Ishita Gomes ’24 has had many memorable experiences with organizations, activities and students during her time at the College of William and Mary.
Gomes recounted her involvement in Williamsburg Engagement as one of her most memorable experiences at the College. Starting her time at the College amidst the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she felt the need to explore and engage with the community after withstanding isolation. After searching through various involvements, Gomes joined Williamsburg Engagement her sophomore year. She first began volunteering for the House of Mercy, working closely with team members and other volunteers to distribute food to those who suffer from food insecurity.
“I was super trapped, losing my mind, but then I found [Williamsburg Engagement] and I started volunteering at the House of Mercy, which was a cool, fun way to get off campus and see the wider Williamsburg community,” Gomes said.
“I was super trapped, losing my mind, but then I found [Williamsburg Engagement] and I started volunteering at the House of Mercy, which was a cool, fun way to get off campus and see the wider Williamsburg community.”
The House of Mercy also offers other services, such as workshops for employment and housing, free haircuts and regular distribution of clothes, diapers and home goods.
Last semester, Gomes became a Williamsburg Engagement team leader. In this role, she will lead a small group of volunteers this fall for the Dream Catchers at the Cori Sikich Therapeutic Riding Center.
“This semester, I am a team leader for Dream Catchers, which is a riding stable that offers animal therapy for people with disabilities,” Gomes said. “It’s a new organization we added. We’re still figuring out the kinks and stuff. But, I think it’s a great opportunity to get involved with the community,” Gomes said.
Gomes and other participants in the Williamsburg Engagement program work with a variety of other organizations in Williamsburg, including the Heritage Humane Society and the Habitat for Humanity Restore. After attending an orientation at the beginning of the semester, student volunteers visit their chosen organization for 2-3 hours each week. The scope of volunteer work depends on the requirements and needs of the organization.
Gomes encourages students to get involved with organizations such as Dream Catchers in the Williamsburg Engagement program, explaining that it is a great way to feel more connected to the surrounding community.
In her time on campus, Gomes also engages with a variety of organizations, including as the College’s Women in Business Club. Gomes is majoring in economics and has participated in research alongside her professors. Her interest developed in economic theory and how it affects groups of people and society. Throughout her time in the club, Gomes has taken on greater responsibilities. After serving as a vice president, she became president of the organization last year.
“It was really cool. I think in the beginning, before I joined, Women in Business was very big and had a lot of involvement, but because of COVID, all of that went down a lot,” Gomes said.
She found the process of rebuilding the club reinvigorating. For students involved in the club, Gomes expressed the value of connection to the business world and the impact of forming valuable bonds.
“A lot of the members of Women in Business that we get regularly that come to the meetings are freshmen who are interested in the business school but aren’t in the block yet or actively in the business school yet,” Gomes said.
For those involved in the club, a series of events and workshops allow for broader connections within the business world. Workshops topics vary from learning more about LinkedIn to building connections with recruiting firms and alumni.
“Whoever comes, they can explore many different areas of business,” Gomes said. “It’s a very diverse field. You can go into anything pretty much. And yeah, there’s a lot of workshops and events where different firms will come in.”
For Gomes, building connections on campus is an essential component of a fulfilling student experience, especially when adjusting to a new environment. Gomes feels she has built a particularly strong foundation and connection with the College’s South Asian Student Association during her time as a member. She reflects fondly on SASA’s annual Expressions and Mock Mehndi events.
“I love being a part of that because I get to dance and just celebrate my culture and just be a part of something that’s a little more light.”
“I love being a part of that because I get to dance and just celebrate my culture and just be a part of something that’s a little more light,” Gomes said. “I feel like I’m involved with a lot of heavy things, so just kind of having fun with my friends and dancing and eating good food and just celebrating my culture is amazing.”
Gomes explained how SASA allowed her to stay connected with her culture when moving to a new area.
“I’m from Edison, New Jersey, which is a very big hub for South Asian people, so coming here to Williamsburg was a huge culture shock for me. So being a part of SASA kind of helps me feel more connected in that way,” Gomes said.
Gomes is also a member of the Human Engagement, Awareness and Response to Trafficking Club at the College and volunteers regularly with the safe house located in Williamsburg. She shared her excitement to participate in such a valuable organization and participate in some of the activities that club members are involved in together.
“The people in our club really love that opportunity to volunteer there with actual survivors of human trafficking. One time, we built a whole garden from scratch for them, and we set up rooms for the residents,” Gomes said.
“The people in our club really love that opportunity to volunteer there with actual survivors of human trafficking. One time, we built a whole garden from scratch for them, and we set up rooms for the residents.”
HEART meets every other Wednesday and holds a range of activities and events, including presentations related to human trafficking and updates on current happenings.
“Recently, there was a human trafficking ring that was busted in Williamsburg,” Gomes said. “So, we talk about those things and make sure the education aspect is also highlighted as well as the service.”
Gomes said that anyone can attend the events or activities as long as they are subscribed to the Tribe Link chain and that all events relate to the service or educational aspect of human trafficking.
Looking forward, Gomes hopes to set aside more time to travel and visit places that her friends have recommended. Gomes also enjoys horseback riding and the opportunity to work with horses during her time at Dream Catchers.
As she begins her senior year at the College, Gomes offered her helpful advice to all students.
“I would say, definitely find a few things that you love and get involved with them on campus, because for me personally, that has made William and Mary feel like home to me,” Gomes said. “Before, I felt super disconnected from it. All the things I’m involved with have helped me meet people and helped me connect with people in so many different ways. I have lots of different interests and I’m able to have a very diverse network of friends and people I know that match these different interests. Finding those people and getting involved with things that you’re interested in is really going to help you do that.”