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The Family Dinner Project Goes to College

Posted on: May 11th, 2011 by Ashley

What would a Family Dinner Project look like on a college campus? That’s a question Southern Vermont College (SVC) is helping us answer. Their Campus Community Dinner Series is a program that was inspired by The Family Dinner Project with the added component of involvement from college students.

Ostrander FamilyFrom February through April, SVC hosted monthly dinners in the dining hall of its Bennington, Vermont campus. Four families from Bennington and 10 SVC students participated in the program pilot. SVC used the dinner experience to introduce community members to the college, share information about college life and help participants improve the quality of their meals.

One of the student s who participated in the Campus Community Dinner Series was Hershey, a rising junior at SVC. Hershey was born in the Philippines and then moved with her family to California, so she is far from home in Vermont. Duffy, Teri and their daughters Olivia and Emily are the local family Hershey was paired with. Duffy and Teri work in Bennington, Olivia attends the local high school and Emily just finished middle school.

Hershey was surprised how quickly she bonded with Teri and her family. Everyone agrees that they were well-matched in terms of their personalities and sense of humor. Though Hershey was expecting to have some good dinners and meet new people, she was surprised at how much they all clicked – she loved talking at the table with the family and sharing her experiences from her college life and from her home culture.

One aspect of the conversation that proved very beneficial for Teri’s family was the students’ advice about preparing for college. Duffy went to a two-year college and Teri attended a trade school, so they really took advantage of the opportunity to learn what Olivia and Emily need to do to as they think about attending college. Hershey and the other students offered advice about financial aid, scholarships, SAT scores, classes, majors and what life is like on campus.

In turn, Teri and her family shared information with the students that will help them take full advantage of their time in Bennington. For instance, Hershey is a dessert lover, and Teri suggested a must-have dessert at a local restaurant, Rattlesnake Cafe. The family also gave really helpful advice about the best places to ski, snowboard and hike so the students could experience all the outdoor activities Vermont has to offer.

HersheyFor Hershey, one of the most memorable aspects of the program was feeling like she was part of a family, especially when her own family was so far away. Hershey didn’t go home to California all year, so little things like getting a hug from Teri were things she really looked forward to. From the family’s perspective, Teri thought that the atmosphere in the dining hall was like that of a big family, which helped ease her mind about Olivia making the transition to campus life.

By all accounts, it seems as though participating in the Campus Community Dinner Series was a very positive experience for Hershey and Teri. Though the program is over for the semester, the group recently went out to dinner on a Saturday night, where Hershey got to try the dessert Teri had told her so much about! They plan to stay in contact and get together when the students return in the fall. The Campus Community Dinner Series will also return next year with additional funding to expand the program to two other campuses. The dinner series was a success for SVC and an exciting way to expand our passion for helping people have more and better dinners together.

More information about the Campus Community Dinner Series is available here.

Interested in bringing The Family Dinner Project to your campus? Email ashley@thefamilydinnerproject.org