Beyond Smith: Community Building at the Bounds

PHOTO COURTESY OF AMANDA JIANG   Five College students and community members at the Holyoke Bound

PHOTO COURTESY OF AMANDA JIANG

Five College students and community members at the Holyoke Bound

Amanda Jiang ’20 | Jandon Center Student Fellow

Hanne Gaukel ’19 participated in the Springfield Bound during her sophomore year at Smith. She came across the opportunity through an introductory course with the community engagement department. For Gaukel, the most memorable part of the Bound was getting to know Gardening the Community, a food justice organization. Now, she’s connecting with them through her work with the Smith College Community Service Office Board. She said, “I am so grateful for the opportunity to develop a meaningful, long-term relationship with the community.”

Other students interested in making an impact beyond the Smith community and connecting with Five College students and local community members can do so at Holyoke Bound, an opportunity offered each semester by the Five College Community-Based Learning Committee in partnership with community organizers and staff from Holyoke, Mass. Holyoke Bound is designed as an orientation for students and faculty members who are in community-based learning classes, pursuing field research, seeking volunteer or work-study placements as well as those who are curious about Holyoke’s history and community collaboration.

Denys Candy, Director of the Smith College Jandon Center, was a member of the organizing team for Springfield Bound. Reflecting on the core purpose of the Bounds, he said, “[Smith] does not exist in isolation from the surrounding communities, so it’s important for students to have the opportunity to attend the Bounds to get a richer sense of the history, assets and challenges that our neighboring communities are facing.”

Last fall, the Springfield Bound was held at Chestnut Middle School in the Esperanza Center. Students and faculty members attended workshops that broadened their knowledge of these surrounding communities.

At the Bounds, students can choose to attend diverse panel events and workshops. The themes discussed last year included positive assets, income disparities, educational inequalities, food justice, immigration and transactional politics. Students met speakers who came from various backgrounds, including Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez, author and screenwriter Crystal Senter-Brown and Nutrition Assistant of Caring Health Center Van Luu.

Elvis Mendez, Organizer of Neighbor to Neighbor, hosted a workshop called “An Exploration of Movement and Transactional Politics.” The intention of the workshop was to educate Five College students about the disparity of opportunities in Springfield. He spoke of the organizational role in campaigning for the reduction of school arrests and promotion of civic participation. According to Mendez, some students and faculty members were surprised by the low voter turnout in some cities and high arrests in Springfield public schools. Mendez said: “[Students] were all very eager to learn how to contribute to the community. All organizations at the Bound, including my own, want to provide a platform for students to integrate and interact with community members.”

Lynne Yamamoto, Jessie Wells Post Professor of Art, took her students to the Springfield Bound last semester to enrich her art installation course called “Unforgotten: Memory and Socially Engaged Art.” The course had each student identify a community group and collaborate on a project.

Professor Yamamoto said, “Through participating in the Bound, [my students and I] were able to understand perspectives about the city of Springfield in a way that I couldn’t have provided for them.” One of her students developed a short-term project with Gardening the Community; another connected with the Kensington International School. Professor Yamamoto added: “The kind of work [that the Bound and the local organizations] strives for is close to my heart. I, along with my students, really value being around others who are committed to this kind of work.”

This semester's Holyoke Bound orientation will be held Saturday, Feb. 23 (snow date: Saturday, March 2) from 9:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m. in Holyoke. Bus transportation from John M. Greene Hall, a continental breakfast and a Puerto Rican luncheon are all provided free of charge. For a registration link, reach out to Nancy Zigler at nzigler@smith.edu.

Amanda Jiang ’20