Leaving for college can be hard. Those students who choose to pursue secondary education often have a lot of social and economic hurdles to jump over. Questions like, “Will I be able to find new friends here?” and “My textbooks are going to cost how much?!” are just a few of the daunting questions that almost every new college student has to grapple with.
In the fall I’ll be entering my third year at Bowdoin College, so I‘ve had enough time at Bowdoin now to have answers to many of the questions like the ones above. I understand how the new social dynamic works and what resources are available to me. I feel like I finally have started to get a grasp on my new environment.
No one ever told me coming back home (in my case to Oxford Hills where I grew up) could also be difficult. This area has some health issues that it struggles to get a grasp on. Young people are not oblivious. They recognize the realities of health struggles through their interactions with family members and peers. For some young people, the combination of recognizing these health issues without an understanding of how they can play a role in addressing them can feel overwhelming. Before leaving for college, I considered myself one of those young people.
Now that I am once again home for the summer and interning with Healthy Oxford Hills I can see that my previous assumptions missed the mark. The work at Healthy Oxford Hills focuses almost entirely around events or initiatives that try to encourage community members to take part in improving local health. Of course, unless you are attending these meetings, our area’s rural geography and the stresses of daily life can make it difficult to see how you can lend a hand. However, many of the local community service organizations work in collaboration and if you focus on one that catches your eye you will realize that many more support and surround it.
If you are already involved in your local community: Thank you! Encourage someone you know to join you in your ventures.
If you’re like I was—a local community member who doesn’t know where to start—know that it doesn’t require a ton of time or effort to have a positive impact. Volunteer a little time at a local garden or donate food to a nearby food pantry. Your impact can be something as simple as inviting your neighbor to go for a walk.
As they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” and the children and young adults in this community, such as myself, appreciate your efforts. My experience at Healthy Oxford Hills has made me confident that by the time it is my turn to settle down, this community’s health landscape will have improved by leaps and bounds. I am excited by the possibility of coming back one day to those improvements and joining the rest of the community, and hopefully you as well, in lending a hand.
Zachary Hebert is a guest columnist for Healthy Oxford Hills, a project of Stephens Memorial Hospital. Zach is a Sociology major at Bowdoin College and a resident of Hebron, Maine. Zach is interning with Healthy Oxford Hills for the summer.
Reprinted with permission from the Advertiser Democrat