I always try to have as many meaningful conversations as I can with the employees of the College. From the very beginning of my freshman year, I have developed and maintained relationships with many of the Val employees, the janitors and the men and women who work in the campus cafes. I have learned so much about their lives that it shocks me how often I see so many of my peers not even taking the time to acknowledge them for the “small things” that they do for them. Even if it is just a simple thank you to the person who is serving you dinner or making eye contact to let him or her know that you are forever grateful, please do not underestimate the positive effects of these personal exchanges.
Most of the employees I have met have amazing stories to tell and you would never know unless you take the time to get to know them. Dagnon, for example, is actually one of the most down to earth people I think I have ever met in my life. Most of you know him as the young Latino who works in Val, always cracking jokes with the students and exchanging high- fives. I honestly have never seen him in a bad mood, and even when he is, he usually always finds the positive in any situation. Justin, who also works at Val with Dagnon, is super open to conversation anytime and has a brother who used to teach in the Bronx in New York City. Eva, a former employee at Val, is now working at the Registrar’s office and whenever she has time. She and I go to Hampshire Mall to hang out and eat Chinese food in the food courts. Luly, a dispatcher at campus police, is someone who you will always see smiling, hugging and kissing students. She has even driven a friend and I to Target when we needed batteries, and she is always there whenever we need moral support. Gene, who works at Frost Cafe, has a great sense of humor, used to be in the Navy and has traveled all around the world. And of course, there is Tony who works at Frost, and all of you already know how amazing he is.
I can go on with the experiences that I have had with these hard-working men and women. But what they all have in common is their warm hearts and willingness to form relationships with students. What I am trying to stress here is that there are certainly more ways to build community beyond the conversations that we have with our professors, the administration, our classmates, and friends. We truly have much more in common than we think we do. During my freshman year, I also met Marlayna, one of the janitors who used to clean the first floor of Stearns. At one point, she introduced herself to me and before we knew it, we had realized that we were both proud New Yorkers. From that point on, Marlayna and I became really close, so much that she has cooked dinner for her family and me at her house multiple times! For Marlayna, working at Amherst is not simply just a way to make money, but to also get to know the students here. A caring mother of two beautiful girls, Marlayna is one of the most hard- working and level- headed women that I know.
What I enjoy most about conversations with employees of the College is how genuine they are and that they remind me that there is still a world beyond the Amherst community. Ever since I have become an Amherst student, I have become very privileged; however, I never forget that I come from a working- class family. In this regard, I can often relate to a lot of the concerns that they have because I have seen my parents go through the same struggles. They have told me about the different ways in which they have been unfairly treated and marginalized by others in the College because of their position, and although, I do not want to believe it, I know that their experiences hold a lot of truth.
Nevertheless, I love how easy going our conversations are. My hope is that many other Amherst students can learn to appreciate all of the people who work at the College to serve us in many ways. Do not underestimate the significance of a simple thank you, eye contact, or a smile. Take a moment to realize how every member of this community is valuable in his or her own way. Everyone has a story to share.