Profile on the student directors of the CVC

Many students on the Hill volunteer with or through the Colby Volunteer Center (CVC). Behind the opportunities in place for volunteers are three seniors dedicated to sending volunteers into the Waterville community and creating a positive experience for students. The current directors of the CVC are John Bengtson ’15, Meghan Harwood ’15 and Sonia Vargas ’15, and they work with three assistant directors: Adam Lavertu ’16, Laurel Whitney ’16 and Kiana Kawamura ’17.

As directors of the CVC, Bengtson, Harwood and Vargas got involved with the club in different ways. “I began my involvement with the CVC at the end of my [first year] when I applied to a leader for Alternative Spring Break (ASB)…. Madi Louis [‘13] (a former director of the CVC) asked me to be more involved,” Bengtson said.

“The work ethic [of volunteers] definitely goes under appreciated and it definitely sometimes falls through because there are a lot of constraints… [this is] an opportunity to give back to Waterville and to do good in my time here at Colby other than just studying. For me, it’s doing something real on campus,” he continued.

Harwood also got involved with the CVC during her first year at the College, but from a different aspect. “Freshman year, I had volunteered with the homeless shelter and at the Humane Society regularly, so that was my first introduction to volunteering at Colby…. Working here has been a great way to reach across multiple groups on campus and encourage students to get involved in the Waterville community.”

Harwood continued, “We’re able to get involved with the consistent programs—we have almost 30 programs that send volunteers on a weekly schedule—but we also plan bigger, one-time events that allow more students to get involved, such as Colby Cares Day and the Halloween Extravaganza.”

Vargas began volunteering with the CVC during the spring of her first year during Colby Cares Day. “I started volunteering through the one-time events. I did Colby Cares Day in the spring of my first year and that’s how I learned about Hardy Girls Healthy Women: I was volunteering at their site during Colby Cares Day…. It was a really awesome experience and I really liked the organization, so I started volunteering for the program as a muse,” she said.

“I guess I was interested in the CVC because in high school, I was really into 4-H, which is a service organization that is more popular in rural areas. It’s very focused on community service, leadership and building community by supporting youth. I was a member of my local 4-H club from fourth grade until senior year in high school, and it was a really awesome experience for me. Some of the values and ideals—and even programming—were really similar between 4-H and the CVC and that really drew me in. Madi Louis invited me after my sophomore year to apply to be Assistant Director, and I had a good feeling about it,” Vargas continued.

The directors of the CVC typically work together on all tasks in order to create the best possible organization. “We all act as a point person for specific tasks, like managing the budget, social media, etc, but we all work together to share the bulk to the work,” Harwood said.

Although Bengtson, Harwood and Vargas collaborate on a day-to-day basis, they do have individual tasks that they focus on: “We do have logistical duties: Sonia does most of our social media and marketing, I organize the budget and John is our liaison for ASB and collecting hours. Those are titles, but we all work together,” Harwood said.

“The nice thing about [the CVC] being a student organization is that we have our own leeway in spearheading new initiatives, and pursuing the programming we want to do,” Harwood added.

The directors of the CVC noted that the involvement across the College has increased since they have been involved. “Over the past few years, we’ve started to build new relationships with other groups around campus. The football team has always been incredible about volunteering because their coach places a huge emphasis on it, but in the recent two years we’ve had a lot of other sports teams—lacrosse, swim, tennis—reaching out to us asking to get involved,” Harwood said.

Bengtson also mentioned that the CVC is always open to new programs and ideas. “We’re always looking to introduce new programs. For example a couple of weeks ago Powder and Wig contacted us about a program that works in Waterville-area high schools with out and allied youth in Waterville High School,” he said.

“It’s a really exciting program that we had no idea about, but that maybe Powder and Wig needed some logistical help with, so we’re able to provide those resources while they’re able to provide the skills with theatre and ideas. I think more than anything we want to become a resource for volunteering on campus,” Bengtson continued.

“For me, [my favorite part of being CVC director] is putting a lot of time into Colby Cares Day or Halloween Extravaganza or any of our other big events and then the day of, you get to kind of sit back and watch it happen. We have the Polar Bear Plunge every year, and even though we do have to plunge, I think it’s really great to see a bunch of Colby students intermixed with Waterville families and different organizations from Waterville and they’re all just making jokes… and at the end, everyone jumps into the pool and everyone smiles and gets a laugh when the football guys jump in and splash everyone on the side of the pool. So I think it’s just getting to sit back and see that happen,” Bengtson said.

“With the Halloween Extravaganza for example, we put so much work into the prep for it…. And then when the families arrive, we hear people saying how much their families and their kids look forward to this event every year—that’s super rewarding,” Harwood added.

“And beyond that, when we do site visits at the beginning of every year… there’s this resounding appreciation for the work that the volunteers do. It’s great because we do a lot of the support work behind the amazing volunteering that happens, and it’s easy to forget what’s going on at each individual site sometimes, but getting on the ground is great for us because we know that the work that we’re doing is helping to facilitate these experiences,” Harwood said.

Vargas added, “I think my favorite part about one of the directors of the CVC is that I really feel like as a director, I get to see so much [community building] because I’m in contact with so many people on Colby’s campus who are leading all of these clubs and are so passionate about everything that they do, and a lot of people in Waterville who are leading a lot of these great programs for their community, and just seeing the interactions between the two. Facilitating those is one of my favorite parts.”

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