By Ciera Miller – AmeriCorps member at Champlain College
Almost every Friday this year, the Women’s and Gender Center at Champlain College has held a ‘Bagel Friday,’ which means that once a week, we offer free bagels to everyone who goes to Champlain. This is in an effort to bring students into the space and to also feed them, since we know the average college student is always on the search for food. We really take the tradition of “breaking bread” to the next level. (Are bagels considered bread? They should be.)
At first, my supervisor and I were taking home a lot of leftover bagels. We didn’t buy many, maybe a dozen, but students didn’t show up immediately. It wasn’t for lack of publicity, or because students weren’t searching for free food and cozy couches to eat it on. It was partly because our center is a half mile down the road from what’s considered the ‘main campus’ and out of the way for students who
live at the other end, who rush to classes first thing in the morning without even thinking about a free breakfast. It was also partly because, like many other service sites in Vermont, New England, the United States, there’s been slow movement towards a lot of people being together in a room, due to the
pandemic. No one wants to contract COVID. It’s a scary situation if you do.
Maybe it was the allure of the asiago bagels or the everything bagels or the fact that they could choose between having butter or cream cheese which finally persuaded the students to walk that half mile down the road to the Women’s and Gender Center. Maybe it was the uptake in creative advertising, where we had a Bagel Friday with a popular campus celebrity – Nic Cage, the cutout. Students were overjoyed to walk in and take a photo with the cutout, excited about the transgender pride flag he wore as a symbol of his allyship and the rainbow flag taped to his hand.
Either way, eventually, the students made their way here.
They toasted their bagels, lathered them in cream cheese, and sat on the couches with our giant rainbow pillows and talked about how much they appreciated this morning snack before or in-between classes. They wanted to know more about the center, and how it could support them, and how in turn, they could support it. But really, they were concerned with the half-finished puzzle on the table in front of them. What landscape was this going to make? Imagine their surprise when they found out it was a table full of donuts. Or their frustration when trying to put together an image of Rosie the Riveter because it had four shades of yellow that were practically identical. At one point, five students had gathered around the table to work on Rosie. When they finished it, they refused to let me break it apart and put it back in its box. They had worked too hard on it to see it disassembled so easily.
The community in the Women’s and Gender Center has built up around more things than just the toasting of bagels on Fridays, but it never seems so big or as happy as it does as when students are gathered together on our couches, laughing at jokes, complaining about professors, putting together puzzles, and eating. And it’s a community inclusive of everyone, despite gender, sexual orientation, race, age, ethnicity, etc, which grew organically on its own and continues to grow with every passing day, not just on Fridays.
Ciera Miller (she/her) is the AmeriCorps VISTA member serving in CCNH’s College Access and Success Program at Champlain College’s Women’s and Gender Center. She believes that coffee is the best of all the food groups.