Activate Attleboro is a pre-existing community-wide initiative, under the leadership of the YMCA of Attleboro, to combat the epidemic of inactivity and poor nutrition among children. With more than 20 programs and activities continually running or in the preparation stages, Activate Attleboro requires a great amount of people power to be successful.
Wheaton College is a small, residential college in Norton, Massachusetts—a town served by the YMCA of Attleboro. Wheaton’s 1550 students come from nearly every state and more than 30 countries. Global Education is a Wheaton priority and the majority of Wheaton students will have studied abroad in some capacity before graduation. Our renowned curriculum requires students to think globally with language proficiency requirements and ‘Beyond the West’ courses. In four years, Wheaton students really do become “global citizens prepared to lead in a complex world,” as the Wheaton 2014: Transforming Lives to Change the World strategic plan states.
I worry, as a Wheaton student entering my final year, that while I have become a global citizen, I am not yet a citizen of the local community where I have spent the last three years of my life. With everything we need available right on campus, it is too easy for students to live in Norton, Massachusetts without ever knowing someone from Norton, Massachusetts. Not only are Wheaton students missing out on valuable relationships, the larger community is left without the positive experiences that result from these relationships as they form opinions and generally regard the college. Wheaton College Students Activate Attleboro would bring college and community together in a more positive relationship as they work jointly to tackle a growing health concern.
As the project coordinator for Wheaton College Students Activate Attleboro, I will work with Wheaton and the YMCA to see that this partnership gets off the ground. I know Wheaton students can impact Activate Attleboro and, therefore, the larger community if they are made aware of opportunities for involvement. Wheaton College Students Activate Attleboro would see student teachers volunteering to 'drive' the Walking School Bus—a program that is only in one elementary school right now, though it could easily be spread throughout the larger community with more volunteers. Students walk to or get dropped off at a meeting point, usually about half a mile away from school, and walk the rest of the way on a designated route with a 'driver' who serves as the chaperone. Kids get in extra physical activity first thing in the morning as they talk and joke their way to school with the volunteer. Wheaton students could also volunteer to serve as a mentor in the PAC program. PAC (Physical Activity Club) is a weight management program that works with kids on a one-to-one basis upon referral from a teacher, doctor, or other community leader who thinks the child might be at risk for becoming overweight and/or inactive. The Wheaton Athletic Mentors, a group with representatives from every sports team at the college, would be wonderful PAC mentors. They could easily relay the importance of good nutrition and physical activity while using the interpersonal skills they have developed as the chosen mentor for their teammates. Wheaton students could also partake in the community-wide Step Challenge. Using a pedometer to keep track, community members are challenged to walk 10,000 steps a day. Last year more than 1600 kids and adults participated in the Step Challenge and walked over 140 million steps! Not only would the Step Challenge get college students—who tend to lead pretty unhealthy lives—moving, it would bring Wheaton into a real community event.
The possible collaborations between Activate Attleboro and Wheaton College are endless. With this financial support we can bring Wheaton College and the surrounding community together in cooperation on a public health issue that involves us all. I hope to offer this successful project as a thank-you to the community that has become my home away from home.