Backyard Reflections

On several evenings this past summer, I found myself surrounded by other Batesies in the backyard of the Harward Center on Wood Street. We would load our plates with food from a local restaurant, gather around picnic tables, and share our summer work experiences with each other. After setting out the meal, Harward Center staff would jumpstart the conversation with a reflection activity such as Rose, Thorn, Bud: Rose – “What’s something positive or beautiful that happened at your work site recently?” Thorn – “What’s been frustrating or challenging?” Bud – “What are you looking forward to?”

We were each spending the summer working with diverse off-campus organizations in the Lewiston area, from the Sun Journal newspaper – where I worked – to St. Mary’s Nutrition Center. Most of us received funding through the college’s Purposeful Work internship program, with a few of us working with the Harward Center to find other sources of support. The backyard suppers were a great way to meet new Bates friends, enjoy the local cuisine, and reflect on our work experiences. In addition to Harward Center staff, Beverly Vari of the Center for Purposeful Work usually joined the fun. I asked for her take on the summer opportunities in Lewiston/Auburn.

“Bates students are very community-minded and social justice-oriented,” Vari noted. Their work this summer within the L-A area was very intentional and eye-opening for them. From farming with nonprofits dedicated to our local food justice systems, to participating in community initiatives that support our youth and education system, to working on government initiatives, their participation runs the gamut of community-engaged experiential learning.” The Center for Purposeful Work’s model is “exploration, reflection, and test.” As Vari said, “these summer internships offered the opportunity for interns to intentionally experience all three as they pursue meaningful and purposeful work.”

In addition to Vari, I spoke with three summer interns who had the opportunity to collaborate with local organizations, actively supporting the wider L/A community.

Quinn Kieselowsky ‘23 worked at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center in Lewiston, near Kennedy Park. Among all of his roles at the Nutrition Center, the part he loved most about his job was the people.

“Being at a nutrition center that serves the community, I felt beforehand that most people would be patient, flexible, and enthusiastic, and over the course of my time working this summer, everyone has passed my expectations,” Kieselowsky said. “Being in the L/A community was exactly what I was looking for during summer planning through the Bates Purposeful Work Center.”

His summer work allowed him to show some of the gratitude that he has had for the past two years living in Lewiston. He also liked how his work allowed him to interact with an “incredibly passionate staff.”

The work helped him think about what he may want to do in the future, too.

“Being an athlete and a major nutrition enthusiast, I have become more and more interested in food systems around the United States,” Kieselowsky said. “I’m looking into food deserts, and specifically into areas where local food is nearly nonexistent. Whatever happens, I want to make sure every child, every parent, and every individual each has access to an abundance of food.”

“Being at the Nutrition Center has capitalized these interests of mine and I’m looking forward to continuing this area of work as long as I can,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jane Holmes ‘22 interned at the Safe Voices domestic violence shelter in Androscoggin County. The shelter is a 17-bed facility that shelters female-identifying survivors and their children.

Her jobs included childcare, advocacy for residents and helpline callers, restocking supplies, organizing donations, crafting welcoming packets, attending caseworker meetings, formatting documents, and a number of other varied tasks.

“Through this work, I have gained invaluable skills and expanded my understanding of the complexities of gender-based violence, power and control, and the impact of intersecting identities,” Holmes said. “I have loved this work, especially the kindness of my coworkers and all that they have taught me as well as the interpersonal connections I have formed with many of the residents through hearing their stories and learning how to support them through shockingly awful crises.”

Through working at the shelter, her passion for social justice and human rights law has only grown. She has worked hard and learned how to think on her feet.

“My plan moving forward in my life has shifted as I have discovered a strong passion for domestic violence work that will certainly shape my career plan after college,” Holmes said.

Cameron Brown ‘22 worked for Healthy Homeworks, a Lewiston-centered nonprofit run by Amy Smith, a local landlord and community leader. The goal is to create a healthier, safer, and more affordable Lewiston.

“My favorite part of my job this summer was being a real community member in the area,” Brown said. “As much as we [generally] don’t like to think about it, Bates can be a very insulated bubble… I think every Bates student could benefit by doing work in town, whether that’s nonprofit, government, or private business.”

His work has given him a “completely new” understanding of Lewiston’s lived environment, how communities and neighbors interact and work together, and how city policy is experienced by the residents who live there.

“Listening to how institutions, the job market, the police have made their lives the way they are has gotten me thinking that more damage is being done by the way we run our cities rather than the way people in our city behave,” Brown said.

His internship helped him see that he wants to be part of the mission that Healthy Homeworks started: creating a safer, healthier, and more affordable place to live. He hopes to stay in Maine, perhaps in Lewiston or Waterville.

All three students learned new skills from their internships and jobs. Vari is “very proud” of all the students who worked in the L/A community this summer. “We want to continually encourage opportunities to network, collaborate, and truly embrace all that L/A has to offer,” she said.

– Sacha Feldberg ’24