During Winter Study, Sexual Wellness Advocacy Group (SWAG), an organization composed of students at the College, will hold workshops to educate all students who attend the Buxton School, located in Williamstown, on consent and healthy relationships.
Buxton students will be split into groups of 10 for the workshops, which a SWAG member and a dorm supervisor, who is a Buxton senior, will lead. Students will attend one workshop on consent and another workshop on healthy relationships.
SWAG already conducted workshops for dorm supervisors to help them assist with the Winter Study workshops. Dorm supervisors attended three 90-minute workshops, one on relationships, one on consent and one on how to apply this knowledge to the Buxton campus. The workshops consisted of small group discussions, addressing any confusion the dorm supervisors may have had on the subjects, with the aim of promoting understanding. Gabriella Kallas ’16, president and founder of SWAG, as well as Paula Mejia ’17, Sarah Fleming ’17 and Phoebe Hall ’16 led these workshops. Other members of SWAG contributed by helping to create the lesson plans used in the workshops and helping to coordinate the events with the school.
“My hope is to start campus discussion and frame campus discussion in a certain way,” Kallas said of SWAG’s efforts at local high schools.
Kallas came up with the idea for SWAG when she was a sophomore at the College, with help from the Center for Learning in Action. She initially connected her project with Mount Greylock Regional High School (MGRHS), where she led the first SWAG workshops in 2014, resulting in the group’s original name, Sexual Wellness at Greylock. However, as SWAG expanded to working with Buxton, the name for the organization changed.
“Groups have done a good job on our campus in this kind of education, so the next logical step was to expand to local schools,” Kallas said. “It is too late to start learning about consent and healthy relationships as a freshman in college, so learning should start in middle school and high school.”
In November, SWAG will return to MGRHS to give a three-workshop series on healthy and unhealthy relationships to students in the Peer Team elective class. The goal of these workshops is to help students in the class facilitate discussions on this topic with ninth grade students.
The relationship between SWAG and Buxton began when a SWAG member had a chance en-counter with a Buxton teacher, Elisabeth Beck.
“I’m so glad the program is happening, and everything I hear is exciting,” Beck said.
“Williams doesn’t have the kind of relationship with Buxton it has with [MGRHS], but once they were aware of the program, they were very enthusiastic about it,” Kallas said. “The Buxton faculty is really supportive of the work that we do.”
Kallas does not foresee a future of rapid expansion.
“I think adding one school a year is a good pace,” Kallas said. “We don’t want to overextend ourselves. There is still more we can do at the schools we are currently working with.”