Bobcats Share in Community Responsibility

For many years, Bates College has prided itself on its community engagement within the Lewiston-Auburn area. This effort, spearheaded by the Harward Center for Community Partnerships, has given countless opportunities to the student body to connect with the Lewiston-Auburn community and is the highlight of many student’s careers at Bates. However, with community engagement going remote this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what is a Bobcat to do when we are no longer able to physically connect with the community? How do we continue to be responsible and engaged members of the L-A community? To find out how Bobcats are adapting to this new reality, I interviewed a range of students to find out how they are thinking about and practicing community engagement during the pandemic. 

I first asked, “What actions have you taken to protect the health of the Lewiston-Auburn Community?” This yielded some encouraging results, reflecting the community-mindedness of Bates students. Junior Ashley Koman spoke of the precautions she takes, saying “I wear my mask, I social distance, and I carry hand sanitizer on me in case the places I visit don’t provide it.” In a similar spirit, Junior Bonner Leader Dianna Georges emphasized her commitment, stating that she is “always masking up when going out, maintaining social distancing, and limiting time in stores and restaurants.” All the students I interviewed have altered their interaction with the community to ensure they are not potential spreaders of the virus.

What has inspired these Bobcats to take on this responsibility? Many things! See below for what our students had to say when they were asked, “Why is it important for Bates students to feel responsibility for the Lewiston-Auburn community?”

Ashley Koman ‘22

“One of the reasons I feel personally responsible for the health and safety of the Lewiston-Auburn community is that I feel connected to some of the people who live here year-round through my internship at the Lewiston District Court in previous years. I don’t think I would ever be able to forgive myself if I got one of them sick. That’s why I haven’t really complained about not being able to do that work this year. Though I miss the courthouse immensely, keeping those I care about healthy matters so much more to me than taking part in that internship.”

Dianna Georges ‘22, Bonner Leader

“My father works in maintenance, so I grew up seeing the effects that work has on people. The L-A community keeps us safe, cared for, and gives us opportunities to learn and grow. The very least we can do, especially as a privileged institution, is to respect COVID guidelines for the health and safety of everyone who works around and in our community.”

Cooper Andrews ‘22

“I want Bates students to be able to stay on campus, and that can only happen if we keep the L-A community safe.”

Candace Johnson ’22, Bonner Leader

When I signed the agreement before coming back to Bates, the rules laid out included the community. Therefore, I am responsible for my actions and any consequences that might follow. It was dangerous for Bates to have students come back because everyone is from so many different places, but the strict rules in place keep students in check and protec the community.”

Julie Jesurum ‘22

“I feel responsible for the safety of the Lewiston-Auburn community because I am surrounded by students who are from different parts of the country and world where habits around and fear of coronavirus vary. I do not live in Lewiston year round, but when I am here, I am responsible for acting as a model citizen, which includes wearing my mask, social distancing, and being mindful of how closely I interact with people I do not know.”

Genesis Paulino ‘21, Bonner Leader, Harward Center Student Project Coordinator, and STA/RT Fellow

“Because we temporarily live here but this is their permanent home, so we should take care of this community as if it is also our own.”

Alli Fischman ‘23

“My connection to some of the women I’ve worked with at the Center for Wisdom’s Women makes me feel more connected to the L-A community and more invested in the wider community’s safety during COVID.”

Hannah McKenzie ‘21, Bonner Leader and Harward Center Social Media Intern

“I could answer this question of personal responsibility by speaking to the many ways this community has taught, welcomed, and formed me. But I think my answer to this question is even broader and simpler than that—this is a community of people and, like any other, they deserve to remain healthy and safe.”

Clearly, even when Bobcats are not able to directly interact with Lewiston-Auburn, a commitment to community engagement and responsibility remains strong. We students cannot wait until we are able to get back into the community and work with our community partners! In the meantime, students are doing what they can to be the responsible and ethical citizens the L-A community deserves.

Thanks, Bobcats!

– Ronan Goulden ‘22