Ripon College is proud to be a partner with the Blue Mountain Project shortly after the Jamaican-focused nonprofit’s inception a decade ago.
As part of this relationship, each summer Ripon offers its students an optional two-week peace studies Liberal Arts In Focus course in the Hagley Gap District of Jamaica. The College also has provided staffing for five Blue Mountain Project back-to-school Fun Camps for youths in Hagley Gap, and more than 100 Ripon students over the years have volunteered their time to the group’s efforts to improve health, education and the local economy.
In the small, rural villages of Hagley Gap and Penlyne, they apply the concepts learned in the one-credit class directly as they work with children in the schools of the area and provide support for community improvement. They live with families and experience life in the Blue Mountains.
The long-term goal of the project is create sustainable, lasting change that is embraced by the community. But the trips have had lasting effects on both those who serve and those who are served.
Ripon partnered with the Milwaukee School of Engineering in the summer of 2014 to completely renovate three computer labs bringing 30 computers for schoolchildren as part of the Peace Studies in Jamaica class. “The computer labs project leverages the many uses of technology to close the gap of accessible learning to those in rural areas where every day infrastructure is fragile,” says Lisa Ellis, director of advancement services at Ripon and a former board member with the Blue Mountain Project.
Haley Madson ’09 of Ripon, Wisconsin, also has served on the board of directors, started the campus group Student Volunteers for the Blue Mountain Project at Ripon College, and now has taken a staff position as the service learning program coordinator.
“We go there to help, but we always come back with more than we leave,” Hatcher says. “We benefit more than they do.”