Bethel U ‘Grad’ Fêtes Five Years

Kirk White (right), highlights activities for alumni during the Bethel University graduation at the Bethel Town Hall on April 8. (Herald / Seth Butler)

The event began with a potluck, followed by a slideshow presentation showcasing this year’s courses, and the room was continually filled with applause for volunteers, organizers, and students alike during graduation tribute.

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The event was a testament to how BU and other undertakings of the Bethel Revitalization Initiative have helped foster connections and develop leadership in town.

Growing Leadership

Lindley Brainard, who was recently elected to the Bethel Selectboard and volunteers with both BU and BRI, spoke about the importance of taking on leadership roles.

“You just start to realize, that if I am involved at the front end, we can make it that much better on the back end.” she said in an interview Sunday.

“You can’t help but want to be involved once you see the effects of it,” she said, commenting on the collaborative momentum being created via BU and other communitybuilding activities.

In the simplest terms, people are getting to know each other more, and work together, where they might not have ever met before without these community forums. BU Co-founder David Sambor cited the collaborative efforts behind the Arnold Block revitalization as a recent example of a burgeoning leadership effort in town.

Connecting Solutions

At Sunday’s gathering, instructor Carl Russell, who participated in a BU discussion group focused on developing ideas for a barter economy, revealed a prototype for a “Bethel Barter Board.” This bulletin board-style tool will allow Bethel residents to post services or items for trade, along with their contact information, allowing them to engage in the local economy without using any financial medium.

Russell said one impetus for the project was “building relationships in the community through meaningful interaction and connection.”

The open concept, ideally to be throughout the town, in multiple locations, welcomes anyone in town to erect and host a Barter Board. Those looking to trade via barter can choose any offer, and post a response counter-offer, in the form of a reply index card, while including their own contact information.

The Barter Board was created in this simple fashion, so that the idea is easily achievable, understandable, and potentially scalable.

Russell encouraged anyone thinking of adapting the tool to “be polite, have fun, build new relationships.”

Putting Ideas To Work

Organizers Rebecca Stone and Kirk White recounted the genesis of BRI after Hurricane Irene, recent progress with BU, and inquired if anyone in the audience knew who had first suggested the BU idea.

No one came forward during the graduation, but the foundation BU has created is clearly having greater effect throughout the town as more people continue to get involved in local revitalization efforts, as evidenced in the work of the greater BRI.

White, who considers their organizational model a “Do-ocracy,” said, “It really has been in many ways, exponential. People keep building on it, people get excited.”

He added, “Bethel seems like it’s going somewhere, and that has been attractive to people, and bringing them in.”

White said he believes in empowering people to pursue their craziest ideas.creating the vision they want to create.and supporting them through a platform open to collaboration, while helping to find the resources and talent to make ideas happen.

“In a way, we are incubating leaders, and innovators,” he said.

Graduation concluded after organizers from the greater Bethel Revitalization Initiative discussed future plans for downtown traffic mediation.


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