Anyone who is a part of the Community Links listserv is used to receiving emails from Matt Gee with the subject line, “Brunch at Blake Street Towers Sunday!” However, for those Batesies who are unfamiliar with Gee, he is a member of the class of 2016. He will graduate with a degree in Neuroscience, a minor in education studies, and general education concentrations in philosophy and psychology. In addition to his studies, Gee has spent the past four years doing extensive and important community engaged work in the Lewiston-Auburn area.
In his first year at Bates, Gee began his work in the community as a member of the FYS, “Exploring Education Through Narratives,” a course that required 30 hours of fieldwork. Gee was then recruited by a Student Volunteer Fellow to volunteer at Blake Street Towers. Despite his early exposure to community engagement, he said he was still hesitant to get more involved. When the fellow that recruited him took the winter semester off, however, Gee decided to take on the challenge.
Since then, he has organized and led a group of student volunteers at Blake Street Towers and has become a Student Volunteer Fellow himself. Gee describes his decision to get more involved as a great one. “I am so glad I did it,” he said. “It has taught me all of my time management skills and improved my confidence and leadership skills.”
Most importantly, though, Gee says his work in the community has helped him make connections while doing things he enjoys, like cooking and interacting with elderly people who are often lonely. Gee said it is important to him to create opportunities for elderly Lewiston residents to socialize by creating a connected community. One such connection Gee has made is with a 94 year-old woman, Betty, who Gee describes as his surrogate grandmother.
Gee’s work with Blake Street Towers is not all he does. Over the years, Gee has also been involved with the YWCA of Central Maine, Lewiston Baha’i, Park Avenue Junior Youth Groups, Montello Elementary, and Tree Street Youth. However, he says all of these connections have come as a result of the initial interactions he made with the communities in the Lewiston-Auburn area. Gee says that his high involvement in the community is his way of trying to address some of the problems Lewiston is facing, such as cultural tensions.
Gee explained that his involvement in the community has allowed him to be aware of his privilege at Bates. As a result, he has practiced “empathy, love, patience, and improved [his] interpersonal relationships.” Hopefully, Gee’s shoes will be filled by a Batesie also eager to engage with communities in the Lewiston-Auburn area.