By Alana Aamodt ’18
New this academic year, the Community Engaged Scholars Program offers students a comprehensive, structured plan for sustained, informed, and deliberate community engagement. Beyond just requiring a certain number of hours of community engagement, the program helps students find personal meaning and interconnectedness in their activities. Community engagement includes any pursuit that works with a community or campus partner to address a social or environmental need, or indirectly contributes to the mission of those partners through raising awareness around social or environmental issues.
“I am thrilled at the number of students — more than 120 — who joined the Community Engaged Scholars Program in its inaugural year,” says Jordan Travis Radke, director of the Collaborative for Community Engagement. “To me, it demonstrates the passion and drive our students have for living lives dedicated to positive social change. I am excited to see what the future holds, given that this program seems to deeply resonate with our students.”
The program’s goal is to encourage students to consider and articulate how what they’re doing constitutes engaged citizenship and addresses social and environmental needs, rather than just setting generic bounds to what community engagement means. To do this, the program requires on average 10 hours of community engagement each block, as well as participation in skills trainings, and co-curricular learning events, such as lectures on related topics. The program culminates in a senior reflection retreat and the creation of an engagement portfolio that serves as a record of their work, and as a reflective articulation of their progress.
“I have enjoyed community service work since I was in high school,” says Emma Kepes, ’17, a community engaged scholar, “so being a part of clubs to continue that work in college was the natural choice. Through these clubs, I have also found that I enjoy working with kids the most, so I have stuck with AMA and Cool Science since freshman year for that reason.” AMA, Aprender Mediante Amistad, which is Spanish for “learning through friends,” provides mentorship and tutoring for local students between the ages of 5 and 18 whose first language is Spanish, and Cool Science brings local kids to campus for fun and easy science experiments. Kepes is the co-leader of AMA. “I hope to do more important work like this after I graduate,” Kepes adds.
CCE also offers a Community Engaged Leadership Certificate, whose mission is to “develop civic leaders by cultivating students’ ability to integrate and apply learning toward solving complex social challenges.” The resulting structure, initially implemented in 2010, is a three-phase program starting a student’s sophomore year with exploring unmet community-driven needs and committing time to address those needs; then focusing skills and commitment towards one social issue during junior year; and implementing what they’ve learned through a capstone project of the student’s own design senior year.
“The main [difference] is that the leadership program has a capstone project,” shares Montana Bass ’18. “The project involves a partnership with a local community and can be related to your thesis, so it’s an awesome way to tie your studies into community work that might not be there otherwise.” The CEL program is also a smaller, more selective cohort than CES. While both programs require 75 hours of service per year, the CEL program asks for those hours to be at a higher responsibility during the student’s junior year, such as taking the lead on a project, group, or organization, and then devoting hours in the student’s senior year to an integrative capstone project.
“My favorite part so far has been getting to know the other people in the leadership certificate program. It’s a really small group so conversations are really intimate and everyone can get involved,” Bass adds, referring to the cohort model of the program.
These programs both work to strengthen CC’s commitment to community engagement and engaged learning. Read more and apply for the CES program, and learn more about the requirements and timeline for the Community Engaged Leadership Certificate.