Addressing Body Image and Mindful Eating with Students at Hebron Academy

When I spoke with Camillia Ghavami, a Bates junior majoring in Psychology and Gender and Sexuality Studies, about her community engagement experience in last semester’s Women, Culture, and Health class, her response was categorical: “I truly wish almost all classes at Bates had a community engagement component.” She continued, “My experience with CEL courses has profoundly impacted my academic journey and personal growth. The connections I’ve made through community engagement have transformed my perspective and identity more than any lecture ever could.”

Lydia Frew ’25 and Catalina Passino ’26 underscored Camillia’s sentiments. All three friends completed the Women, Culture, and Health course, taught by professor Su Langdon. The course, which is cross-listed in both Psychology and Gender and Sexuality Studies, invites students to delve into various facets of women’s health, ranging from reproductive health to aging, through academic inquiry and community engagement.

Throughout the semester, students in the class collaborated with community partners in the Lewiston Auburn area or worked on data analysis projects under professor Langdon’s supervision. Professor Langdon, who was recognized in May with the Harward Center’s Faculty Award for Outstanding Community-Engaged Work, has long-established partnerships in the L/A community and actively collaborates with the Harward Center to incorporate the community into her multiple CEL courses, including the Psychology Department’s Community-Based Research Thesis course taught this past winter. Camillia, Lydia, and Catalina were drawn to community-engaged work by their shared interest in body image. For their thesis, the three friends chose to work with Hebron Academy, which is a local middle school and a frequent CEL partner for Professor Langdon’s students. They conducted a workshop on Body Image and Mindful Eating with female-identifying and non-binary students. Engaging in open discussions with the students, they aimed to dismantle myths surrounding nutrition and help participants cultivate healthy relationships with their bodies.

Mindful eating and daily diet with harmony and balance tiny person concept. Complete full menu with healthy vegetables and fruits for body balance and fit vector illustration. Mind wellness lifestyle.

Reflecting on the workshop, Camillia emphasized the importance of providing a platform for young individuals to express their feelings. “My favorite part was allowing them to voice their thoughts through our anonymous surveys,” Camillia shared. “It’s rare to discuss these topics openly, and I’m glad we could create a safe space for them.” 

Lydia, a Psychology and Dance double major at Bates, expressed her enthusiasm with the open discussions that ensued during the workshop. “It’s truly gratifying to see how our learning can make a tangible impact,” she remarked. “This project allowed us to utilize our personal experiences to empower young individuals, and that’s incredibly fulfilling.”

The three students’ passion for the workshop stemmed from their personal experiences with nutrition and body image. Catalina, a sophomore majoring in Psychology with a Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, shared, “I was drawn to this project because of my personal experiences. It felt more impactful to use our own experiences to better the lives of young people.” 

Lydia added, “It’s exciting to apply what we’re learning and impact the community. This workshop felt even more impactful because we all came in with personal experiences that made a real difference. I wish all courses at Bates had a community-engaged learning component.”

Community-engaged learning (CEL) courses are integral to a Bates education, offering students ample opportunities to apply their classroom learning to real-world situations in collaboration with local partners. With over two dozen CEL courses offered each semester, hundreds of students can directly engage with and learn from community experts working to address real-world problems in the greater Lewiston area. CEL courses and projects vary in style and design, but their positive impact on Lewiston/Auburn communities and student development remains the common goal.

The Harward Center’s engaging programs, including Community-Engaged coursework, research, volunteer programs, student leadership, and community work-study programs, serve as invaluable opportunities, providing students with the skills and perspectives necessary to engage responsibly with societal challenges. If you are a student interested in a community-engaged learning course, you can register for a class with a CEL label on Garnet Gateway.