MOHAWK—Sophomore Ashley Walker is approaching her 10th year of volunteering at the weekly Friday night West County Community Meal at Trinity Church.
She tells her friends, “The good feeling I get after volunteering is indescribable. Oftentimes it’s a struggle for families or individuals to enjoy a healthy, home-cooked meal and good company. I’ve developed memorable relationships with each of the diners, and we treat one another just like family.”
For anyone new to the supper, she promises a warm welcome:
“We’re always looking for more volunteers and workers. Feel free to contact me about lending a helping hand.”
Ashley attended BSE from pre-K through 6th grade and says she loved it, particularly the community service aspect.
Asked her views on community service during a break in her lifeguard duties at the Buckland Rec one day this summer, she said participating in BSE’s recycling program, where students took the initiative to go room to room collecting recycling bins at the end of every day, made a lasting impression.
“I was inspired by so many people. I looked for ways to contribute to the community ever since, and the community meal is so big to me.”
She credits her elementary school teachers for leaving her with the drive to get involved.
“I loved BSE. Teachers still stay in contact with me. If they see me on the street or something they’ll have the biggest grin on their face.”
At the community meal, Ashely says, volunteers serve 40 to 60 people a week. She puts in four to five hours a shift. The meals themselves are prepared by different West County groups.
Ashley also gives her all playing field hockey but makes sure to fit the community meal into her schedule. It’s tough but I love it. I’ve written several articles [for school] on community service and the community meal,” she says.
Her life plans include joining the Air Force as a critical-care nurse, and she’s taking advanced coursework now to prepare.
Naturally, she’s also focused on doing good right here at home, hoping to inspire kids to get involved where they can:
“I don’t think many people realize how much the community needs your help — teenagers especially.”
Trinity Church is at 17 Severance St. For more information, call 625-2341.
MY FIRST TEACHING JOB was at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary. I had worked as a one-to-one aide there my first year out of college and was hired the following year to teach fourth grade. This was 20 years ago, and while I might not remember the names of all of the students in my first class I certainly remember faces and personalities.
The 1996-1997 school year was the year of the Caitlins. We had three in the class that year. We also had a class pet, a tiny green lizard, and wrote stories about what he might do at night after everyone went home.
That year we studied units about habitats and African-American history, and proudly displayed our projects when the newspaper came to take our picture.
My fourth-graders loved music — especially the B-52’s — and they loved football, playing marbles, and superheroes.
They also loved books. For our first class read-aloud I chose the novel “Skinnybones” by Barbara Park. There were days when I could barely get through reading time because a part would strike us as funny and we’d all dissolve into laughter.
That year my fourth-graders learned how to write book reports and how to choose books that they’d love to read.
After BSE I taught sixth grade in Turners Falls and earned a master’s degree in special education from UMass-Amherst. Today I’m a special-education teacher in Orange. I work with sixth-graders, and I’ve been here for 15 years.
I’ll always remember how lucky I was to learn together with this class. My hope for them has always been that they would become even more awesome, bigger versions of the awesome kids that they were in fourth grade.
The Flow loves hearing from area alumni! BSE, Mohawk, Arms Academy… Odds are you’ve got an interesting story to share with our young readers. Send your update to email@example.com.
BUCKLAND—Mohawk senior Emma Guyette has just accepted an offer to attend Smith College, where she plans a double major in American Studies and Government or International Relations, with a potential minor in the Study of Women and Gender.
For this BSE alumna, the path forward starts well in the past, and it is a story always in need of discovery, retelling, and relearning.
Here is an excerpt from an interview she gave the Flow this August on her then-recently completed two-week summer residential session at Smith: Hidden Lives: Discovering Women’s History.
Flow: What was the allure for you in attending summer at Smith?
Emma: There were four options. I chose history. Discovering Women’s Lives. I want to be a history major and I love Smith College. I’m applying for early decision in November. I’m applying at Smith and at nine other New England colleges.
Flow: Why history?
Emma: I decided that I might want to be an archivist — they preserve historical and digital paperwork — or maybe go into politics or become a history teacher. I just love being part of something that can change the world. Archivists preserve the world, politicians shape the world, and people who write history textbooks give history personality and bring it to people.
Flow: Is there an aspect of history that speaks to you above others?
Emma: I really like U.S. history — how our country was formed — but then I also really love European history and history in general. It’s so fascinating.
Flow: What’s the passion?
Emma: I just love learning about everything that’s come before me and shaped my life. Especially learning about women’s history: all these women who came before me and gave me everything that I am lucky enough to have today. It’s really important to learn from the past to learn how the future will be shaped. It’s so interesting that it’s recorded: what people have done before you. It’s set in stone but you can still interpret it your own way.
Flow: How does understanding the past shape what we’re doing in the present or what we could be building toward in the future?
Emma: You look at the past so you don’t repeat it. I think that history is a very powerful way of learning from people’s mistakes or extreme failure so you don’t repeat it. It’s really interesting to look back and say, “Oh, nope, that didn’t work.” You know it didn’t work, so let’s reshape it and use it this way. Otherwise you’d just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. There’d be no progress.
Flow: Do you see history as a tool in some way to help shape the future? Particularly through a gender lens?
Emma: Women’s history isn’t taught a whole lot in high school. I know Mohawk is trying to get one [the curriculum] in place because it’s such an underrepresented part of history, and that’s what Smith wanted to teach us: all this great women’s history that gets ignored. Women’s voices are silenced a lot. It was taught a bit through a feminist approach but it wasn’t in-your-face feminism, which can scare some people. They don’t understand the movement enough to understand it.
Flow: OK, then what is feminism, in your view?
Emma: I think that feminism is equality between men and women, not one being higher-standing than the other — which isn’t everyone’s view.
Flow: Is that how it still is or have things changed?
Emma: I don’t think our history books focus [exclusively] on men in history but I would say, in my experience, teachers have been very good at including a variety: Yes, it was male-driven, but look at all these women who also participated.
At Smith we touched the letters, diaries, photographs and manifestos that chronicle personal and political revolutions over the past 150 years. We touched the lives of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, Alison Bechdel and Sojourner Truth. I was so excited!
Flow: Sometimes people think of history as something that’s over and done with and dead in a way, and dry, but I suspect you think of history as being very much alive and interesting.
Emma: I constantly make connections between different historical periods and today, much to my parents’ dismay. Like, I’ll tell them at the dinner table, “So! Do you want to learn about this historical figure?” And they’ll be like, “Probably not.”
I like to connect today to the 1920s. I think a lot that went on then is relevant today in regard to people and how they acted and completely changing from their parents’ generation. WWI was the catalyst for changing that in the 1920s and I think the Internet is what did it today. There are a lot of parallels. I mean, we don’t have flappers but there’s a pretty big divide between generations. Their parents never did anything. When you think of the 1920s you think flappers and Prohibition and crazy, wild parties. But when you think of the generation just before, the 1870s, post Civil War, it’s not like that: It’s very prim and proper … and then their kids came along. Their parents just didn’t know what to do with them. I feel it’s similar to now when everyone’s on their phones and everyone’s on Facebook and their parents are like, I don’t know what to do with these kids!
Flow: Women weren’t given the vote until they demanded it relatively recently and now they’re still not being paid fairly. Social issues are still resonating. Is that what you mean by connections from the past to the present?
Emma: You can definitely draw those lines. You can take slavery and follow it all the way to the present with how a big part of it was how African American people had extreme economic disadvantage even after slavery and have had to work so hard to overcome that and are still not even there yet. So it keeps going. And you can draw other lines. Women’s rights go way, way back. Women are still fighting for equality. In the Sixties it even branches off because women were very empowered then and it keeps going through today. Honestly, I think we’re very close to equality. I’ll maybe see it in my lifetime.
Flow: For young kids, what is cool about history?
Emma: They shouldn’t think of history as something that’s dead and in the past. It was kind of presented that way to me when I was younger, and I was always, “But that sounds like it’s so much fun to learn about.” Why present it like it’s written in stone and not try to think about getting more out of it? Just think of it as something you can use to benefit the future. And think of it as a living part of society.
My biggest thing is that people touched this 200-300 years ago and now I’m touching it, so it’s like a little bit of a connection to them through just touching the same paper.
MOHAWK—Emma Guyette of Buckland would very much like you to support the Junior Class Auction Saturday, April 25. Her class is putting in a lot of hard work on the fundraiser and has plans for the proceeds.
“We really want to have fun senior year and not worry about money for prom and graduation and yearbooks and stuff like that,” she told the Flow recently.
Her class also would like to plan a class trip somewhere beachy — perhaps Cape Cod — as they’ve never taken such a trip.
“We always take our class trips to the Buckland Rec,” she said. “That’s nice too. Not as nice as Cape Cod, maybe…”
Guyette, who plans to run for class secretary in her senior year, is accustomed to hard work. She has her course load at Mohawk, works one day a week after school, and studies French at Greenfield Community College three days a week.
She also participated in Mohawk’s Peer Leadership Program, “helping kids at Sanderson feel positive about being great kids.”
The BSE alumna says she plans to pursue a degree in American studies or international relations, which would give her options in everything from political science to teaching history to publishing:
“I like knowing how the world works and I really want to be part of that. I’m in tune politically.”
For now her main extracurricular focus is the class auction.
“This is a way to get the money we need. It’s not the easiest way for us, but it’s beneficial and a fun way to bring the community together. We also have a tag sale planned, and then a color run going on where you get dye thrown at you as you run so you look like a tie-dye person,” she said.
At BSE, she recalls her teacher Jacqui Goodman with fondness: “She was great… All the other teachers I had aren’t there anymore.”
She also said that she wishes she had been more alert socially as an elementary school student. Her brother, Will, is a Mohawk student athlete, and he always knew kids from all over.
“I also wanted to arrive here in the more challenging classes. I didn’t know I was in the lower classes at the time. But I’ve made up for it and have had a really positive experience at Mohawk,” she said.
She also praised BSE as it stands today.
“I know people there, and their experience sounds amazing. They have great after-school activities like the newspaper [The BSE Flow] and stuff, and it would have been so beneficial to me when I was there. But we didn’t have anything like that. I feel like so many teachers there are amazing. BSE is doing a great job right now from what I’ve gathered.”
MOHAWK—BSE alumnus and Mohawk Middle School student Evan Shippee is one of only 100 middle-schoolers statewide to have landed the prestigious 2015 John F. Kennedy Make a Difference Award “for the impact they have made in their communities through service projects.”
Shippee, who started at BSE in preschool and graduated here in 2014, was nominated for the honor by his seventh-grade PBL teacher, Samantha Lydiard.
He’s done everything from stacking wood for people who need help to raising money for Relay for Life.
His mother, Tammy Shippee, noted Evan “is a truly genuine, giving soul. I know I’m his mom, but he has one of the biggest hearts I know. He likes doing things that make people happy. He likes to make people smile.”
The 2015 Award Ceremony was held Thursday, April 9, at the Kennedy Library in Boston. Each award winner received a personalized “Make a Difference” award certificate in recognition of his or her service efforts.
Receiving the honor, he tells the Flow, “was really awesome and made me feel special. It felt good to be recognized. I enjoy volunteering and helping people. It makes me feel good. I was a bit shy getting up onstage to receive my award. It’s a moment I will always remember.”
In his Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy famously challenged all Americans, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
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