Last week, right before the school started, twelve Green Mountain College students arrived on campus early to participate in a meaningful program called “First Year Impression!” or “FYI!” Created by Kevin Bubriski, professor of Visual Arts department, and José Gálvez, Sustainability Community Development Outreach Coordinator at Green Mountain College, FYI! is a new, one-week pre-orientation program where incoming students can gain a better understanding about the local community through performing community services at different organizations around Rutland County, Vermont.
(Credit: Violet Neff Photo)
Hi José, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is José Gálvez. I graduated from Green Mountain College in 2011 with three degrees: a B.S. in Business, a B.A. in Environmental Studies, and a B.A. in Environmental Management. Currently, I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Environmental Law and Policy with a focus on Climate Change at Vermont Law School. At GMC, I work as an Outreach Coordinator for Sustainable Community Development at Sustainability Office
You have been doing so many things here at GMC. Can you tell me about First Year Impression (FYI!)?
FYI! began as a collaboration between Professor Kevin Bubriski and I. We wanted to figure out a way to help students quickly adjust to GMC when they first come on campus. Williams College has a similar program, which also connects students to the local community; so as we started thinking more and more, we decided to visit Williams along with thirteen other students and began crafting our very own and unique GMC community based pre-orientation program for new students. As you know, GMC has the wildness challenge in which freshmen and transfer students can come to our campus early and explore nature through camping, hiking, and canoeing. Some students, however, don’t want to come to the woods, so FYI! is an alternative for them and also gives the students the opportunity to learn and connect with our local residents and community through community service.
(José wearing a white shirt. Photo credit to the Poultney Historical Society)
So what did students do this year?
There were a lot of activities…
Just make it short, our readers want to know.
During the week, we visited many places and volunteered helping people. On Monday, we worked with the Poultney Historical Society and the Town Hall. While learning about the history of Main Street in Poultney, we cooked dinner for families in the town. On Tuesday, we cleaned the Town Hall of Poultney, worked with Thrift Store and helped clean the kitchen at the Senior Center, and at the end of the day, hiked at the Deane Preserve.
On Wednesday, we gleaned vegetables on the farm and donated them to the Women’s Shelter and other food shelves. After that, we helped doing work at the rain garden. On Thursday, we learned about the history and businesses of downtown Rutland and Poultney, and did community service with BROC Rutland. On Friday, our last day, we did tree planting—85 trees with Poultney Mettowee Natural Resources Conservation District! We ended the day with a potluck.
(A full schedule can be found here)
That sounds like everybody had a lot of fun. How many students participated in this project?
Twelve students in total: six returning students and six freshmen.
I thought this program was for new students only?
When I organized the program, I also want to create mentorship among participants of the program. Therefore, the program is open to every GMC student.
Great! So how did you organize this project?
It took me total of seven months; the most intense time was last three months, when I prepared financial plan and budget. Russell Stone ‘14, was a big help and very instrumental in creating the website and Facebook group. Most things I did were to bring people together.
What challenges/ difficulties that you encountered working for this project?
I think it was communication. Sometimes people got tired and the schedule was too packed. But overall it was fun.
So how did you overcome that challenge?
By letting them be. I am a big fan of the idea that I will let people have their own space. The idea behind FYI was that we wanted to introduce students to a new home and give them the first step in their college career: learn to be responsible, learn to respect themselves before respecting others, and be mindful about things around them.
(Photo Credit to Kevin Bubriski)
How do you feel after finishing this project—I mean the overall result, and the reaction of the participants?
The idea was to create a community among those students, so hopefully they can take it over and help to promote this. I am glad that they can find home, transfer the skills they learn to their college life, and build relationships with each other. After the program, Steph Folsom was offered an internship by Poultney Historical Society while Russell Stone was received an internship at Green Mountain Power.
Final question: what have you learned from this project?
I learned that we’re all different and I learned that we are staying in a home called GMC and Poultney Community. I learned that we’re allowed to make mistakes. The beauty is everywhere, but first you have to see the beauty inside yourself before you can see the beauty around you.
Thank you so much for spending your time on the interview! Hope the program will continue and help more students next year.
September 10, 2013