Vicky Castillo ’20

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2020

Civil Rights Alliance

What involvement did/do you have with MOVE? What program did/do you volunteer with and/or lead? What years?
I participated in Civil Rights Alliance from its inception in 2017 and co-led CRA from 2017-2020

What’s your MOVE story?
I believe that MOVE makes up the heart and soul of Saint Michael’s College. It is what stood out to me from the very beginning when I first toured SMC, and it was a big factor in making the final decision to attend this school. The program itself, and especially the people in it, have impacted me and my experience at SMC significantly. The very first volunteer excursion I had with MOVE was during orientation, where Fr. Mike Cronogue accompanied our group to cook a meal for the inhabitants of Dismas House. One of my jobs was to go with Fr. Mike to the grocery store to pick up some last-minute ingredients. It’s funny thinking about it now, how I had just gotten to Vermont and was already fully engaged in doing service for what would become my new community. The car ride with Fr. Mike wasn’t awkward at all, as one might think it would be, but he was kind and made me feel welcome and at ease. I quickly came to be a big fan of Fr. Mike, and he always said hello when we crossed paths around campus. It wasn’t too long into the semester when he passed away suddenly and left the whole college grieving. It was in the following weeks that I came to understand the immense impact that Fr. Mike had had on the college. I listened to the stories of his character from those who knew and loved him for years, and I learned about the vision that he had for the school and the perseverance he employed in establishing MOVE from the ground up. Everything that we have collectively built to make MOVE what it is today is all part of Fr. Mike’s legacy. It has evolved through the years, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of that evolution in building up the Civil Rights Alliance. Although the future is uncertain, and the past year has been trying, I know that MOVE continues to be the heart of the college and I can’t wait to see how students continue to sustain and transform the program.

In what ways did/does MOVE impact you?
Being a part of Civil Rights Alliance and MOVE in general has been the highlight of my experience at SMC. Never have I felt more empowered and like I was making a significant impact on my community than when I was part of CRA. I first got involved when I saw that a new MOVE program was offering the opportunity to travel to Columbus, Ohio, to participate in a weekend workshop and major protest in support of farmworker rights. Since the group was pretty small, MOVE was able to cover basically all of the cost, and I only had to pay something like $15 dollars to participate! I still don’t know how the co-leaders pulled it off; I give them so much credit for the amount of work and planning it took to launch this program off the ground and get us involved in something so big. Needless to say, the trip was incredibly eventful and marching in this huge rally with like-minded people from all over the country awakened something inside me and lit this fire. Social justice work is just a part of me and I feel like I am truly living when I participate in it. After the trip, the previous co-leaders of CRA reached out to me and asked if I would be part of their team. I was so inspired by the Ohio trip that I said yes and jumped right into it. Transitioning from participant and volunteer into co-leader was a bigger learning curve than I anticipated. I can look back now and recognize how much I grew into my own voice as a leader over the three years that I co-led CRA. I owe so much of that to Brianna Lambert-Jenkins, who taught me how to be a co-leader, how to step into my power and confidence, and how to share my passion for social justice with others and get them involved to be part of a larger impact. I am so proud of all that me and my co-leaders have accomplished together, and even more proud of the impact that CRA has had on campus and the community of Burlington. I’m so happy that I said yes to the initial invitation to be more involved in MOVE, and I hope that CRA evolves into something bigger than me or any other of my co-leaders could ever imagine.

If you are an alumni, what influence does MOVE continue to have on your life today?
This past year has found me doing a whole lot of doomsday scrolling on social media that has brought on a lot of grief and sorrow about the current happenings and injustices, as well as anxieties about the future. As a sort of coping mechanism (not a very good one for the record) I chose to ignore a lot of what I saw on social media, simply scrolling past everything and choosing not to read, not to engage, not to do anything to make things better. That’s not like me, but it’s been a rough year. One of the best things about MOVE is that all programs were always running, there was always something on the board that you could sign up to do at any moment. After leaving that community, I’ve realized that the world is indeed saturated with opportunities to step up, connect with others, and make things happen; however, it can take a lot more work to seek out those people and communities. I’m working on rechanneling that feeling that I had while leading CRA, the feeling that I was making an impact and participating in something that was bigger than me. While my social justice work has taken a hiatus for now, I am by no means done advocating for others and helping them find their voice—that is simply a part of me that will never go away.