The BOLTWOOD Project
University of Massachusetts - Amherst
A Community Service Outreach Learning Program
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The BOLTWOOD Project™©

(Serving others since 1969 -- and, still counting!!!)

 The BOLTWOOD Project™ is a community service learning course offered by the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst since 1969. The course is offered by the Civic Engagement & Service Learning Department (as of F'12).

The BOLTWOOD Project™ is a community outreach program consisting of about fifteen groups working primarily with individuals who are mentally or physically challenged, in the greater Amherst, Northampton, Turners Falls, and South Hadley communities. Our sponsoring organizations include: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Devlopmental Services (several Group Homes); Amherst Leisure Services & Supplemental Education (Fun Club & Los Amigos); The Berkshire Hills Music Academy (South Hadley); a Special Scout Troop; and, The Farren Care Center (Turners Falls).

Our purpose is two-fold: to provide additional opportunities for recreation/social-oriented activities and general skill development for individuals who are mentally challenged and physically disabled (as well as for children of homeless families); and secondly, to provide university students with the opportunity to gain experiential education within human service organizations dealing with these populations. The end result is a mutually beneficial experience for the students and residents of the surrounding communities.

Participating organizations or agencies must know that our students (125-150 each semester), are merely volunteers representing a variety of majors or disciplines from all over campus (i.e.- 30-60 different majors each semester). This is NOT a required course for ANY major, nor are the students receiving specialized training before beginning. They may or may not have any prior experience with this type of population.

The Supervisors for the groups are students who have had previous experience within ‘Boltwood' as a Volunteer; have submitted an application and recommendations; and, are interviewed and selected based upon interest, leadership skills, and evaluations of prior work. My student Coordinators began as ‘Volunteers', were then selected to be a ‘Supervisor' of a Group, and then interviewed for the top two positions.

The student volunteer selection and orientation process takes almost two weeks at the beginning of each semester, and the program ends one week prior to the end of the semester. This allows about ten weeks of the semester for weekly group visitations to the site. To meet the academic component of the program, students must also complete a weekly “Journal”; attend seminars; participate in a Town of Amherst/ UMass Community Service Event (i.e.- “Shelter Sunday” in Fall semester or “Into Amherst” in Spring semester); plan and execute the program for one evening with fellow volunteers within the Group; and, submit a “Final Paper”.

The above information regarding the student selection process is offered to emphasize that most of these students are essentially novices in a therapeutic setting. They have interest in serving the community with a primary function of providing respite for the regular staff and socializing and recreating with the participants through planned, one-on-one activities within a group context. We are NOT there to attempt to replace the regular staff function of providing Individual Service Plans, behavior modification, or specialized training. The primary benefit is in having, bright, fresh, young, outside individuals provide companionship, warmth, fun, excitement, and a "caring" atmosphere once a week for the participants. The actual activity each week is only the "tool" to ease the socialization process, and is not meant to be the end-all important aspect or purpose of the session!


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Website Creator: Merle G. Willmann

September 2011

Many of the materials created for this Website and this CSL course are the intellectual property of the Faculty Director and The BOLTWOOD Project. This includes, but is not limited to, the syllabus, background information, etc. Except to the extent not protected by copyright law, any use, distribution or sale of such materials requires the permission of the Faculty Director and/or The BOLTWOOD Project. Please be aware that it is a violation of University policy to reproduce, for distribution or sale, course materials, unless the faculty director or organization has explicitly waived copyright. Copyright 2006, Merle G. Willmann.