For the last three years, Castleton University seniors in the social work program have been attending meetings of Project Vision, a coalition of various agencies and organizations dedicated to the improvement of Rutland.
Michael Reeves, director of the social work program, says that the meetings offer a practical lesson for the students.
“It’s a learning experience for our students to understand the community focus and how macro practice works in social works,” he said. “If they want to, there are opportunities for them to get involved on an individual level with different activities and volunteer opportunities that Project Vision talks about.”
Macro practice, in terms of social work, focuses on working with the individual, Reeves said. It’s one of three categories, the other two being ‘mezzo’ and ‘micro’, that the social work curriculum covers.
This year, students have only attended two meetings, and have yet to partake in some of the volunteer opportunities offered, Reeves said. In the past, students have volunteered at events such as a homelessness vigil put on by the local homeless prevention center.
And according to Reeves, the community has offered a warm acceptance to the students.
“They’re really happy to see our students there,” he said. “They treat them just like any other member.”
Joe Kraus, the chairperson of Project Vision, agrees.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” he said. “This is an opportunity for kids who aspire to undertake really important and hard work to get a sense of what it’s like and the complexity of it.”
Kraus also said that Project Vision is unique, in the sense that members have no authority.
“We don’t have a board of directors, we don’t have rules and regulations. We don’t have a budget,” he said. “Everything we do is conceived, planned, and resourced through all of our partners, which there are over 400 at last count. We’re pretty unique in that regard.”
Meetings typically start off with a report from the mayor, Reeves said, followed by a report from the police chief. In addition, groups like Habitat for Humanity and NeighborWorks will give reports on their current work. They will also discuss local art galleries and theatrical productions as well, which Reeves says is necessary to create a vibrant community.
Senior Natasha Teston attended the latest meeting on Nov. 8, and said it was different than the one she last attended.
“This one was more along the lines of a presentation on homelessness in Rutland County, and how those are involved are trying to reduce the amount of homelessness in Rutland by building more houses, making it more affordable, and just making more options available,” she said.
Teston said her favorite memory was when she attended her first meeting. At the beginning, she said, the speaker asked individuals to stand and introduce themselves, and tell why they were there.
“It was empowering to see the senior social work class stand up and say, ‘We’re seniors at Castleton University,’” she said.
For Reeves, it is important for social work students to attend these meetings (in order) to see the practice of community organization.
“All of my senior students have field placements, internships,” he said. “They might be at the hospital or the mental health center. This is more the big picture, how the entire community is working to better itself. That’s important.”
Reeves also said that this provides opportunity for students to give back to their community.
“Service to college and community has always been a big piece of what it means to be a Spartan,” he said. “This gives them the opportunity to find some of those opportunities, and to volunteer and become involved if they want to.”