80+ Students, Staff Volunteer Locally

Nov 14, 2012

Republished from the Rutland Herald

By Patrick McArdle, Staff Writer

BENNINGTON, VT – More than 80 Bennington students and staff members spent a recent Saturday pitching in around town as part of the Bennington ACTS annual day of service.

Emily Mikucki, of Carmel, NY, a senior studying biology and Spanish, was one of the leaders of a project that included preparing holiday decorations to be hung throughout Bennington's downtown and putting up lights at the Fountain Memorial Park on South Street.

Mikucki, a student residential house chairwoman on the college's campus, described Bennington ACTS (Advocating for Community Through Service) as an effort to “get as many Bennington College students out into the community as possible.” The goal for Saturday was to have 100 student volunteers participate in the event and the college almost reached that goal, Mikucki said.

While about 35 students were helping the Better Bennington Corp., an agency dedicated to promoting the downtown, decorate the park next to its South Street offices, others were working on creating collection boxes and fliers to collect items for Hurricane Sandy relief and another group was preparing food for members of the Bennington Rescue Squad, prior to cleaning the squad's building.

Closer to home, some students were doing a cleanup of the trails on Bennington College's campus, Mikucki said.

“Yeah, we have a lot going on. It's something that we're really dedicated to back at the college, trying to get people out and about and promoting service, really trying to make connections,” she said.

Catherine Murley, of Sanford, ME, a sophomore who is studying earth science, said she chose to be part of the group hanging lights in the park because she “really likes the way towns look after the Christmas decorations” are up.

“I feel like it's a very festive, spirited thing,” she said.

Providing materials and directions for the students, John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corp., said that what happened on Saturday was a big project that wouldn't have been done without so many volunteers.

Murley said she and others appreciated Shannahan arranging a visit on Saturday from Santa Claus. While she acknowledged the students were young adults, they liked having the reminder of childhood and having their efforts rewarded with a little fun, she said.

Kenny Olguin, of Whittier, CA, a junior taking dance, psychology, and French, said he wanted to be part of the group at the park because other members of his on-campus house community were there. They thought it would be fun to work together, he said.

But even in a large group, Olguin said he got to play a part.

“It's been really hectic, actually, and I thought I wasn't going to have a lot to do because there was so many of us, but it's been really wonderful that there has actually been quite a bit set aside for us to do for the community in these few hours,” he said.

Giving the students a chance to be part of the community, as Bennington did, was something Olguin said he appreciated.

“To have a community that is as tightknit as Bennington allow and welcome students to give back, it's nice. Because you're studying in college, you're doing a lot of work that deals with what you're interested in, so it's refreshing to do something that's not for yourself,” he said.