waste and improve health through better access to sustainable and nutritious food. She said that the fundraiser also allows members of Growing Change to engage directly with Willing Hands.

Cristina Carpentier, the program coordinator for educational access and equity at the Center for Soacial Impact, oversees the Youth Education and Mentoring Programs. Carpentier said that one of her main responsibilities is training mentors to work with the kids and to support the student leader who handles the logistics.

“It’s a lot of experiential learning and ideas that get back to that larger sustainability picture,” Carpentier said. “It’s curriculum that they may not just see typically.”

Carpentier began her role as program coordinator last July, and she said that it has been rewarding to witness the initiative students involved with YEM programs at the College take to help the community.

“I think it’s really neat that [student leaders] start each year excited about their role and have creative goals to reach,” Carpentier said. “While the programs have been around for a long time and their missions stay the same, it’s cool to see what each of the students decides to do with it.”

All of the YEM programs sustain Dartmouth’s relationship with the Upper Valley in unique ways, but what they all have in common is their focus on youth mentorship.

Grace Rubin ’22 is a member of DREAM, another YEM program that pairs Dartmouth students with youth living in low-income housing communities in Vermont. Rubin is currently co-chair for one of the classrooms DREAM works with. Rubin discussed what she had gained from being a part of the DREAM program.

“It’s a mutual relationship,” Rubin said. “I think that it’s a nice opportunity to learn about this community that we benefit from, the Upper Valley, in a way that we really don’t get to on campus.”

Though Growing Change is younger compared to the other YEM programs, it has established a strong relationship with the Dothan Brook School and the Upper Valley, according to Wilson. She added that she has enjoyed being a part of the program because it has allowed her to interact so closely with communities outside of the Dartmouth community.

“I like being able to have the biggest impact that I possibly can,” Wilson said. “This role allows me to sustain what’s already been built for Growing Change but also build it up in different ways. It is bigger than Dartmouth.”