Destination Nation

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Fall weather has just arrived and along it with the newest batch of Antioch College students (the class of 2023!). In timely fashion, the tops of some maples are showing some first cascading tinges of orange to let everyone know that the seasons are also beginning to make a transition as well. The beginning of the academic year always brings much excitement, many expectations, many joys, and some wee bits of consternation for those who are totally brand new and maybe temporarily overwhelmed from one thing or another. Nurse Barbara Hardman decades ago at an orientation told people, “If you get stuck in line or feel frustrated with finding your advisor or anything else, we are just getting you ready for the real world.” Now the lines in many instances have been replaced with electronic things, but one imagines there are still some similar frustrations. Usually returning students and others quickly help people through their initial anxieties and the beginning of their first transitions.

I have been blessed to see Antiochians come and go for decades. In some cases, I might even remember some people’s parents (currently about a half a dozen!), This recent batch seems extra positive and to have endless possibility. Almost all of them have already found their way to the Library and now have their Library barcodes. Hopefully they will use those barcodes with great frequency. There are more than 50 million books in our extended electronic family and tons of things online. With a little planning ahead, almost anything is findable or doable. Just don’t start that research paper the day before one’s deadline!

This year’s class has quite a variety to it ,and I hear many are also first-generation students and students with greater financial needs. They may need extra help with academics and perhaps extra assists in getting to Co-ops and surviving things like rent deposits and utility bills. The world in many Antiochians’ preferred big cities for Co-op is more gentrified and expensive than in decades past. Gone for the most part are semi-grungy infamous colorful hotels like the Hotel Chelsea where many New York Co-op students lived their Big Apple adventure frugally.

Perhaps our network of Antioch Alumni will assist in couch surfing and everyone will be using Antioch Switchboard in one way or another. Some advice may be to stay away from “Craig’s List.” During an early “Co-op swap” (students tell their stories at Community Meeting) a few years ago, a student explained their “Craig’s List Story” to a room of folks in 113 McGregor. When someone runs away with your rent money, a brief stay in your car is an extra learning experience.

When it comes to helping first generation students with getting to Co-op and extra monetary needs, there are funds that have given people gentle assists with small amounts of money and have gotten some pretty good bangs for people’s bucks. One fund, The Alumni of Color Fund, stewarded by a group of alums that call themselves Antiochians of Courage for Diversity, has helped more students than can be counted. This fund was established with $120 about one month before we went into closure mode in 2007. As we reopened, there were quiet grassroots efforts to grow the fund by word of mouth alone).Thirty or so donors over seven years pitched in and amassed a little under $50,000. The fund idea was conceived in concert with former Dean Elaine Comegys and a group of Alumni of Color who at the 2006 Reunion (where Jewel Graham was honored) wanted to try to reconnect disaffected alums of color to the College or help current students stay connected. The mission and vision was reconnection and connection. If the world were more perfect and people not so busy in their everyday lives, it would have been optimal to have various meetings out there or targeted min-reunions here. Over a series of tele-conferences, the group decided that the best and easiest use of the fund was to help current students in Co-op assistance, help pay for educational conferences, and maybe that rare emergency. 

The fund has assisted students in getting to six of the seven continents. International Co-ops to Ethiopia, India, Ecuador, Argentina, Nepal, Italy, Mexico, Mali, New Zealand, and more, and of course all the big U.S. cities we know and love. The fund has helped students to do biochemical research on Co-ops and also helped do fieldwork on the health of women rural farm workers in Oregon. In those two cases, the students have been published in prestigious scientific journals. In one instance, the fund also retained a famous local Dayton lawyer for a relative pittance when a student ran into some difficulties as a “dreamer.” Amazing how a good lawyer can work a quiet miracle. Case closed and case “sealed.”

In addition to Co-op stipends, this Alumni of Color Fund has sent students to GLCA leadership conferences, to 50th anniversary events for Selma, 50th anniversary Mississippi Freedom Summer, and other Conferences in Chicago and New York that dealt with issues of race, sex, and gender. There have been some rent and car repair emergencies connected either to older students and child custody and remedying car issues to help an older student be mobile enough to see a probation officer. Yes, Antiochians have an array of needs and a push to a fresh start. Sometimes a targeted $500 or so stipend can be a lifesaver. 

Ten members of the Antioch Community attended a conference marking the Freedom Summer’s 50th anniversary. Louise Lybrook ’16, Kijin Higashibaba ’16, Rebecca Smith ’16, Eric Rhodes ’16, IdaLease Cummings ’16, Ciana Ayenu ’17, and Lauren Gjessing ’17, joined Kevin McGruder (Assistant Professor of History), Raewyn Martyn (Visitng Assistant Professor of Visual Arts), and Nick Daily (Resident Life Manager).

In all the uses of this fund, a proposal has been requested and a follow-up reflection paper. Over 95% of Antiochians have followed through. Because I was perceived to be a “fixture” and was deemed reliable, the initial committee of the Alumni of Courage for Diversity (originally the Alumni of Color Group) made me a watchdog of the Fund (and donor intent) along with two committee chairs, Athena Turner-Frederick ’82 and Eric Miller ’81. With the help of academic and Co-op faculty, we have very closely, hopefully, followed the original donor intent. Dozens of stipends and educational conferences later, over seven years, the fund balance has crept back under $1,000. Where that Fund goes from here depends on who will become involved. Maybe you or someone you know? This Fund has done much with little!

There is also a PRIDE fund that is targeted to LGBTQIA students and is similar to the Alumni of Color Fund. 

Both the AOC and PRIDE fund are OPEN funds and are subsets of the Annual Fund. These Funds, along with students they help, create great possibilities.

And as affinity groups go, there is also now a Science Group which is putting together scholarships for science majors and pulling in great pledges.

I hope everyone will do what they can to help the next generation of Antioch grads thrive in their Antioch Adventures. I see the possibilities in these people every day. Sometimes the smallest push, or even better, a scholarship, can get them to their next or future destination and maybe an eventual “victory for humanity!”

Yours from “transient-mode home.” where people have many places to go and an eventual destination. What a great investment Antioch students can be!