The Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP) is the home of community engagement at Wesleyan University. Guided by the principles of mutual respect and collective responsibility, the JCCP focuses on developing and maintaining local partnerships with schools, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and the community at large. The JCCP is home to the Office for Community Service (OCS) which is committed to engaging and learning with others to build and strengthen our shared community by providing opportunities for Wesleyan students to volunteer their time and talent with student-run service programs, Middletown community agencies and through work-study positions in the office. The OCS currently has 17 active student groups that engage volunteers in community service in the greater Middletown area. Groups work in a variety of fields, from education to food justice to environmentalism. We caught up with a few of the OCS Student Coordinators to learn more about their programs, and the everyday work that they do to support their volunteers.
Class Year: 2019
Major(s): Chemistry and Hispanic Language and Cultures
Individual tutoring is a program in which Wesleyan students work as tutors for students K-12 from the Middletown area. The tutoring is free for the families, however it can be a paid position for work-study students or just a fun volunteer opportunity! Most Wes tutors meet once a week with their tutees for an hour or so, but some families ask for more commitment. I chose to get involved because I wanted to connect more with the Middletown community and hanging out with kids is hilarious! It’s a super low commitment to be a tutor but it makes a really big difference for the kids. If you’re interested in becoming a tutor, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You are more likely to get paired up with a student(s) at the beginning of the fall semester, however new students are always signing up looking for tutoring!
As a coordinator for the program I am responsible for hosting orientations for all tutors before they start working, so I usually meet with new tutors every week or so. Day-to-day I answer a lot of emails and am always setting up new tutor-tutee pairs. I also get to come up with fun activities/events for our students so that they can form better relationships!
WesReads/Math was started in 2007, as the most extensive tutoring partnership between Middletown public schools and Wesleyan yet. WesReads/Math tutors work at Macdonough and Farm Hill elementary schools during the school day. Some provide support to teachers within classrooms, while others work with small independent groups of higher-level learners, providing them with advanced math and reading curricula, which also allows teachers to focus more of their attention on students who are struggling.
I tutored for WesReads/Math for both semesters of my sophomore year, so I experienced firsthand how positive WesReads/Math is, not only for Macdonough students and teachers but for Wes students who get to make a positive, generative connection with the Middletown community. When I found out the program needed new coordinators, I leapt at the chance to help keep the program running and to continue to improve and expand it from within.
Though we likely aren’t accepting new tutors for this semester, we are always looking for more Wes students to get involved at the start of each semester! Please email WesReads/Math at email@example.com if you are interested in tutoring in spring or fall of next year, or have any questions!
Class Year: 2019
Major(s): Biology and English
We work with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association to maintain trails and bring students and community members on hikes and outdoor experiences.
I do trail work in Vermont in the summers and was looking for an opportunity to work on trails in Connecticut too.
[If you are interested in getting involved] Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I meet with staff at CFPA to plan trail days and educational opportunities.
Class Year: 2019
Major(s): African American Studies and Science in Society
The Traverse Square After-school program is student run and neighborhood based. It provides a community setting for Middletown children to receive academic and social support. Our program aims to provide Middletown children, mostly those who live in the Traverse Square apartment complex, with the proper resources to succeed in different aspects of life. Helping the children with their homework is the main goal of the program, but we also provide academic enrichment, recreational activities, and Friday afternoon fieldtrips for the students.
“The Center,” our home base, exists as a communal space. So many of our students have been in the area since they were children, and Center is a meaningful place for them. It’s where they can build some beautiful, sustainable relationships with Wes students and each other, and it’s cool to be a part of this growth process.
I originally joined Traverse as a fun, volunteer opportunity with one of my close friends. I had so much fun joking around with the students and ended up becoming really close with the coordinators and other staff members. These relationships made me want to stick around, and eventually apply to be a coordinator myself.
We hold training sessions at the beginning of each semester. People interested in work-study or volunteering only have to attend one! e spread the word through posters around campus and also by posting in all the WesAdmits groups!
Because our program is one of the few completely student-run programs, we spend a lot of time meeting with each other just to make sure we stay on track, and to plan for the upcoming weeks. Diana Martinez is our go-to when things get a little wild, but she trusts us to run the space and program ourselves. We also meet with the executive director of the housing authority once or twice a semester to take care of the logistic stuff – having big events in the apartment complex, getting new keys, cleaning the space, etc. We also spend a great deal of time planning with other student groups and leaders for our Friday programs to ensure that we have really engaging, fun activities for the children to end their weeks with.
In order to sustain the group, we try to make sure that we hire new coordinators with fresh ideas for the program, who demonstrate dedication to the kids as well as making Traverse a better program for everyone in the Traverse community. This includes the Wes staff and students, but also the families that live in the surrounding area.
Bread Salvage is a small group on campus that delivers donated bread to Middletown elementary schools. Our mission is to increase food security for local children and their families over the weekend by delivering supplemental bread to schools on a weekly basis.
I got involved for humanitarian and environmental reasons. People go without food or have food insecurity everywhere – locally and globally. This fact makes it seem as though there isn’t enough food to go around, but that simply isn’t the case. Much of the food we produce is instead wasted. I liked -continue my involvement with- Bread Salvage because the program helps close this gap. The bread that is donated is perfectly good bread that a local bakery just doesn’t have room on the shelves for. Instead of throwing out good bread, we are able to distribute it to local schools nearby providing supplemental food for low-income families.
We pick up and distribute bread on Fridays at 10 and 3. We are always looking for new volunteers! If you have any interest in getting involved email Sarah Mount at email@example.com!
As student coordinator I communicate with Freihofer’s weekly to coordinate the bread pick up, manage volunteers, and coordinate with schools.
Class Year: BA/MA Student
Wesleyan Doula Project
The Wesleyan Doula Project is a student run collective that provides emotional, physical, and informational support to people who are pregnant or deciding to terminate their pregnancies. We work with three clinics in Connecticut to provide this support to people before, after, and during their abortion procedure. While we only do abortion work, this project is part of a greater network of doula organizations known as the Full Spectrum Reproductive Support Network (FSRN). Doulas can provide support for people who are experiencing any part of the full spectrum of pregnancy, including birth, adoption, miscarriage, or abortion.
I became involved with the Wesleyan Doula Project when I came across their table at the Student Activities Fair my freshman year. I was able to be trained that fall and I have been so lucky to work with them for my entire time at Wes. I got a chance to spend a lot of time in clinic when I stayed on campus over the summer, and now I coordinate the project (as well as continue to doula) with Louisa Winchell and Ada Moses, who are both incredible people to work with. When I was a freshman, I didn’t really have any experience doing reproductive rights or care work, and I was so moved by the idea of doula work as a direct line of action. I think it is deeply personal and also inherently political to help hold space for someone’s needs and fears during a procedure, and to try to bring unconditional compassion into a charged clinical space.
We do trainings almost every year, depending on how many doulas we need to be able to support all three clinics. We are thinking of doing a training this upcoming fall (2018) and would love to have anyone who is interested apply, so the application process for that will happen next semester. We are always at the Student Activities Fair, and then people who are interested must come to an information session and fill out an application. (There will be more information about this in the fall.) We are looking for student doulas and also community member doulas as well, so Wesleyan faculty and staff, as well as any interested adults in the Middletown community, should definitely reach out to us! Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org, so feel free to email us there if you are interested or have questions.
Coordinating the doula project involves a lot of logistics. We meet at least once a week to check in about small things, like who’s going into clinic and how we’re balancing shifts, but also to monitor ongoing projects, like our expansion to a new clinic this year, and planning out training for the incoming doulas. On our own, all the coordinators are responding to emails and checking in with doulas about their day in clinic, but it’s nice to meet and brainstorm as a group. The work ebbs and flows with the various projects we’re taking on–some days we may be meeting with someone from NARAL Pro-Choice CT to help with their campaign or talking to a doula from the New York Doula Project and other days we’re just scanning health forms for hours–but it’s always busy.
Class Year: 2018
Major(s): English and Environmental Studies
Wesleyan Doula Project
The Wesleyan Doula Project is a student-run collective dedicated to providing free and compassionate support for people making the decision to terminate their pregnancies. By providing emotional, physical, and informational support and advocacy, we work to combat the stigma around abortion and reproductive health and to ensure that each individual receives the care they deserve. As doulas, we’re fully integrated into the clinic, working closely with staff and patients during procedures. Due to security concerns, people getting abortions aren’t allowed to bring friends or family into the procedure or recovery rooms. Doulas are able to fill that absence. As the only individuals in contact with each person before, during, and after their procedures, doulas work to make sure that patients receive attentive and compassionate care and that communication remains open between patients and their providers. The group began about six years ago and now partners with three health centers in Connecticut.
I got involved as a freshman because I wanted to be involved in reproductive advocacy work on campus, though I didn’t know anything about doula work specifically. It turned out to be an incredible group that challenged me to think about how I theorize and practice reproductive “care,” and so I stuck with it and became a coordinator my junior year.
We have a group of about thirty student and ten community member doulas. Two doulas go into each of our three health centers every Friday and Saturday year-round, so we have six volunteer shifts a week. We have an annual training every year. and our next one will be hosted in the fall of 2018 – look out for the application!
Natalie, Ada (my co-coordinators) and I meet once or twice a week for two hours to go over any logistics that need to be taken care of. We reply to any emails we have received from our health centers, doulas, potential applicants, and other doula projects around the country. We plan events, secure weekly volunteer schedules, and keep track of our semester objectives, which are mostly oriented around ways to improve or think through our practices of care as a group. Most weeks we also have separate meetings or conversations with our volunteers to plan for or troubleshoot anything that’s currently going on at our health centers. We just started working at a new health center for the first time, for example, and it has taken a lot of effort for us to get comfortable working in this new space and develop relationships between the doulas and the staff. In general, we work to support our volunteers and our clinics as best we can, and we are also eager to share our knowledge of and passion for reproductive justice with the student body. Our top priority, always, is our patients, so even though we get bogged down with logistics as coordinators, we try to keep the patients at the center of our consciousness.
The Wesleyan Doula Project (WDP) is made up of a combination of Wesleyan University students and local community members with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. The organization consists of a student coordinator team, a cohort of approximately thirty doula volunteers, and an advisory board of faculty members, local physicians, and experienced activists from the wider community. The WDP sends volunteer doulas into two local abortion clinics twice a week, all year round. As doulas, we’re fully integrated into the clinic, working closely with staff and patients during procedures. Due to security concerns, people getting abortions aren’t allowed to bring friends or family into the procedure or recovery rooms. Doulas are able to fill that absence. As the only individuals in contact with each person before, during, and after their procedures, doulas work to make sure that patients receive attentive and compassionate care and that communication remains open between patients and their providers.
I heard about the WDP during my freshman fall and was thrilled to join the project. I have always been passionate about reproductive justice and the WDP gave me the opportunity to unite my passion with action.
If someone wants to get involved they should email email@example.com. We train new doulas every or every other academic year, depending on how many doulas graduate each year and how much room we have in the project. We are looking forward to our next training in Fall 2018!
Coordinating the doula project looks like a lot of emails and spreadsheets! Each week we send six doulas into clinic, so I’m always in communication with doulas to make sure logistics are set and they feel prepared. I meet weekly with Louisa and Natalie, the other coordinators of the WDP, to plan events and trainings, and to discuss our vision for the future of the project.