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Laura Baker offers Carleton students a chance to engage with the community

“Carleton bubble” is a term we are familiar with. Many of us will spend four years here without really living in Northfield, the place we all call home. You may have walked down to Blue Monday or Little Joy and counted it as your “interaction” of the week with the town and not know the person who made your latte. After a whole year of this lifestyle, I realized there was something I was missing out on. One of these things is Laura Baker.

In a time when people with disabilities were being institutionalized, Laura Baker opened its door to provide them with assistance to be part of the community and attempt to remove the stigma of disabilities present in society. Founded in 1897, Laura Baker Services is an institution that could provide insight and opportunities for Carls who are interested in public service, medicine, disability services and more.

This organization is only a few blocks down the road from Weitz. It is home to about fifty Northfield members and services even more adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Whether it is full time care or helping individuals in depositing a cheque, Laura Baker is known to accomodate people based on their individual needs.

Bridget Novak, the arts coordinator at Laura Baker, uses art as a tool to help residents express themselves and practice their creativity. She talks about the different opportunities available for college students.

“There’s definitely a constant need for staff members. Since we believe this work is really important for able bodied community members to engage with, we are more than willing to accommodate individual requests. People are welcome to work half time or full time, depending on their availability,” Novak said.

Throughout the year, Laura Baker hires students to work as staff members on different levels. “It’s funny that we’re right next to Carleton, yet we only receive applications from St Olaf,” said Novak.

They have recently started a new buddy program to connect more people in the community with Laura Baker. People get paired up with a Laura Baker resident and “the only real requirement is to meet with your buddy once a week or maybe every other week,” said Novak.

The goal is to form a close bond between two people which can help both parties go through a transformative experience, exposing them to different perspectives and providing a glimpse into someone’s life that you may never have known otherwise.

They also provide a pre-professional program for people interested in social work practicum and want to enter this field professionally. The duties are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, and the program helps participants get real-world experience working and representing an organization. The amount of flexibility, however, can help students engage with Laura Baker in variety of ways.

Living in a comfortable bubble is an enticing idea for some, but Carls often have a need to engage with the outside world and try to change things for the better. Carleton already equips us with skills and techniques to go out there and make a difference. A starting point for that could be Laura Baker. All you need is a walk down 3rd Street E and have a desire to engage with the community.

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