Monday, March 28, 2011

The Future of Democracy?

Last Tuesday, St. Michael's students filed into the McCarthy Arts Center to hear U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speak about "The Future of Democracy in America".

Bernie Sanders spoke about issues such as social security, employment, and preserving our environment. When the time came for questions, a student voiced his support of the proposed budget cuts that would eliminate funding to hundreds of Head Start preschool and early education programs around the country. If passed, Head Start programs would close their doors and leave 336 Vermont children without early education and support from these programs. I volunteer at Champlain Valley Head Start where these proposed eliminations hit far too close to home.

At the Franklin Square Head Start Preschool, four year old Olivia sings her favorite Justin Bieber song while practicing writing her name. Grace, from the Ivory Coast, makes play-do spaghetti on a kitchen set while another group of giggling children take turns stirring a bowl of blueberry muffin mix to have at snack. Play based learning excites and engages these intelligent, happy, and creative preschoolers in our classroom. Each week, my roommate, who also volunteers at the preschool, and I laugh about how each student is uniquely funny and ridiculously cute in their own way.

Some of the children and their families are refugees from war torn countries such as Sudan and Somalia. Other children come from low-income households in the Burlington, Franklin Square area. Their families have made a conscious decision to provide their children with the opportunities and education they know will help them succeed. But Head Start does even more. Teachers educate and provide dental hygiene, help make medical appointments, and provide endless support for families. Children are also able eat a healthy, nutritious breakfast and lunch each day at school. The learning continues at home where teachers provide home visits to each child and provide extra care and attention when classroom time ends. Head Start does not just prepare each child for Kindergarten, but plants the seeds for a bright future.

I hope our country, including our students, realize the importance of programs such as Head Start and the positive impact they have on families and communities across the nation. By gaining support for these programs and opposing these devastating budget cuts, we can have a hand in changing the direction of our country. We have a duty to preserve the future and give back to those who may not have the same opportunities that we had. Head Start believes each child should have the opportunity to reach their full potential. After all, how can democracy have a future, if our children do not?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Knight Talk: Leah Ziegler'11 with Fix It With Five!

1.What is Fix It With Five?
Fix It With Five is a student-led and student funded grant
organization founded at Saint Michael's College in 2009. The mission of Fix It With Five is to promote systemic change through its annual donation to a local, national, or international community based organization with the goal of permanent sustainable change. Following the Saint Michael's College mission of social justice this student led and student funded organization will provide education and awareness to the college and surrounding community. In partnership with the chosen organization, the Fix It With Five committee will aim to alleviate a condition leading to the degradation of human dignity.

2. How do you feel this grant benefits the Saint Michael’s Community?
70% of students participate in MOVE during their four years at Saint Michael's which is an amazing opportunity to give to the community. Fix It With Five provides an additional opportunity to give to the community that after fours years at Saint Michael's we call home. It is part of the mission of Fix It With Five to educate the SMC community about issues facing the larger Burlington community. The panel presentation is an opportunity to educate the SMC population about issues our community faces. For the students who apply to be on the committee are able to gain multiple skills that look great on a resume. For me personally I want to work in non-profits when I graduate and Fix It With Five has been a great networking and learning experience about the development of Fix IT With Five organization and the organizations which apply for the grant. Fix It With Five also works to create longterm relationships with the annual grant recipient as well as the organizations which apply. This year we matched organizations with clubs at Saint Mikes, organizations are always looking for volunteers and as the presenters stated at the panel, we provide fantastic volunteers.

3. How do you narrow down the finalists for the Fix It With Five Grant?
We have an evaluation sheet that lists criteria that we are looking for based on our mission statement and questions we asked on the application and rank the organizations accordingly. It is a very difficult process, if we could we would support each organization, and we try to either with funding or with volunteer support. This year it came down to five organizations which different committee members advocated for.

4. Why do you believe in Fix It With Five and why do you feel it’s important for SMC to give back to our community?
I believe in Fix IT With Five because I recognize the importance of service, funding, and advocacy. During my time at Saint Michael's College I have worked to support the community in all of these ways. Saint Michael's College students all have their own passions and interests, what I think is great about Fix It With Five is that the entire campus can come together and make a difference. I believe in Fix It With Five and think that Fix It With Five has already made a difference. The idea of Fix It With Five could be applied on other campuses, it is my dream to expand Fix It With Five, knowing that Fix It With Five is working to create systemic change in our community.

5. When can students vote, and how important is their opinion?
Voting is going on NOW we are tabling in Alliot at lunch and dinner Thursday and lunch on Friday. Every student's opinion counts, so many students already work to address the issues of poverty, refugee resettlement, education, homelessness etc which the three finalists are working to address. students should educate themselves on the organizations and their part in making a difference. It is your decide where it goes!

For more info check out their website: Fix It With Five !