Crystal Barrick ’11

“My work will come together in three senior projects: a collection of poetry, a biography of the educational philosopher and reformer Robert Maynard Hutchins, and a local effort in education reform called the Bennington Educational Collaborative.

"This poem was published in Silo, Bennington's student-edited journal of arts and letters.”

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Field Work Term

Central Catholic High School, Lawrence, MA—"I returned to my alma mater as a teacher's assistant and editor of the literary magazine."

826 Boston, Roxbury, MA—"I learned a lot about what goes into starting, funding, and running a nonprofit."

K’amalbe School, Guatemala—“With eight other Bennington students, I took Spanish and taught English, music, and art.”

League of Women Voters, Washington, DC—“I lobbied congressional offices.”

AIM Academy, Washington, DC—“I tutored students in reading and math.”

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“I like to fix things. To analyze and scaffold them—to find the potential strengths in a piece of writing or an idea; in a student or a discussion; and then bring it out, strengthen it, and help it grow. At Bennington, I’ve explored this passion mostly through writing and education reform. Yet, no matter which courses I enroll in, I strive to develop my capacity to communicate, to form arguments, to analyze language, to understand conflicts and tensions, and to gain a better understanding of how to have an impact on the world and better our country’s educational system. I’ve studied literature, public action, education, Spanish, conflict resolution, Plato, and rhetoric. Through all these I’ve learned to clarify my thoughts, to scrutinize arguments and structure my own, and to better understand myself as a writer, reader, citizen, and scholar. Outside the classroom, as the editor-in-chief of plain china and as a House Chair, I have tried to hone my abilities to solve problems collaboratively, to foster cooperation, and to be a leader who practices empathy, understanding, and reason.

“All of this work will come together in three senior projects: a collection of poetry, a biography of the educational philosopher and reformer Robert Maynard Hutchins, and a local effort in education reform called the Bennington Educational Collaborative (BEC).

“The idea for the BEC came from my studies with Ken Himmelman, the dean of admissions, and Liz Meier ’11. A year ago, we began meetings with local business and education leaders, and students and their teachers, in an attempt to understand some of Bennington’s most pressing education issues. Bennington is a small rural town with high poverty rates and low educational attainment. We found that the town itself has a wealth of thoughtful, inspired people who are doing great things for their community, but the problem is that hardly any forums exist for open dialogue or collaboration about education among these residents.

“Based on observing that need, I’m going to create that space. As a town I’ve lived in, worked in, and studied in for the better part of three years, Bennington feels like a great place to get involved. I want to mediate discussions and bring together stakeholders—K-12 students, parents, teachers, local politicians, college students, business leaders—to get something done, to give them the means to get involved with each other, and to have a positive impact on their hometown. I learned quickly that these residents are the experts, and in order for meaningful, positive change to happen, they need to be in dialogue with each other. I certainly don’t have the answers, I couldn’t possibly—all I’ve done is noticed the need for more conversation and more research, and I care deeply enough about this community and its future to try to connect its residents, to form lasting partnerships, and perhaps even ignite reform.

“Because my Rethinking Education design lab and other courses at Bennington’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) have attracted me to ‘big picture’ reform, it may seem strange that my senior action project, the BEC, has a local focus. But to me, local doesn’t imply small scale or insignificant change. My work is informed not only by years of community involvement, but also by intense study of national reform models, educational policy, politics, and philosophy. It is a practical culmination—an action—based on years of inquiry. I’m always asking myself: How can a small organization in a small town influence other places as a model of social change? My hope is to refine this collaboration and see if it can fit other communities and school districts. What would happen, across the country, if every community took an interest in its students and had a forum to actively voice their ideas and address reform? I hope to find out soon.”