Naomi Roswell

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Naomi Roswell

Interview by:Owen Mittenthal

Q: Aside from being part of this group, do you have any specific perspective on the environment and sustainability, either in the community or in general?

A: Part of the reason why I wanted to come to Oberlin was because it was known for having active students and faculty putting effort into thinking about sustainability in all senses of the word. But, I think that the college students sometimes forget about the community. So much is going on within the city of Oberlin. I think that the Environmental Studies department does a really good job of activating their students around issues in the community.

Q: Is there anything that you think the younger generation, especially the people that you work with, can learn from the history of this community?

A: I think that Oberlin Colleges history of admitting black students and women is certainly something that we take a lot of pride in, and I think its something that we can learn from, especially when you compare where were at now with that. Hopefully seeing that discrepancy will encourage young students to begin to fight for racial, socioeconomic, and environmental justice in their lives. I hope that our history can be a catalyst to get people interested in the community.

Q: How do the students that you work with inspire you, and what have they taught you about the community?

A: First of all, they bring me so much joy. I get to spend an hour and a half in Langston Middle School every Monday, and we are laughing probably 40% of the time, just giggling and laughing. We have such an incredible bond, and I leave feeling like theres an immense weight taken off my shoulders. I love being with them, and I think they love being with me, so its really a reciprocal, cool relationship. I think Girls and Boys in motion is particularly accepting to all sorts of different kinds of students. We have really, really individualized students with a wide range of interests. I think that theyve taught me about the community in a number of ways. I went to a very different middle school than Langston, so learning about social interactions here and how these families interact has given me context for at least part of who the city of Oberlin is made up of.

Q: Can you tell me about what you do as a part of Girls and Boys in Motion?

A: Girls and Boys in motion is a dance-based afterschool program where about 16 to 20 college students act as mentors and go in once a week to either Langston Middle School, Prospect Elementary, or the Girls and Boys Club, and teach dance classes, play theater games, and generally support, mentor, and befriend students. It started with the goal of encouraging body positivity among middle school girls. Since then, its expanded to also be about collaboration, trust, weight-sharing, and understanding that were all part of the community. Its all with the goal of helping young people find confidence in themselves.

Q: How do you feel that your work with this group connects you to the broader Oberlin community?

A: In so many ways, its amazing. Ive gotten to know many of their parents and families. We host a community dinner every semester. I was talking to one students grandmother who graduated from Oberlin high school, and she came back and got married here, and her family has become such a part of the community. Also today, as co-chair, I was invited to an education luncheon, where I got to meet all these other adults and students working in the community. It was a really wide range of people in and out of the college.

"Its all with the goal of helping young people find confidence in themselves."

Q: What have you committed to achieving with this group?

A: I think a huge part of it is about this sense of self and confidence at the same time as trying to encourage collaboration, trust, and partnership between our students. Dance allows us to think about a lot of different things, such as how we support each other because were physically holding each other up. That also gives us space to learn about what happens when you arent able to support each other, and how to ask for help for things like that. Also, I think its important to get our college-aged mentors involved in the community, so I feel like thats a goal in itself, to get our peers activated in the community.

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