The Road Ahead

by Nick Gomez-Hall '13
April 3, 2015

Nick Gomez-Hall is the new Site Coordinator for the Swearer Center’s “Brown Elementary After-School Mentoring” (BEAM) program at William D’Abate Elementary School in Olneyville, which offers academic enrichment for elementary school students while simultaneously providing Brown students the opportunity to serve their community by designing and implementing curricula in local classrooms.  Nick graduated from Brown, Class of 2013, and concentrated in American Studies with a focus on Cultural Exchange and Expression between the U.S. and Latin America. 

With only about five weeks on the job, it would be an understatement to say that I’m still learning the ropes. I’m early in the process of familiarizing myself with the everyday systems that make BEAM’s flagship program run as successfully as it does, but each new day I am working to integrate myself, little by little, into both families’ comfort zones and the school community at large.

So many things are new to me at this point that the thought of writing a reflective statement on my work at D’Abate is actually somewhat daunting. But what is easy to express, and what I can write about with honest enthusiasm and optimism, is the challenges I know I will face and the goals and values I intend to achieve and uphold in my position at D’Abate, all because of the deep commitment and love that I have for this community,

The Swearer Center’s mission, to provide a public service and address societal inequalities, while also creating opportunities for empathic learning and personal growth for Brown students, is truly challenging work. It is work that confronts differences between Brown students and the greater Rhode Island community and challenges students to look past these differences, to personally learn from them, to empathize with people of all backgrounds and socio-economic situations, and to work together to elevate and better everyone involved. 

In the specific case of BEAM’s programming at D’Abate, it is work that will require immense patience, a commitment to positive communication, a sensitivity to the unique and specific needs of Olneyville families, an ability to express my own needs/concerns to my coworkers at D’Abate and my supervisors at Swearer, and overall, an optimism that the time and energy put towards this cause truly has the power to bring change to the lives of students, families, and the neighborhood as a whole.

I am fortunate and proud to say that, though this job and these particular challenges are new to me and remain somewhat daunting, this neighborhood itself is not.  I have lived in Olneyville Square and worked here for a little under two years (with Olneyville Housing Coorporation), and have spent time in the community for years before that participating in community art and music events, walking and riding my bike around these streets and parks, and eating tacos as often as possible.  I strive to be sensitive and self-aware about the ways I interact in this physical and social space, and though I don’t claim to be able to relate to the lived experience of every member of this community, I do feel that it is important and positive that Olneyville is also my neighborhood, that I am actually a part of it.   I can’t even begin to express how lucky I feel to be a part of this neighborhood, and to share it with so many other individuals who care about Olneyville and who are constantly working to grow and improve our community.

In the midst of all the new obstacles and challenges on the road ahead at my position at D’Abate, one that isn’t new to me, is my love of this community.  I already know that I care about Olneyville, about its people, about its parks, about its river, about its structures, about its history, and about its long-term well-being, and in my new capacity as Site Coordinator for after-school programming at D’Abate I look forward to continuing to participate, thank, give-back-to, and improve this community in my own way as best I can.