Waltham Group Newsletter
2020 Fall Edition
Message from the Director of Community Service and Waltham Group Advisor
We are thrilled to be able to share this newsletter with you, filled with highlights and achievements from the past year, along with the ways in which Waltham Group mobilized to support and uplift our communities amid a public health crisis. This year has presented us with tremendous challenges, but it also presented opportunities for our organization to come together and innovate in new and exciting ways to meet the needs of Waltham. For the first time in Waltham Group history, coordinators and volunteers came together over the summer break to create working groups outside of the 19 programs, which directly aligned with the needs of our community partners and the greater Waltham area. These groups included youth engagement, fundraising, advocacy, card and letter writing, and special projects / translation services. Coordinators and volunteers alike united across their distinct programs and joined forces to support these efforts. Our students saw the ways in which this pandemic was impacting our community, and they were quick to mobilize and respond. The results far surpassed anything we could have ever imagined or hoped for. The summer initiatives set Waltham Group up for success this fall, and all 19 of our Waltham Group programs have completely reimagined and adapted their community engagement, while still keeping their values, mission, and impact at the heart and core of everything they do. Over 100 students attended the virtual Waltham Group Recruitment Night this semester and are eager and ready to volunteer with the Waltham Group.
This year, 9 Executive Board members were elected to spearhead the overall vision of the Waltham Group. You can learn more about each E-Board member here.
In the Department of Community Service (DCS) there has also been a lot of change and transitions. In January 2019, the department hired a new Community Service Specialist, Colby Sim, to be the advisor of the Waltham Group. In the Summer of 2019, we hired an additional Community Service Specialist, Samantha de Melim, to oversee the Rich/Collins Community Leadership & Impact Fellowship, the Commitment to Service Award program, as well as Alternative Break Programs. We also most recently welcomed Mariela Martinez as the new Waltham Group Graduate Assistant. Mariela is a current graduate student in the Public Policy program at the Heller School. With new minds in DCS as well as the Waltham Group, we have been pushing for change and working on expanding our impact on the community.
We are proud to share that the Waltham Group has kicked off the year with a running start. We are looking forward to all of the creative and innovative ways our programs continue to adapt to virtual and remote community engagement, work together and collaborate across the 19 programs, push the envelope in areas of advocacy and civic engagement, and have a lasting and sustainable impact on our campus and communities for years to come.
Lucas Malo & Colby Sim
Waltham Group Seeks your Leadership and Insights
In partnerships with the Office of Alumni Relations and the Department of Community Service, we are looking to advance the mission of the Waltham Group and institutionalize a partnership between Waltham Group alumni, coordinators and volunteers through the creation of a Waltham Group Alumni Network. As the largest club on campus, we recognize the impact from our expansive and passionate generations of Waltham Group Alumni. In a variety of conversations with current students and alumni, we witnessed the intersection and potential in building a pipeline to both support Brandeis leaders and members in our community. Although many of you remain connected to Waltham Group, we hope to institutionalize our partnership and empower both our students and alumni to roll out our path forward to Waltham Group’s future.
To continue to move this pilot forward it is important to everyone that you are engaged in the conversation and that we establish a foundation and framework that sets Waltham Group up for success. We would like to invite you to a conversational Focus Group where we can share the history of WG alumni engagement, a proposed mission and leadership structure for the pilot, and measurable outcomes that we are striving for. At this time this draft has been informed by a lot of past conversations with WG leaders, WG alumni and staff, but we want to ensure that like all community engagement work, your voice, interest, and ideas are represented. We will be hosting this conversation over Zoom on Tuesday, November 10 from 12-1 p.m. or 7-8 p.m. We are asking that you RSVP HERE so that we can consider our group size as we facilitate our conversation. If you are unable to attend this session and have thoughts that you would like to share or would like to remain informed, please complete the RSVP form above to note this interest.
We look forward to sharing our initial thoughts and cannot thank you enough for making this conversation a priority. There is no doubt that your thoughts, excitement, and concerns that you may have will help steer the destiny of this pilot program.
Spring Programming During COVID-19
As of March, the Department of Community Service started virtual programming and meetings while working from home. Between March - June, we hosted various programs, celebrations, and events including weekly Brunch with the DCS Bunch, Trivia Night, Virtual Service, Career and Life Coaching Networking Zoom, Virtual Celebration of Service and more. Read more about the spring programming.
For the first time in Waltham Group history, our students continued to volunteer over the summer period through virtual programming. Waltham Group coordinators are working hard to listen to the Waltham community and respond to COVID-19. We collaborated with our community partners to share resources and assist with certain priorities in Waltham, including youth engagement, fundraising, advocacy, independent projects, card/letter writing, and translation services. You can learn more about Summer Squad.
Department of Community Service and Waltham Group Headlines
CITs and the Community Engaged Leader Series (CELS)
The Waltham Group Coordinator in Training (CIT) program was implemented in Fall 2018 to build a cohort of new student leaders. This past year we integrated community building efforts into the program ranging from paper plates awards to a CIT graduation, helping to create a sense of pride and commitment to the larger mission of Waltham Group. Additionally, CITs can now be hired year-round! You can learn more about this series here!
Highlights from the 2019-2020 E-Board
The 2019-2020 E-Board brought new and exciting initiatives and creative ideas to Waltham Group! From hosting innovative community building events to running the most well attended Recruitment Night in Waltham Group history, this amazing team of leaders left their mark.
- Exciting New Events: Last year’s E-Board piloted some amazing new events including Tea, Treats and Talks and Paint Night and Nachos. Additionally, Miranda, the former Community Building Coordinator, organized a Secret Snowflake event for coordinators, CITs and DCS staff for Coordinator Appreciation!
- Recruitment Night: Over 600 students attended the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 Waltham Group Recruitment Nights this year, leaving programs with a record number of volunteer sign ups.
- Increasing Social Media Presence: Sarah Ernst, 19-20 WG Public Relations Coordinator, worked hard to highlight each program’s hard work and success on Instagram! View and follow Waltham Group’s page.
- Environmental Advocacy and Education: Three Waltham Group Coordinators who are Brandeis Sustainability Ambassadors led a training at a Monday Night Meeting on how Waltham Group can be more sustainable. They shared helpful resources and tips on energy efficiency, waste reduction, recycling, composting, and various green practices on campus.
- Brandeis Buddies received the 2019 Community Service Award from their community Partner, Opportunities for Inclusion. This award recognizes their longstanding collaboration with the organization, and Brandeis Buddies’ commitment and dedication to enriching the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Celebration of Service
The 2020 Celebration of Service took on a new twist this year, as we celebrated virtually during National Volunteer Appreciation Week. Community Partners and Brandeis Community members, including campus administrators and student leaders, came together to honor all of the incredible service students engaged in over the past year and truly thank our volunteers for the positive impact they had on our local community, with the first ever Celebration of Service Video. Read more about the Celebration of Service and the medal winners.
Anastazyia Vareschi ’09
What were you involved with on campus as an undergrad? (e.g. major, Waltham Group program, other?)
I studied history and was a coordinator for Service without Borders (then known as Volunteer Vacations). I was also a gallery guide for the Rose Art Museum and volunteered with Hiatt as a peer advisor. Read the full interview here.
Hunger and Homelessness
Hunger and Homelessness (HnH) offers volunteer programs that address homelessness and poverty in the Greater Boston Area. They run 3 types of programs: Food for Thought, Halloween for the Hungry, and Spring Wellness Drive. You can learn more about their programming here.
SPECTRUM is a wonderful program that works with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. We have three programs within our program: a social skills group, a tutoring program, and a mentoring program. Learn more about Spectrum.
American Red Cross blood drives are held on campus three times a year in October, February, and April with assistance from student volunteers. Blood collected at these drives saves an average of 1,000 lives annually. Learn more about Blood Drive.
- Blood Drive held 2 incredibly successful drives last Fall! They collected 58 pints of blood and saved 174 lives. In addition, they had 35 new first-time donors!
- Hunger and Homelessness' 34th annual fall food drive, Halloween for the Hungry, took place Sunday, October 27th, 2019. At the end of the drive, approximately 2,000 food items were donated to the Middlesex Humanity Service Agency, which helps to end homelessness and hunger.
- Waltham Group’s Community Connections hosted a very successful Stanley Family Night last November, a carnival-style event for Stanley Elementary School students and families. Over 50 people attended last year's event, during which Brandeis volunteers ran a variety of fun and interactive activity booths in the Stanley Elementary School gym for kids and families to enjoy.
- Brandeis Sociology Professor Stephen Gulley led an impactful and meaningful training for all Waltham Group Coordinators at a Monday Night Meeting in November titled "It's about Respect: Working Alongside People with Disabilities in the Community.”
- 40 Brandeis volunteers and 40 senior residents of Francis Cabot Lowell Mill, an assisted living facility in Waltham, participated in the first ever Waltham Group sponsored Senior Prom for local seniors in our community.
Welcome New Alumni
Brandeis Class of 2020, welcome to your first edition of the Waltham Group Alumni Newsletter. We want to acknowledge that you had a unique transition from Brandeis this graduation and that we are committed to find ways to continue to celebrate each of you. As our newest readers and alumni community change agents we hope that your commitment to our community will come to life in new ways as you enter into new or familiar communities. The Waltham Group holds a special place in our hearts and we hope that this newsletter allows you to stay connected with your volunteer programs, Waltham, your peers, and the Department of Community Service. As new alumni and part of Brandeis history you remain a part of Waltham Group. Please join our Brandeis University Waltham Group Alumni LinkedIn page here and be in touch if there is any way that we can support you. #WG4LIFE
The success of the Waltham Group is due to our active and engaged students. As alumni, we hope that you will continue to stay involved and support the Waltham Group.
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