Hannah Bober ’13 says she chose Vassar in part because the climate in Poughkeepsie was milder than it was at her other top choice, Middlebury College in Vermont. Bober’s sense of adventure must have expanded over her four years at Vassar, because her first destination after graduation was north-central Minnesota where she worked at a Boys and Girls Club as an AmeriCorps volunteer.
“There were a couple of weeks in the winter when the temperature was minus-20 every day and it never warmed up to zero,” Bober says. “But one of my goals after graduation was to get out of my comfort zone and expand my experiences. AmeriCorps definitely did that for me.”
The Boys and Girls Club, a nationwide organization, provides recreational and educational programs for children and teens. It has four locations in the Bemidji, MN area, one of which was located on a Chippewa Indian Reservation. “It was a high-poverty area, and a lot of the emphasis for the teens there was on job preparedness programs,” she says.
One of Bober’s tasks was rewriting and updating job-training manuals. She was also involved in recruiting volunteers and planning fundraising events. She says she was inspired by the dedication of the full-time employees at the Boys and Girls Club because they were working at a time when the leadership of the organization was undergoing some upheaval. “There was a lot of turnover in the administration while I was there and there were many uncertainties with the budget, but the staff came to work every day and remained devoted to the kids,” Bober says. “It was inspiring.”
The focus of her job was administrative, so she wasn't working with the youngsters at the club on a regular basis, but she did help one teen enroll in a girls’ leadership training program on the University of Minnesota’s Bemidji campus, and she helped launch a new arts and crafts program for young children this summer. “I wasn’t with the kids as much as I would have liked, but the time I spent with them was some of the most rewarding,” she says.
An earth science and society major at Vassar and a captain of the women’s rugby team, Bober says her time at Vassar gave her the confidence to “confront new situations and know I could figure them out.” Bober couldn’t locate a rugby club in the Bemidji area, but she did find a roller derby league and tried out for one of the teams shortly after she arrived in Minnesota last fall. “It’s a wonderful sport, and I had fun, but when the winter came, transportation became a problem, so I had to stop participating,” she says.
Bober says she decided to join AmeriCorps because she didn’t want to go to graduate school until she had a better focus on what she wanted to study. She says her year in a rural environment had sparked an interest in studying conservation, but rather than going to graduate school next year, she’s looking into joining a conservation-based AmeriCorps program.
One of the most important lessons she learned during her stint in rural Minnesota, Bober says, had nothing to do with her job at the Boys and Girls Club. “I walked into a local bar shortly I after I first got there, and they were having a Bingo night,” she says. “The same group of people came every week, and they welcomed me into their community. That taught me that no matter where you go, you’ll find people who will make you feel at home.”