Being hundreds of miles apart has not stopped Lafayette students from coming together. Five new student-led organizations that debuted last spring just prior to the coronavirus shutdown or over the summer are back and ready to make an impact after receiving official recognition by the college this fall.
The organizations cover a wide range of interests, including physics, healthy relationships, mental health, climate change and middle school mentorship programs. The names of the new clubs are DMAX, OneLove Lafayette, Lafayette Sunrise, LafKid Connect and the Lafayette Women in Physics Club. Here is a rundown of each.
DMAX is an organization that strives to break down the stigma around mental health and encourage a safe, open campus environment that is conducive to discussing mental health issues.
Lafayette’s chapter is a part of a larger organization started by the family of Dan Maxwell, a teenager who committed suicide in 2013. The organization’s philosophy and purpose is to foster “peer to peer connection,” according to chapter co-president Andrea Collazo-Salazar ’23. DMAX has seven active clubs across Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Lafayette’s chapter is run by co-presidents Collazo-Salazar and Emma Krasinski ’22, who were both recruited by the official organization via social media.
Collazo-Salazar said she felt particularly inspired to join the effort because of her previous struggles with isolation and discrimination due to cultural barriers.
Krasinski said she joined the movement because she loves to help other people.
“It is so important to create a safe space…mental health is about talking through what you’re feeling,” Krasinski said.
The organization is planning to focus on creating safe-space talking circles that meet a few times a month.
Collazo-Salazar and Krasinski both said their first meeting early in the spring was a success. Everyone got in a circle and talked for over an hour.
The group will rely on Zoom for meetings during the fall semester. In addition to fostering this safe space, the organization hopes to sponsor events from other groups such as Student Government and PASA and eventually connect with DMAX chapters on other campuses.
Additionally, the organization plans to bring awareness to various positive outlets such as art and exercise that assist with improving mental health.
Despite the abnormality of this fall semester, Krasinski, Collazo-Salazar and the rest of the group are focusing on normalizing conversations on mental health.
OneLove Lafayette is teaching students to love better. The organization, founded by Lauren Ameruoso ’22 and Sam Scott ’22, plans to focus on educating students about relationship abuse.
Lafayette’s chapter of the group is one of many nationwide. OneLove is a national organization started in honor of Yardley Love, a college senior who was killed by her abusive ex-boyfriend just prior to her graduation.
The organization has grown substantially on campus. Besides Ameruoso and Scott, there are now 20 trained facilitators who are certified by the national chapter to host workshops on recognizing relationship abuse on campus.
Technically, OneLove Lafayette began in Fall 2018 under the leadership of Lizzie Penn ’19, but it did not have a chance to take off due to various circumstances. However, current co-presidents Ameruso and Scott said they felt the need to revive OneLove Lafayette following the creation of the @anti.violence.laf Instagram account over the summer. Their hope is to take some of the burden off Pards Against Sexual Assault (PASA) and focus on “teaching people how to love better.”
Ameruoso and Scott’s initial goal is to educate as many students as possible and reach out to other student leaders on campus to train them and host workshops.
OneLove Lafayette has hosted workshops for orientation leaders, resident advisers, fraternities and sororities so far. It also publishes various resources (all from the national organization) on its Instagram page.
Going forward, Ameruoso and Scott said they hope to focus much of their attention and resources on freshmen and eventually become incorporated into orientation and dorm programming.
Spearheaded by Ben Falk ’23, Lafayette Sunrise is a new organization on College Hill and a chapter of the national, student-run organization working to get the Green New Deal passed in Congress. Falk initially started the club back in January, citing his feelings of powerlessness and dread toward the looming problem of climate change.
“It seems completely hopeless and like it’s already been written,” Falk said.
Falk happened to follow the national organization’s Instagram page and witnessed their approach to fighting climate change and other environmental issues. Rather than giving into dread, the organization focused on cultivating feelings of hope and empowerment. After starting a chapter on campus, Falk’s mindset shifted.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with climate change, but I feel hope because I’m doing something,” Falk said.
Before the pandemic, the club operated by reserving a table in Farinon and relying on their social-media presence. Now, the virtual semester means that the club operates with a “friend-to-friend” method by which members call friends from campus and encourage them to vote and pledge to various forms of climate change activism.
Falk noted that the sense of dread about the climate crisis is not unique to him, and that people just need some sense of direction so they too can incite change.
Going forward, Falk hopes that the organization can host a climate strike, continue to recruit climate change activists and hopefully protest at a politician’s office.
LafKid Connect is a new mentorship program which brings guidance and support from Lafayette students into Easton area middle schools.
The organization is run by Camille Carthy ’23 and Samantha Riebesell ’23. Carthy and Riebesell were approached and asked to start the organization by Adam Finklestein ’20, who developed the idea of connecting Easton area middle school students with Lafayette students in an innovative social entrepreneurship class. Inspired by the idea of encouraging young students to pursue a college education, Carthy and Riebesell accepted without hesitation.
“The middle school is located in the West Ward of Easton where there is a low rate of students attending college,” Carthy and Riebesell said in a statement to The Lafayette. “Our goal is to provide guidance, support, and friendship to the middle schoolers, encouraging them to envision a college education as a part of their future.”
Going forward, interested Lafayette students will be paired with middle school students as mentors. The young students will then have opportunities to participate in interactive campus activities.
For instance, middle school students interested in STEM can attend engineering club meetings at the college and students interested in creative writing can get a glimpse into the Marquis Literary Magazine.
“Our hope is that by seeing their interests reflected on a college campus, the middle schoolers will be able to better envision themselves on a college campus in the future,” Riebesell and Carthy said.
Riebesell and Carthy plan to keep the middle schoolers engaged through Kahoot, games, videos, exciting lectures and hands-on projects, as well as through weekly meetings with their Lafayette mentor.
Lafayette Women in Physics
Lafayette Women in Physics actually started out as a well-intentioned joke. At a physics club meeting last year, students were complaining about a lack of good snacks, and one female student threatened to start her own club where there would be better snacks. So, the idea for Lafayette Women in Physics was born.
This amusing encounter led to serious conversations about the benefits of having a departmental organization to promote an increased number of women in physics.
“We hope that this club will allow us to promote more diversity and inclusivity in physics, as well as establishing relationships and camaraderie among the women in our physics department,” said Tara Leininger ’22, president of the organization.
Leininger is optimistic about the club’s ability to function in a remote environment. Although the pandemic and virtual semester ruined initial plans to work through Step Up Physics and provide high school physics teachers with career resources, Lafayette Women in Physics continues to focus on building up a sense of community on campus.