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Smith & Northampton

Smithies Contribute to New Northampton Resilience Hub

Four students outside the Smith campus center

Published February 7, 2022

Just steps from downtown Northampton, Smith is an integral part of the city. Students frequently dine, shop and work downtown, and many go a step further by engaging in meaningful community service projects.

Emily Grantham ’24, Debora Camacho ’25, Tseegi Nyamdorj ’25 and Fhrynee Lambert ’24 have spent the last several months supporting the Northampton Community Resilience Hub, part of the city’s Climate Resilience and Regeneration Plan, from the ground up. 

The Resilience Hub is still in the early stages of its planning. In April 2021, Smith donated $200,000 toward its development. The hub is a collaborative effort of the city of Northampton, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Manna Community Center, Smith’s Jandon Center for Community Engagement, St. John’s Episcopal Church and many other community members and advocates.

The hope is that the Resilience Hub will serve as a central location for residents most impacted by socioeconomic stress and health crises. “Its mission,” says Sami Cunningham ’14, resilience hub community coordinator at Community Action Pioneer Valley, “is to be a trusted space for receiving support services, opportunities for connection and community engagement, and to assist those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”

Each of the four Smith students came to the Jandon Center looking to engage thoughtfully with a larger community. For them, transitioning to working with the Resilience Hub came naturally.

Grantham, a government major and the leader of the student cohort, has made this type of work a key component of her Smith career. “I’d done a couple of projects with the Jandon Center previously,” she explains. “It ultimately led to me joining the concentration in community engagement and social change.”

Camacho, a first-year AEMES Scholar who became involved with the Jandon Center when she chose community service as the focus of her two-year AEMES scholarship project, was looking to make a meaningful impact. “I was involved in some community activities in high school,” she says. “But I wanted to do something bigger.”

For Lambert, who came to the Jandon Center via a STRIDE scholarship, helping to bridge the gap between the student population at Smith and those in need in the Northampton community is paramount. “We talked a lot about what it means to practice cultural humility,” she says. “Forming human connections piqued my interest the most.”

Rooted in a commitment to serving the community in a useful and holistic way, the students began by constructing and distributing a survey to Northampton residents, with the goal of determining exactly which services the population most needs.

“We wanted the data to include the entire community,” says Nyamdorj. “We translated it into languages such as Spanish and Polish to make it as accessible as possible.”

After examining research and literature about community service and outreach tactics, the students made the survey available both electronically and in hard copy. Students distributed the questionnaire on-site at several locations downtown—such as Forbes Library and the Northampton Survival Center—engaging with citizens directly.

“I had no idea what people wanted from the Resilience Hub,” Nyamdorj says. “We’re building a space for them, so their input was vital.”

Currently, Manna Community Center is acting as an “interim hub,” giving community members access to essential amenities such as laundry, showers and electricity—as well as various social services—while organizers search for a permanent location for the Resilience Hub, explains Madeleine DelVicario ’93, experiential learning coordinator at the Jandon Center.

DelVicario has been supervising the students and is proud of the work they have done. “It’s critical to all involved that the focus is on supporting the most vulnerable in Northampton,” she explains. “We’ve found great success in using a cohort model for student-involved projects and programs.”

Building such an impactful community space takes time—DelVicario estimates the Resilience Hub could be in its new location in about one to two years—and the students are looking forward to watching it grow. “It can be hard to ask for help,” Camacho reflects. “I want the Resilience Hub to be a place where people feel comfortable doing so.”

From left: Fhrynee Lambert ’24, Debora Camacho ’25, Emily Grantham ’24 and Tseegi Nyamdorj ’25. Photograph by Jeff Baker