January 25, 2015

Lafayette’s Impact: Influential Experiences

I have transformed in many ways since my freshman year at Lafayette. I have become more aware of myself and the society around me. I have become a stronger individual. Outside my experiences as an Environmental Studies and Government & Law major and my time abroad (which I have discussed in previous posts), here are some of my Lafayette experiences that have been most enlightening:

I was part of the Alternative School Break (ASB) team that went to Tennessee for environmental service and community service with the Eastern Band of Cherokee. This was a unique opportunity to gain a rich understanding of Native American culture. I learned a great deal about history and tribal governing structures. I was able to experience a week in the Great Smoky Mountains, living with a kind husband and wife that frequently hosted students.

Our host, Ed, had built his home and our cabins himself. We learned about homesteading and the strong relationship Ed and Arleen had with their community. We made blueberry jam, chopped firewood, and met with community leaders. This experience made me realize my passion for public service.

I greatly admire Ed and Arleen for their hospitality, knowledge, and involvement in their community. I hope to have that relationship with my community and have a positive impact on the lives of people around me. I hope I can someday be like Ed and Arleen.

During this time, I developed a love for life in the mountains! I also had the pleasure of working with a wonderful team of Lafayette students and Bonnie, our faculty advisor. Our team became so close sharing experiences and stories during our van rides and service excursions.

 

Smiling students sit by a campfire

ASB TEAM

Students pose for a photo during a hiking trip in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

ASB TEAM – Hiking Trip in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

As a member of the Outdoors Society, I developed my hiking skills and forged a deeper relationship with the outdoors. I pushed myself to go on these trips to relieve myself of stress and to form new friendships. These trips around the area and weekend trips to the Adirondacks were incredibly refreshing.

Being a member of this club has made my time at Lafayette unforgettable. I can’t believe all that I have seen. Even the van rides to these destinations were rewarding. I learned so much about the people with whom I traveled and the music we played along the way was just another perk.

Cliff, a math professor at Lafayette and the club’s advisor, was kind enough to welcome us into his home in the Dacks. Though Lafayette’s campus has so much to offer, some time off campus is always needed. This was the best way to spend my free time. I was able to actively explore! This is the ideal social, mental, and physical retreat.

Students and a professor stand at a stream in the Adirondack Mountains

THE DACKS

Students stand on a trail covered with yellow autumn leaves

Last summer Andrew Goldberg, Rachel Leister, and I worked as EXCEL researchers and as managers of Vegetables In the Community (VIC). With the help of our advisors, Professor Malinconico, Professor Cohen, and Dr. Bonnie Winfield, we worked closely with the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership to make fresh produce accessible and affordable to the West Ward of Easton. We collected produce from our plot at LaFarm and Easton’s community gardens (particularly the Urban Farm in Easton’s South Side). Through recipe sharing, events, and connecting with local organizations such as Easton Hospital and the Kellyn Foundation, we sought to bring the community together through nutritious food.

A student garden plot

Our LaFarm Plot

Rows of plants on an urban farm

WWNP Urban Farm

My summer working at Lafayette helped me shape my goals for a career in public service. I hope to design effective and just environmental policy, particularly in respect to food and agriculture. I gained a unique perspective on the structure of local food systems. This experience allowed me to grow as a confident citizen and leader. We organized this program with Sophia Feller, Urban Agriculture Coordinator of WWNP.

Through this experience, I developed a close relationship with Easton, community leaders, and residents. I saw this town and Lafayette’s campus in a whole new way. I felt more connected. This was a chance to delve into issues of food justice, alongside Professor Cohen, and an opportunity to fully experience Easton with friends.

Vegetables inside the veggie van

THE VEGGIE VAN

I like to surround myself with people who relish adventure and civic engagement. This has led to many unforgettable experiences during my undergraduate years. My friendships have shaped who I am. From introducing me to new music to bringing out my best self, they have allowed me to become sure of myself and what I stand for. I am thankful to have these incredible memories and I am excited for all that lies ahead in my remaining semesters at Lafayette and beyond.

posted in Alexa Gatti

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