"I have had the privilege of teaming with Gwendolyn to develop and present cultural competence training seminars for mutual corporate clients... I have been nothing but impressed with Gwendolyn’s unique ability to convey what can sometimes be a tricky topic with clarity and finesse... I would not hesitate to recommend her to my clients for cultural competence/diversity & inclusion training or to facilitate conversations amongst groups who need an empathetic force to help nudge them in the right direction. She is the real deal."
-Stacie Collier, Co-Practice Group Chair/Partner, Labor & Employment at Nixon Peabody LLC, Rhode Island
"Multicultural BRIDGE has changed my life and the way I move through the world. Equity, accountability, and justice... these words have taken on powerful and embodied meanings for me this past year through my learning and work with BRIDGE.
Thank you Gwendolyn for sharing your work, vision, and leadership with the world and to the amazing staff and community members at BRIDGE."
-Ari Cameron, BSURJ (Stand Up for Racial Justice - Berkshires)
"Gwendolyn is extraordinary: Her presence creates safety and inspires curiosity in children, teens, and adults alike. Her fine mind, one of great breadth of understanding for the subtleties of shifting mindsets, is open to the opinion of others while offering clear guidelines for healthy, expansive ways of thinking and perceiving. She is able to meet students with an interest in what they believe to be true and guide them creatively toward understandings that honor who they are and who they might become... and help them see the value in coming to see the 'other' as valuable and worthy of belonging. In her presence students engage in conversation that acknowledges the sometimes provocative nature of diversity exploration and yet continue to be willing to work together to shape value statements, activities, and writings that help them become wiser as a group. And, she is kind and easily integrates a playful spirit into her work.
I have offered programming under Gwendolyn's BRIDGE offices at a local school this past year and was able to successfully teach the fundamentals of resilience to the middle and high school population to an open-minded and open-hearted student body because of the tremendous preparation she offered the teens. I could not have asked for a more professional, impactful, and wise colleague. "
-Maria Sirois, Wholebeing Institute
"What a difficult task: to reduce to three lines the value of BRIDGE to the community. However, I would say that your patience, personal and organizational, combined with your ability to create teachable moments has created a shift in community attitudes toward the immigrant community and equally so in the approach to the African-American community. That combined with your 'hands on' gatherings of very different groups and individuals, while finding common ground to bring them to an understanding, through social events and great food has made Berkshire County a better place.
You have shifted my world view; you have made a difference to many people through BRIDGE and all its workings. The world can be a better place one person at a time."
-Richard B. Wilcox, Former Chief of Police, Stockbridge, Massachusetts
"A twig once taught a lesson about 'community.' The lesson: a twig, alone, cannot offer any resistance to the hands that gripped it at each end and then threatened to break it. However, when that twig is joined by other twigs of all sizes and of all shapes, there is now a 'bundle' where there had been only one. Those that made-up the bundle, i.e., the community of twigs, they each were better protected, for each lent its strength to the whole. And so it is with Multicultural BRIDGE — one community joins hands with another; they in turn embrace a third and fourth and soon there is a mosaic made-up with children's smiles, adolescent's dreams, and adults' determined leadership.
It has been said that to create something new 1) the creation needs to be lovingly molded with the talent of the mind and hands; and, 2) the creation needs to be imbued with the enduring spirit of the brave. Those creations, shaped by the talent of the mind and ready to withstand the test of time, were once the visions of visionaries. Such a creation, conceived in love and imbued with the spirit of the brave, withstands the test of time because at the beginning it is undeniable that the visionary's vision was true. What else could then follow but the joining of a community. And so it has been with the Director of Multicultural Bridge.
Gwendolyn VanSant certainly must have had a vision of what could be and she asked, 'Why not?' We see today what her good will and inner strength have given to the community. The participation of the citizens of Berkshire County in the programs Gwendolyn has crafted goes back to 2009. During the years of 2009-2014 we have been enriched by her two Living History Projects, i.e., Living African American History Project; and the Berkshire Mosaic: A Multicultural BRIDGE Living History Project. Many participated in the 'Dialogue about Race' as well as the 'Multicultural Bridge Awards Ceremony.' The planning and directing of any one of these programs/projects would have been enough but not for Gwendolyn. This Berkshire community must surely bask in the light of knowing Gwendolyn and her staff are still present and on duty; the once separate communities nestled in the Berkshire Hills have walked down their pathways and joined hands and folkways together.
We live in a community with great diversity. For example, the collaboration between Gwendolyn and Kate Abbott of the Berkshire Eagle has resulted in an Eagle column 'On the Bridge.' The column's purpose is to introduce the readers to the diversity of people and passions in the Berkshires – from youth to the elderly, new residents to veterans, including Polish, Italian, Indian, Jewish, Irish, Latino, Native American and African Americans. It must be that we all know that DIVERSITY derives its strength when each brings her/his folkway to a common table and all rejoice in their traits shared and the folkways so respectfully joined. This is the essence of Multicultural BRIDGE; this is its purpose; this is who we are."
-Homer "Skip" Meade, Civil Rights Scholar & Writer
"This class was life changing... I was in a state of crisis, and saw no way forward. Plan A, Plan B, Plan Q, and coping strategies 1-74 no longer worked for me. All were so rife with contradiction (or worse) that they were sickening. And what I got from your classes and your example was: a way forward. Which is, I think, also a good way forward for the larger community."
-Anonymous (after taking a BRIDGE anti-racism course with Gwendolyn VanSant)
“Extremely qualified to teach the course. Welcomes student participation. Always very interesting. Would take another course with the instructor.”
“Gwendolyn VanSant is a gifted and deeply knowledgeable instructor. She is creative and engaging, and she encouraged us to push the boundaries of what we think we know and believe.”
“Added insight to my understanding of situations that I did not know about or did not have a clear understanding.”
-Students of Gwendolyn VanSant’s Fall 2018 course
“Unpacking Systems of Inequality” at OLLI: Osher Lifelong Learning Institute