…in terms of climate and the natural surroundings:
The Arete Project site for 2015 is located at Arthur Morgan School, just outside of Burnsville, North Carolina. The site is lovely, quiet, and rural, located in the heart of the southern Appalachians at 2600 feet. Because of the altitude, the summers are humid but not oppressively hot. And even on the warmest days, a nearby river and cool ponds are perfect for cooling off. While it is warm, rain falls frequently, so come prepared for wet weather! And since much of your activity will be outdoors, be prepared not only for rain, but also for the local wildlife. This ecosystem is amazingly biodiverse, but also populated with your standard assortment of bugs, snakes (mostly non-poisonous), and poison ivy. On weekends and field trips there will be opportunities to explore the local wilderness as AMS is located in the heart of the southern Appalachians, not too far from the Appalachian Trail itself.
….in terms of housing:
Students will be living in three rustic, three-sided “Appalachian-Trail-style” shelters with bunk beds and storage areas, roughly five or six people to a shelter. The third side can be left open to catch the breeze or screened with a tarp for reasons of privacy or wet weather. While mattresses are provided, all students must bring their own sheets, pillows, and blankets/sleeping bags. For health code reasons, sheets are a must!
All students will have access to a bathroom facility with toilets, showers, and laundry. There is a dryer, but only as a last resort; all of us (including AMS staff) use clotheslines.
….in terms of work load:
Prepare to be busy. On your average weekday you are likely to spend 4 hours doing labor, 2-3 in class, and 1-2 on self-governance. And that’s not counting homework, independent projects, down time, meals, and sleep. Arete is fun, but it is also intense, challenging, transformative. You will probably be stressed sometimes. You may get less sleep than you want. You may wonder how you’re going to get everything done. But you won’t be alone. And you definitely won’t be bored.
…in terms of food and cooking:
Arete Project members will have access to AMS cookhouse, which is where all communal meals (3/day during the week and 2/day on weekends, roughly) will be held. Student cooks will be largely responsible for preparing meals. We can accommodate some but not all dietary restrictions, including those on vegetarian or dairy/gluten-free diets. It is much more challenging for us to accommodate students with very severe allergies, especially those who will have a reaction just by being in the presence of a particular food. If you have questions about whether we can accommodate your dietary needs, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. While Arete students can use the kitchen, please note that it is a commercial kitchen and therefore must be kept up to code. All those using the kitchen will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining it to that standard.
…in terms of communication with the outside world:
There will be a few wifi-equipped computers available around campus for school-related research, typing up homework assignments, and personal logistical communication. Cell phones will also be collected upon arrival at the program. Students are encouraged to consider technology use as a question of isolation, and may determine parameters other than the above as part of self-governance. A landline phone will also be available for student use, but students will need to bring their own calling cards to place overseas long-distance calls. Students will be able to send and receive mail. Guests may visit on a single specified open-house day (to be determined), but otherwise students are not permitted guests during the course of the program.
…in terms of prior experience:
Some students will arrive at Arete with more relevant experience in academics, labor, or self-governance than others. Some students may have majors that provide them with a better foundation for the course; others may already know how to weld, cook, or lay irrigation; others may already have experience running meetings and organizing political bodies. If you are applying to Arete with a strong background in one or more of these areas, you should be aware that you will likely find yourself in an informal mentorship position vis-a-vis your fellow students. It is up to you to take advantage of that role, or to consciously step back to let others give it a try. Participants range in age from roughly from 19 to 23, so there is a range in terms of experience; you should not expect to come here to find that everyone is on equal footing in all areas. That said, since some people will be strong in certain areas and weak in others, there is great opportunity for and likelihood of reciprocal knowledge-sharing between students.
…in terms of physical health:
Work at the Arete Project is physically demanding, involving both strenuous labor and long hours of study. While we are committed to working with students with physical limitations, we also ask that prospective students are realistic in thinking about what will be required of them this summer. All applicants are required to carry their own health insurance policies. Any applicant with questions is encouraged to contact us to talk with a staff member or former student.
Applicants with known health problems, including allergies and asthma, are encouraged to talk to their physicians and our staff about options for this summer. Students with severe food or environmental allergies (including to bee stings) are asked to contact us and to bring a supply of epi-pens.
There are medical resources on campus and many more within a 30 minute radius. Some AMS staff members have emergency medical training. There is a health clinic in the nearby Celo Community, and the nearest hospital is about 15 miles away in Spruce Pine, NC. Prescriptions can be picked up during weekly driver’s trips.
…in terms of mental health:
The Arete Project is a high-stress environment, even for students with no history of mental illness. We highly recommend that prospective students with mental health problems have a stable and effective treatment plan in place well in advance of arriving this summer. We can make accommodations to give students private space to talk on the phone to their counselors or therapists, but no formal mental health services are available on-site.
…in terms of the local community:
We will share the site this summer with Arthur Morgan School, which will not be in session. We will be expected to comply with certain ground rules while we are there, but they are generally obvious and unobtrusive, and will likely have little impact on student self-governance. Staff members from AMS will be present throughout the summer; some will be involved in supervising and training student labor projects. Since AMS and Arete share so many similar ideals, we hope to foster an environment where AMS members feel a part of the Arete community and vice versa. This affects Arete’s isolation policy only inasmuch as the AMS staff are part of the community with whom students regularly interact; it does not impinge on the establishing of cooperative institutional and personal relationships or an environment free of outside distraction.
AMS is also contiguous with the Celo Community, a communal settlement based on ideals of cooperation between residents and care for the natural environment.The Celoites are a mix of families, young folk who work for AMS, Camp Celo, or one of the local farms, and older folks who came here in the 1970s. There is a well-established arts and crafts community (centered around Penland School and Celo) of glassblowers and ceramic artists. Many people in Celo make a living as artists, teachers, medical professionals, or in construction/farming. There is a well-attended Quaker Meeting and many residents espouse “simple living,” keeping close to a Quaker or ecological set of ethics. The demographics are predominantly white, middle-class and politically progressive.
The rest of Yancey County, though politically split between Republicans and Democrats, is largely Southern Baptist and socially conservative. The directors of Camp Celo forbid their staff from skinny-dipping in the river to avoid feeding into Celo’s reputation among local people as a hive of naked-volleyball-playing, draft-dodging communists. This reputation has faded somewhat in recent years as community-members have built bridges through their work as doctors, teachers and farmers, and by sending their children to public schools, but it’s a fragile detente that long-term community guests – including Arete – are expected to honor.