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COVID-19 still with us after two years

ADDISON COUNTY — The first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Addison County on March 18, 2020 — two years ago this week.

Sixteen students in Middlebury College’s Chronicling COVID-19 Winter Term course conducted oral histories with more than two dozen Addison County residents. They came away with a number of observations about how different segments of our community have dealt with the uncertainty, isolation and fear engendered by the pandemic.

To help us all put some perspective on the past two years, they present three articles that sum up those observations.

Throughout the month of January, the students under the direction of Middlebury History Professor Amy Morsman took a deep dive into several crises that have affected Vermonters over the past century. With the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Flood of 1927, the destruction from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and the challenges of the current pandemic, the class had numerous opportunities to examine how Vermonters have responded to adversity.

 

Engaging in conversation about the generations article for the Chronicling COVID-19 package are, from left, Middlebury College students Jonathan Kim, Awa Morel, Maddie Sauders, and Savannah Love.

Central to the students’ learning was an oral history project that invited members of the larger community to look back on their pandemic experiences since COVID-19 first arrived here in March of 2020.

First, the students gained confidence in working with historical documents related to COVID, with the help of Rebekah Irwin, director of the college’s Special Collections Library. Then Mary Wesley, education and media specialist at the Vermont Folklife Center, taught the students how to conduct oral history interviews. This was aided by funding from the Center for Community Engagement’s Academic Outreach Endowment Grant and networking support from Diane Munroe, the college’s assistant director for Community Based Learning.

Wesley gave the students a chance to be interviewed themselves. Similar to what the Folklife Center has done for other Vermonters, Wesley hosted a story circle for members of the class, which prompted them to recall COVID’s first impact on their own young lives and then articulate how they think they have weathered the pandemic since then.

Ironically, a couple of the students themselves were diagnosed with COVID-19 during the term, which gave the class a deeper understanding of the hardships and disruptions that the disease has caused.

Building from the experience of sharing their own oral histories with Wesley, the students deployed their interviewing skills in conversations they had with local residents. The class completed 25 interview recordings, which, with the consent of the interviewees, will be stored at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury for future public access.

“The students gained a greater appreciation for teamwork, for listening, for experiential learning, and for the diversity of Vermonters’ pandemic stories,” Morsman said.

On behalf of her students, she offered thanks to everyone from Addison County who participated in this learning experience.

Middlebury College students Grace Futral, left, Colin Crawford and Kian Jain work on the small business article for their Chronicling COVID-19 package.

Here’s their work:

Virus forced local institutions to adapt

Shocking, daunting & scary: Businesses ask — what now?

Pandemic experienced differently across generations

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