August 12, 2009

Working toward New Opportunities in Easton’s West Ward

English major Courtney Morin ’10 writes about her internship experience this summer with the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership

This summer, English major Courtney Morin ’10 (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) has been working with Bonnie Winfield, director of the Landis Community Outreach Center, and other students to foster sustainable enterprises and community-serving businesses in Easton’s West Ward neighborhood. Morin is serving as a community fellow through a $25,000 grant from the William T. Morris Foundation. Paul Barrett ’63, vice president, treasurer, and a director of the foundation, assisted Lafayette in securing the grant.

I have been one of three College interns working for Easton’s West Ward Neighborhood Partnership as part of the collaborative Urban Ecology Project. With the focus of helping achieve local economic and social-development goals, we have been conducting, and will later analyze the results of, a survey of 750 residents of the West Ward that will evaluate residential needs and opinions. We ask residents to scale how their neighborhood makes them feel in terms of safety, cleanliness, friendliness, appearance, etc. Essentially, I am finding out from each resident I speak to how they feel about their neighborhood–the ways in which they find it satisfactory as well as suggestions for improvement.

In addition, I have been pounding pavements all over the West Ward in four specified blocks of the business district as well as various residential blocks. I have taken pictures of every building on various streets and gained a better understanding of the visual quality of specific areas as well as the residents’ feelings associated with these locations. For example, does the 1000 block of Northampton Street evoke a sense of community, safety, or cleanliness?

Working with five other students, as well as with Bonnie Winfield and Amber Zuber, assistant director of the Landis Center, has been a truly eye-opening experience. We have daily reflection meetings where we discuss things such as racial, social, and economic issues, the use of power and authority, collaboration, and leadership. I take everything I hear and learn in our meetings with me into the office, and have definitely grown from hearing such differing perspectives, backgrounds, and opinions held by my peers. This internship has given me an opportunity to open up to students who at first I thought I’d never be able to relate to. Our intelligent and thought-provoking conversations have helped me not only as a student, but as a human being. It’s truly incredible how on a daily basis we find connections with one another.

Bonnie brought together a very driven group of students, and I feel very lucky to have had such a wonderful experience. It has also been a privilege working with the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership. It is obvious how the staff members truly immerse themselves in the community that they care so much about. They are incredibly devoted and hard workers, and have been nothing but helpful and supportive to me. It’s a good feeling to work with people who appreciate my opinions and seek out my advice.

This internship has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of influential people. I am still unsure about what I’d like to do or where I’d like to go after I leave Lafayette, but I am confident that I have made connections with people who can help me find my way. I would like to eventually attend graduate school, although I have a feeling I will take some time off and better prepare first. I know that I want to utilize my writing, reading, and new-found advocacy skills to guide me into the future.

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