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Community Care Day: A Chance to “Exhale”

Seven months after the COVID-19 pandemic changed the lives of everyone in the Vassar community, the College took a day to exhale. Classes were suspended to celebrate Community Care Day October 7 as Vassar paused to reflect on the hard work and sacrifices many had made to keep the campus safe.

Throughout the day, students, faculty, and staff took part in a variety of activities on campus. They included:

  • The distribution of snacks and treats for frontline workers and messages of appreciation on paper and in chalk on the sidewalk near Gordon Commons;
  • A Zoom-based creative arts exercise;
  • Live music on Noyes Circle;
  • And a yoga session led by Jewett House Advisor and certified yoga instructor Christina Winnett.
Susanna Shull '23 (left) and Vassar Student Association President Prashit Parikh '21, members of the Community Care Team, handed out free donuts to those who expressed their appreciation with chalk narratives.

Before the day began, each academic and staff department sent tokens of appreciation to the staff of another department. For example, the Communications Office sent a poster to the Office of Admissions carrying the photos of each member of the Admissions staff, as well as cell phone stands for each of them. Members of the Communications office received bags of treats from the Human Resources office. 

Sarah Garijo-Garde ’20 (left) , First Year Experience and Community Care Program Associate, and Wenday Maragh Taylor, Associate Dean of the College for Student Growth and Engagement, helped students, faculty and staff express their gratitude.

Community Care Day began with an opening session hosted by President Elizabeth Bradley and the Rev. Samuel Speers, Associate Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices. Bradley thanked Wendy Maragh Taylor, Associate Dean of the College for Student Growth and Engagement, and Sarah Garijo-Garde ’20, First Year Experience and Community Care Program Associate, for “courageously and creatively putting this idea together.” Bradley noted that the day was meant to focus especially on the frontline workers who have been on campus since the outbreak of the pandemic, and she extended a special welcome to students who are studying remotely this fall. “I hope you feel cared for and we think of you often,” she said.

Angela DePaolo, President's Operations Administrator, is on her way to Gordon Commons with gifts from the President’s Office tp the Dining Services staff. (President Elizabeth Bradley took this photo.)

Following Bradley’s remarks, Dean of the Faculty William Hoynes and Dean of the College Carlos Alamo-Pastrana expressed their gratitude to the Vassar community on behalf of VassarTogether, the committee they co-chair that established health and safety procedures and protocols on campus. “We did this as a group,” Alamo-Pastrana said. “A huge amount of work went into the planning to bring us back this fall.”

Speers called Community Care Day “a small, historic moment for the College,” noting that classes had never been suspended during any academic year since he began his Vassar career more than 20 years ago. He said he hoped everyone taking part in the event would “pause to think about what it means to be a community.” 

Following Speers’ remarks, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Jasmine K. Syedullah and students Ella Xiao ’21 and Saredo Ali ’22 led a Zoom-based meditation and reflection session.

Community Care Day opened with meditation and reflection led by Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Jasmine K. Syedullah (top right), the Rev. Samuel Speers, Associate Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices (top right), Ella Xiao ’21 (bottom left) and Saredo Ali ’22.

While many took part in the planned activities throughout the day, others used the time to relax and reflect in their own impromptu ways. Lucy Kuhn ’22 said she and her housemates took a walk together on the Vassar Ecological Preserve. “We went through two quarantines together, so spending time together outside of our TH is almost foreign at times,” Kuhn said. “We trekked along Hooker Ave. and made it to the farm, where we relished the fresh air and change of scenery. We talked about our plans for winter break and next semester, and wondered aloud about the state of our lives. We joked around calling our excursion a ‘family walk,’ similar to those experienced by a lot of teenagers during the early days of quarantine at home with our siblings and parents. But at Vassar, we are each other’s family, and I am glad that I have them in both my scary days and happy days.”

Reshan Selva ’23, composes a note of gratitude during Community Care Day.

As the day came to a close, Garijo-Garde said she was confident that those who had taken part in the event—in whatever way they chose—had benefited from it. “I’ve done a few appreciation programs as a student for my peers or supervisors, but this was the first time that I had a chance to think creatively about how to celebrate the campus as a whole,” she said. “Additionally, having seen first-hand some of the hard work that went into making this semester a success, this day felt very important to me.”\

The staff of the Office of Communications sent this poster to the staff of the Office of Admissions.

“It was a wonderful day,” said Dean Taylor. “I heard several people say it was like no other they’d seen on the campus, and I also felt that way. We got to be with one another, masked and maintaining the physical distance, yet in each other’s company, laughing, telling stories, appreciating each other in a way that has not been present for some time.”