An annual tradition of contributing and connecting.
Rock the Community: A Day of Service in Honor of Emily Fisher designates one day each September for the Bard College at Simon’s Rock community to give back to organizations in and around Great Barrington.
Student and Staff Volunteers Assist with trail maintenance at Local Park
Valerie Fanarjian, director of activities at Simon’s Rock, has been an integral part of organizing the day since its inception. “The enthusiasm for Rock the Community has increased over the years, both by the participating organizations, and our students, staff, and faculty.”
Around 100 students, faculty, and staff dedicate hundreds of volunteer hours for Rock the Community. The day of service is an important part of Simon’s Rock forming relationships with regional organizations, and expanding and creating opportunities for students.
Rock the Community is an extraordinary display of service by the Simon’s Rock community, but service extends beyond just one day. Each year, students dedicate well over 1,000 volunteer hours working with regional organizations. “Students choose to give freely of their time to causes they believe in,” notes Manat Wooten, director of academic transitions and career development. Students have worked with organizations that have significant purpose or impact in the region, such as the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which hosts the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a march to end sexual assault and gender violence.
The list of organizations the Simon’s Rock community has volunteered with has grown over the years to include: Community Access to the Arts, Greenagers, Multicultural BRIDGE, Project Connection at Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School, Railroad Street Youth Project, Berkshire South Regional Community Center, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Community Health Programs and Family Services, Kimball Farms Life Care, Gould Farm, Fairview Commons, Mason Library, Flying Cloud Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Adopt-A-Highway, Mass Audubon, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, American Institute for Economic Research, and Berkshire Publishing Group.
Amanda M. DeGiorgis, library director of Great Barrington Libraries, is thankful the college reaches out to the town. “It reminds people that Simon’s Rock and the community are connected.”
Students can also choose to volunteer their time on campus by helping maintain the maple sugar shack, participating in an outdoor classroom, maintaining the trails, building or fixing a small structure, writing letters to soldiers, or offering words of encouragement to youth through a national campaign.
Community engagement is an important part of student life at Simon’s Rock. Students who volunteer for Rock the Community, and other community service projects, earn credit as part of the Participation and Service segment of the Active Community Engagement (ACE) requirement. This program is one of many that facilitates engagement outside of the classroom.
“Rock the Community is another chance to apply what we learn in the classroom to the outside world. It also helps introduce new students to the area they will be calling home for the next few years.”-Valerie Fanarjian, director of student activities
Simon’s Rock faculty member Anne O’Dwyer has been participating in Rock the Community since it began. “What I have found most rewarding is that, while our students and faculty and staff here on campus serve the campus and local communities in so many different ways, this is a day when we come together to serve collectively.”
Established during the 2012 fall semester, the day of service celebrates the leadership of Emily Fisher, former chair of the Board of Overseers at Simon’s Rock, who was committed to the college, as well as organizations in the region. She served as chair of the board for 17 years before stepping down at the end of the 2013 academic year.