New beginnings

A group of Castleton University officials and Castleton community members have begun meeting again to help the university and the town continue to improve relations.

At the Bridge Initiative group’s meeting last week, they brainstormed ways to accomplish this with ideas ranging from Green-Up days to fun trips together to New York or Boston.

They also established a mission statement that states: “The Bridge Initiative is composed of town of Castleton residents and Castleton University personnel working to foster bonds of understanding and good will by raising awareness of existing resources for learning, enrichment and entertainment, and through innovative joint ventures.”

The group was brought together in part by communication professor Robert Wuagneux after tensions were heightened between the town and the university. Students burned books on the town library steps, destroyed mailboxes and littered across town.

“Each person is a volunteer because he or she believes there are lots of good things in our community for students and community members,” Wuagneux said.

Over the past year, the group has worked to bring the town and university together to better coexist. Events included a dinner at the Senior Center in which students and residents got to know each other, said Martha Molnar, a Castleton resident and chair of the committee.

Students worked at Mount Zion, cleaning up the grounds, chalking playing fields and  lived with families, she said.

Chinese students also stayed with local families and treated their hosts to a dinner celebration at the end of the fall semester.     

And group members touted the university’s mentoring program, in which students go to the Castleton Elementary school and spend time with primarily fourth and fifth-graders

Through these efforts the college has been slowly regaining the support of townspeople, group members said. They said students have been treating the town better and are being more respectful about the noise they create and the trash that results after parties.  

The group is planning a townwide clean-up day on April 24, in which they hope residents and college students and officials will work together, said group member Matthew Patry. Another is planned for after the annual Scorpion Bowl rugby tournament and bash, he said.

Molnar said she likes how the relationship is improving and said the group wants to continue that trend.

“We wanted to raise awareness of all the positive things the university has to offer the town, as well what the town has to offer the University,” she said.

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