Daisha Dukes and Yari Bushell’s collaborative Div III, the We Belong Project, Centers Student-Led Spaces

When Daisha Dukes 17F and Yari Bushell 17F met during their first year at Hampshire, there was an instant connection around the desire to do hands-on community work—not just outside of Hampshire, but within it as well. They also both wished for more student-centered space on campus where students could just hang out and meet each other easily. Sparked by their mutual desire to foster a space “for students, by students,” they went on to create their collaborative Div III, the We Belong Project.

The We Belong Project, which ran for ten weeks over the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters in the R.W. Kern Center, was a community-building project that focused on students and sought to reclaim space for student-led activities. While Bushell and Dukes directed the project, both were quick to point out that it was successful not just because of its focus on community, but also because other students were empowered to embrace and enhance the work by joining related peer network trainings, facilitating and leading events, and more.

To create interest and build awareness, Dukes and Bushell first sent out a survey about what types of activities students might enjoy in a student-led space. They then used that information to create the events, which ranged from an Experimental Program in Education and Community (EPEC) course titled “Radicalizing Peer Connections” to alumni talks, game nights, and a large celebration at the end of the spring semester.

To ensure as many students as possible knew about the project, they used a wide variety of methods. “A big part of getting the community involved was through outreach. We did flyers, emails, and social media. Once people started to come, word of mouth really helped get even more folks involved,” Bushell said.

While the College sponsors many events for students, Dukes says “It’s important for students to see themselves in this.This needs to be a student space, and in order to have a student space, you need students leading it as well. For students to see other students holding leadership positions allows them to see themselves making big changes and knowing it is possible.”

Though both Dukes and Bushell graduated in the spring, they have faith that the project will continue and evolve as new student leaders step up. They worked closely with several students who seemed interested in carrying the project into the next year and continuing to support student-led spaces on campus.

Both Dukes and Bushell also plan to continue careers in community-building, specifically within their own communities.

When asked what advice they would give to incoming students, Dukes said, “You should remember how valuable and important you are to the Hampshire community, and people should see the valuable work that you do and what you bring.”

Pictured below: Daisha Dukes 17F and Yari Bushell 17F