Bates has a unique relationship with our hometown of Lewiston, Maine. Even though there is a great deal of integration between the two, it often feels like we are in a Bates bubble. With school, sports, work and all those other responsibilities, it’s easy to spend an entire semester without going into the community for something besides Walmart or Forage. Over their four years in Lewiston, however, most Batesies will experience some sort of community engagement. The Harward Center facilitates opportunities for students to participate in the greater Lewiston/Auburn community, in addition to the class-based opportunities Bates provides.
In order to help students fully experience community engagement, the Harward Center offers grants that support summer community engagement. Some recipients have spent their summers in Lewiston in order to work closely with local nonprofit organizations without the distraction of coursework. The Student spoke with four of these grant recipients.
Anna Sucsy ’17 got her start in community engagement as a volunteer at Montello Elementary School, and she spent last summer working at the Hillview Housing development and the summer school at Montello. Even though she spent a considerable amount of time there during the semester, Anna felt that her summer experience was the first time that she felt like “both a member of the Lewiston community and a member of the Bates community.” Because she worked full time, Sucsy was able to build meaningful relationships with both students and the staff. She especially loved getting their opinions about Lewiston and the ways in which they wanted it to improve.
Hannah Wilson ’17, a volunteer at Tree Street Youth, emphasized the realization that community engagement is not community service. She explains her relationship with Tree Street as a two-way street because “the benefits of community engaged work goes both ways.” Instead of framing her work as something that was intended to “save” the community, she framed it as a learning experience for both parties. The time and effort that she put into the community both served Tree Street and gave her a “greater sense of belonging in Lewiston, rather than just at Bates.”
Many Batesies never experience anything besides the brutal Maine winters, but summertime Lewiston really shines. Suzannah Smith ’16 worked with Lots to Gardens, an urban community gardening organization started by a Bates alumna that is based out of St. Mary’s Nutrition Center. She recommended experiencing “at least one summer working in the community in Lewiston” because “it’s the time when the city really comes to life with people.”
There are plenty of community events that take advantage of the beautiful weather. The farmer’s market that opens Sundays downtown fills with local farmers selling fresh fruits and vegetables. You can also take advantage of the river trail next to the Androscoggin for a cool and scenic running and biking route. Wilson explored the Fourth of July celebration (fireworks over the ‘scogg!) and the Arts Walk. She does note, however, that without a car she would have felt a little trapped—a trip to the ocean is much easier when you don’t have to bike there!
Having spent multiple summers in Lewiston, graduating senior Katrina Buchta pours her thanks out to the community of Lewiston.
“I am incredibly thankful for and humbled by my community engagement experiences in the Lewiston community. Lewiston, thank you for challenging my former ideologies, preconceived notions, and steadfast perceptions of the world around me. Thank you for introducing my once sheltered and naïve self to racial, ethnic, religious, economic, cultural, and linguistic diversity. Thank you for exposing me to heterogeneity and the beauty of difference. Thank you for allowing me to build unity and interact across lines of difference.”
Buchta’s experience captures the heart of true engagement and investment in the community in which Batesies live.