The Landis Summer Fellowship experience has been transformative for us as proponents of social change. The process of leadership development has been comprised of training sessions about leadership skills, assertion statements, and personality assessments in relation to working positively as a member of a team. We’ve explored several facets of programming in Easton such as the Main Street Initiative, Easton Urban Farm, and Weed & Seed’s Summer Nights. We’ve had the opportunity to take a bus tour of Easton, visit the National Canal Museum, and enjoy amazing food while supporting local restaurants. In addition to our education and exploration of the city of Easton and the people who inhabit this city, we’ve been hard at work developing new ideas to improve the function and growth of the Landis Center as well as planning the Pre-Orientation Service Program for 36 incoming first-year students.
There is an interesting juxtaposition that has developed between the work we as Landis members do with the community of Easton and then the work we do with the Lafayette community. As part of the Lafayette community we exist to provide opportunities for other students to engage with the Easton community in a deeper way. We carry the responsibility of educating these student volunteers about social issues and introducing them to a world of thinking that encourages asking why things are the way they are rather than blindly making assumptions. However, it is extremely difficult to instill new attitudes in the minds of our volunteers regarding the people and community we serve. We try to encourage an attitude of working with the community rather than for the community. It’s challenging to instill a mindset that promotes more of the concept of a social change agent – working with the community to decide what the community sees as areas needing improvement and less of the concept of a charity worker – coming in to do things for the community, regardless of what the community needs. I have learned through this Fellowship experience that it is important and crucial for a successful community movement for change to adopt the mindset of a social change agent, who desires the input of the community to create the change. Through meeting with different Easton community partners and community-oriented members of the Lafayette community, it is clear that simply going into the community with hopes of making change is not completely effective or completely beneficial for everyone involved. As proponents of social change it is imperative that we carry this lesson into our work with student volunteers to continue to rework the attitude of charity worker into one of social change agents.