By Victoria Gill-Gomez
On Thursday, Nov. 19, several Washington College students came from their corners of the country to Zoom for the introductory Student and Town Advisory Committee meeting.
Led by Student Government Association Secretary of Service and Community Relations and sophomore Maegan White, the Student and Town Advisory Committee is a student-led committee, outside of the SGA, meant to “identify and actively seek solutions between conflicts” with Chestertown and WC.
“It’s going to be an interesting challenge for all of us to tackle,” White said.
After students introduced their name, class year, and relationship to the Chestertown community, the main purpose of the meeting was to discuss how the group wants to plan and initiate goals for the spring semester, even with most of the student body not present on campus.
“There’s a lot of talk about how we want to build this relationship and how we want to come together. And I haven’t really seen this be done. Yes, there are welcoming attitudes in Chestertown, but there is still more to be done,” President of the Class of 2023 sophomore Jonah Nicholson said.
White structured the meeting around several questions about what students saw their experience with Chestertown being. The first question she asked was to have students define the relationship between the student body and the town.
Nicholson described the relationship as “fragile” because one entity cannot survive without the other.
SGA Senator and sophomore Kevin Denice said that WC and Chestertown’s “friendly co-dependence” relied on the students getting involved with the town, something which the current first-year students have missed.
Students also significantly impact the Chestertown economy, according to freshman and Kent County native Abigail Collins, who said that she has always watched the town go through a quiet period whenever the College community was on break from the academic year.
While she said she and the rest of her class have not had an identical relationship to the town as the upperclassmen, Collins said she notices that oftentimes the townspeople “aren’t as welcoming or protective of students” even though an individual’s college town should “feel like a second home.”
White then asked the group what they thought the main focus of the town should be. Student answers did not have to directly relate to the College, so mentions of the financial stability of local businesses, environmental health and awareness, and racial stability were brought up.
“All of these problems are intertwined,” Denice said.
Several anecdotes from students regarding the Bridge to Kent, wealth distribution relating to class divide, and a change in progressive values were mentioned; overall, these students were “interested in learning more about what can be done” to strengthen this relationship, freshman Kamden Richardson said.
White finally asked everyone to share the reason why they came to this first meeting and wanted to become members of this committee.
Richardson echoed Collins’s previous comment.
“I want to love where I live,” Richardson said.
Nicholson spoke on his history as a student activist, learning that for whatever community one is a part of — especially if there is intersectionality between marginalized communities – to make sure to have that voice in the room. He wants to make sure that those voices are being heard in order to create a safe and livable environment for all, not just himself.
“I know there are a lot of students who would like to be involved but they don’t know, they don’t know that the chance exists,” Denice said, who found his statement to be the greater purpose for STAC to exist.
This led White to ask her final question: what are their hopes and goals for the future of this committee?
Nicholson said, “They actually take what we say and actually put it to good work. And what we say and do in this committee actually holds some weight, and that this committee grows…and gets more opinions.”
Collins said her hope was similar to Nicholson’s in that her peers who are not from Kent County “influence with what the town’s doing.”
“This would be a great way to start that communication,” Richardson said, adding that she noticed the lack of communication between the town and the College. She suggested finding more ways for students to participate in the town as a natural outreach method.
Denice summarized what his peers said about the committee having the ability to go to the town and prioritize what the students want to see.
“I know there is good in Chestertown…It’s just hidden by all the flaws that it has,” Collins said. “And hopefully by being in this committee we can try to fix some of those flaws…and hopefully bring people to the town” after graduation so that it is not just an aging population anymore.