Students working to improve image in town

Students paint little libraries as a community service project.
Catherine Twing/Castleton Spartan

Early this semester the Feshmen class earned a reputation for causing trouble. Various solutions have been proposed to help change that with a goal to help students respect the town as their new home.

Community service, college officials say, is one way to drive that message.

“The first-year students who come to Castleton become part of a community,” said English professor Chris Boettcher. Doing community service, he said, “helps them recognize the way they are a part of a larger community beyond the college.”

Led by their First-Year Seminar instructors and Student Orientation Staff leaders, dozens of first-year students have been taking part in a variety of service activities throughout the town of Castleton.

Boettcher’s FYS group helped move historical society items from the old town hall to the historical society’s new home in The Higly House Museum on Main Street.

Tegan Waite, one of Boettcher’s first-year students, said the effort was meaningful.

“This is our home for the next few years and having the opportunity to get to know the community on a personal, and in my case, historical level, really gave me the sense of unity,” she said.

Freshman Trinity Ford and Josh Lamb agreed.

“I thought it was great because we were helping out the community while gaining closer relationships with each other,” she said.  

“Giving back to the community is something both you and the town win from,” said Lamb. “You establish connections with your new community while making it a better place for the people who live here.”

Sociology professor Bill Kuehn’s has been doing a project with his first-year students for several years now.

The group goes to the Nature Conservancy a few times during the semester to pick up trash and clean up burn piles in the area known as a common dumping ground for locals, said Emma Blaiklock, one of Kuehn’s students.

“The road is several miles long and our group divides up into three sections and walks the road to pick up whatever we find,” Blaiklock said.

Most commonly they find common debris like fast food bags and alcohol containers. Some of the burn piles, however, are tested for hazardous chemicals in hopes of gaining funding to clean up the area.

Art professor Oliver Schemm’s Intro to Studio Art class is another FYS class doing a project for the town. Schemm’s group is making little libraries to put around town. The libraries are small boxes that will be filled with books for anyone can take and read.

The idea came from librarian Charlotte Gerstein, who made the connection between Schemm and FortySeven Main St., a home for young men with mental disabilities. The young men built the libraries and Schemm’s class decorated them.

 “The point was to get a sense of a different community (FortySeven Main Street), but also help our own community (Castleton),” Schemm said.

He added that Castleton students benefit, the library benefits and it helps to beautify the town.

The students were very excited about their projects as they painted the libraries during their Wednesday morning class.

“We consulted with Charlotte and she gave us an idea of what she wanted,” said Katelyn Wedin, one of Schemm’s students. “It’s a good experience consulting with people. It’s experience with customers for the real world.”

Shannon Haggerty, another of Schemm’s students, sees the community benefit in the project.

“I think it’s pretty cool. Especially for a small town,” Haggerty said. “This town is about community, so it will be a good addition.”

Chrispin White, director of the Center for Study and Support of the Community, said that getting first-year students to volunteer in the town is “vitally important” to both the success of the student and the community.

Because many students aren’t from Castleton, it’s important to get them out in the community and give them a chance to meet residents, he said. This way the students will learn to respect the town and vice versa, he said.


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