I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on Greenfield’s ongoing heroin epidemic and struggles with hunger and poverty as outlined by Heyi’s piece on page 2.
I first visited the Academy in 2007 for my sister’s interview and tour. As we drove from the highway to Historic Deerfield and into town for lunch, I observed the quaint farm stands, quiet downtown and rolling plains and came to the conclusion that the area was rural and otherwise unremarkable.
But over time, I have come to see the poverty and other issues prevalent in Franklin County. At Second Helpings, I’ve spoken to local families unable to provide a dinner for their young children. I’ve walked by the Recover Project Headquarters on Federal Street. I’ve helped children with their homework at Deerfield Elementary.
The old brick buildings along the Connecticut River are actually abandoned mills and factories—reminders of America’s heyday as a land of manufacturing, and then the job loss that followed. Our immediate surroundings are really not the sleepy and bucolic countryside they appear to be at first glance.
The CNN piece that aired this past month still came as a surprise to me, however. I had heard time and time again that Franklin County is the poorest county in Massachusetts. But I had never suspected that the issues involved drugs as serious as heroin nor that they were as widespread as they are. America’s drug culture has indeed entered a new era.
For years, society has all but written off hard-core drugs like heroin as only affecting the inner city. Today, however, heroin is affecting predominantly white, middle-class suburbia. I found the program’s closing narration especially impactful: “War on drugs implies us versus them, and all over this part of america people are learning there is no them. There is only us.”
The Academy has a long history of taking care of its neighbors. In the days of Boyden, when a local farmer’s barn burned down, the entire student body would take the day off to help rebuild it. I think it is embedded in the Academy’s DNA to care about the well-being of the people and surrounding land. But in recent years, I think the student body has become more engrossed in their studies and themselves and lost sight of the struggles that our immediate neighbors are experiencing.
Many DA students choose to spend breaks in the Dominican Republic or Tanzania for community service. I have absolutely nothing against these good deeds, but just five minutes from campus, there is already an area that is facing hunger, child abuse, drugs and more. You don’t have to fly across the globe to find people in need of your help. They are right here. And you are right here.
It’s true—some of these issues are bigger than us. But there are things we can do as Deerfield students. Community service at Deerfield Elementary, Second Helpings and weekend service projects are all ways in which we can actually make a difference—now.