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An Interview With Star Student and Community Engaged Fellow Filip Carnogursky

Originally from the town of Tesáre, Slovakia, Filip Carnogursky (’23) is making huge waves in Colorado College as part of the Community Engaged Fellowship program. I sat down with him to hear about his thoughts on the program, his work within, and how he is able to accomplish so much.

I want to start of this interview by asking you in your own words, what exactly is the Community Engaged Fellowship?

This is something that is always so hard to define for me. I’d say it is a fellowship for students that have been socially engaged before coming to college, and for students who come from lower backgrounds economically that are not necessarily represented in schools today in higher education. This fellowship works in a way that we get paid for doing social engagement work so that we can keep going to college and doing this work instead of working in the cafeteria or in other places, enabling us to continue working for our communities. It’s also a holistic program, we talk about everything, spiritual life, the current year, and how we can further engage our community.

That was quite a long answer, I’m sorry

No that’s great, long answers are awesome

What exactly do you think it means for you specifically, being a Community Engaged Fellow?

For me, it is a responsibility. I feel responsible for using this opportunity as much as I can to its fullest potential. Since somebody trusts me in such a way, it’s a big privilege I would say for me and for all the other community engaged fellows, but speaking for me it’s a huge privilege to be paid for something that you like to do, and something that has added value to the whole community, it feels very nice, when you do this work it’s fulfilling and at the same time you get money from that. I feel like it’s a great match, and from this opportunity I feel like it comes with a lot of responsibility as well, somebody trusts us in such a way that they give us money for social engagement work. I feel like we, and myself included, should try to be engaged as much as possible and as effectively as possible. Not just to get those hours in, but to actually be able to see something behind me when I’m finished. I feel like it comes from that, that I have this privilege.

What are some of your current projects?

Since the beginning, I really like that [this] Fellowship allows you to explore, especially in the first semester, you can go to different sites, different community partners, whether on campus or beyond campus, and you can just go there, try it out, and come back. I have been working with homeless people at the shelter. I was mostly cleaning there and helping them with the food, but mostly what I do is work with sustainability oriented initiatives, so since the beginning of the last semester, since I came here I participated in various groups such as the Sunrise Movement, Environment Colorado, EnAct and others, mostly I was working with Environment Colorado, helping to organize the protest against Senator Gardner’s inaction on climate change. So we collected five hundred petitions, bringing it over to the Colorado Springs town hall with around sixty some people, it was a lot of fun, we were dancing all the way to his office, running the petitions to him.

It was a great experience, as I was organizing this I realized that there is so much to be done on campus in terms of sustainability still, so I’m trying now with some other people in our group, we try to coordinate sustainability efforts on campus, we are going to put all of the groups together so let’s say there are people in EnAct, in Sunrise, in the Office of Sustainability and many others. Many times what happens is that there are sustainability events that happen at the same time, and these two events are competing for the same students basically. So what we are trying to do is to make a list serve for all of the students who are interested in sustainability, then we will make a calendar, and in the end we will put in each of the areas the option of where you would like to focus your efforts, this is an idea to collectivize the whole effort. 

Beyond Campus I’m working with the Sierra Club, since the Martin Drake power plant is still here in front of us, and it’s still burning coal almost every single day, and so I’m trying to do everything I can to stop it, because it’s going to be retired, but it’s up to us how soon that day will come. So we’ve been to many city council meetings, to the utility board meetings and advocated for closing it earlier. 

Do you feel that all of these things that you have been doing have gotten you closer with the community, both with CC and with Colorado Springs?

Oh for sure, I think that if I wasn’t a Community Engaged fellow, I would have still been active in the local community and beyond, but it would be much less sustained and continuous, so I would maybe go to the homeless shelter once in a month, and try to help somewhere else, but I feel like thanks to this I have been part of the community now much more, especially because I have had so much time to explore the different groups and I know many people in these different groups, so I feel like this fellowship was enhancement definitely for my social life and my sense of belonging to Colorado College, and to Colorado Springs.

How does your being a Fellow interact with the block program?

I feel like it really depends on the block, sometimes they are harder, sometimes it is easier, but overall it is true that it is one more thing to do. However, it’s something that is extremely fulfilling, so I always try and find time for community engaged work, and what is good about [this] Fellowship is that it is up to me, so let’s say we need to work twenty one hours in one block, it’s incredibly doable, and even if we can’t finish our twenty one hour requirement, we can always communicate with the CCE and the other staff, and they are very understandable, so I must say, that even though it adds to my task list, and sometimes puts me off track academically, because I find it so much more fun to do community work to be honest. I feel like it is up to you, but since my work is more continuous and needs more committee meetings and more planning sessions it’s kind of nicely balanced out throughout the days.

So you feel as if your first semester is going well thanks to these programs?

In many ways. I would absolutely agree with that.

Are there any last thoughts you would like to share about the Community Engaged Fellowship?

I just wish there were more spaces in this program for people like me. I feel that there would be so many more kids that would be thriving with this opportunity, and I’m really glad that for some reason they gave this opportunity to me. I won’t let them down.

Amping Up Our Community: Professor Lynne Gratz’s Environmental Thermodynamics Energy Audits

Colorado College recently announced that the college is officially carbon neutral! A logical next step is to improve the energy efficiency of the surrounding community. During Block 2, Professor Lynne Gratz’s Environmental Thermodynamics course worked with a home from the Colorado Springs community, and technicians from the Energy Resource Center, conducting a preliminary audit of the house and carrying out a retrofit of the home. I spoke with Mataan Peer ’21, a junior from Los Gatos, California, who informed me about what exactly the energy audit entailed. “The preliminary audit was an audit of the homes energy efficiency. Just checking where we could improve the house’s efficiency. I went into the attic and measured the depth of the insulation as well as checking the efficiency of the insulation. Our house had an odd ceiling configuration that forced us to blow a lot more insulation than expected. We also went into the basement and did some square footage measurements to see how much batt insulation we needed for the foundation walls.”

Along with making sure the house was well insulated, the class was also responsible for measuring the current energy output of the house itself. ”Another team put energy meters on the appliances to measure their energy usage. Then as a group we used a blower door test to find infiltration points. The blower door creates a pressure differential between the inside (negative pressure) and the outside (normal pressure). With the differential we could physically feel the places where air was leaking into the house,” remarked Peer .

By implementing these simple and cost-effective methods, students were able to apply the knowledge they gained in the course toward community benefit increasing the energy efficiency of homes in the surrounding community. This sustained partnership with the ERC began years ago, and is a great way for students to develop more knowledge surrounding the environment. For Peer, who is not an environmental major, felt that the hands-on community element of the class added a lot of value to the course. “It taught me a lot about how we can apply physics and chemistry concepts to environmental concerns like energy production and energy efficiency” explained Peer. For any interested in not only developing knowledge on energy efficiency, but also aiding in their community this course will be offered again in Block 7.

If you want to watch a video from last year, click here!

By Ben Greenly, CCE Storyteller

The CC Science Outreach: “Inking” about Science!

When the CC Science Outreach are involved in a dissection, you know they aren’t squidding around!

For the most part.

For the past four years the CC Science Outreach program has collaborated with the 4th graders of Audubon Elementary School, teaching them about the ethics of working with animals through a squid dissection laboratory. Hearing this I immediately wanted to know as much as possible, so I asked the student leaders of the lab about their approach, speaking with senior leader Leo Brasuel he explained that “We like to introduce the lab with a brief discussion of bioethics and the scientific and academic value of the dissection process. Additionally, we provide some fun background facts on squid and talk about their basic anatomy,” he elaborated further, stating that “the students are always very enthusiastic and we generally partner each student or pair of students with one of our CC volunteers so that they can be guided through the dissection process and have the best learning experience possible.” The students, with their CC volunteers explore the anatomy of the squid, attempting to locate some of its harder to find body parts. “Some of the kids get a little squeamish at first, but they quickly get into learning about squid anatomy and dissection techniques,” however, as the lab continues the kids eventually are able to get the hang of everything, as senior leader Madeline M. Smith explains “one of their favorite things to find is the beak, which is the only hard thing in their body. They learn that a squid can fit through any hole as long as its beak can fit through it. Another cool squid fact is that their brain is donut shaped, and their digestive tract runs through the middle of it. The kids always get a kick out of that one!”

The lab is not only valuable for the kids, but also for the student leaders, as junior Kim Faith recounts, “I originally did not know a lot about squids, so it was great to learn about their anatomy in a hands-on/interactive way. My favorite part was trying to find the ink sac and using it to draw. The two girls I was working with really enjoyed that part, and I thought it was fun too.” While this dissection seems incredibly entertaining it’s important to remind the children to not take dissections like these for granted, as Madeline M. Smith elaborates, “we remind the kids that these squid used to be living animals, and so we should respect them and not just chop them up for fun. Everything we dissect is for a reason.”

Hopefully the CC Science Outreach will continue this incredibly important program, teaching kids not only on ethical values regarding animals, but also the common practices performed through scientific dissections. Knowledge that I wish I had developed in fourth grade.

Looking Back: The 2019 National Bonner Conference

Colorado College has now had a Community Engaged Fellow (CEF) program for 3 years.  The students selected for the program are building increasingly complex, reciprocal, and beneficial bonds with community members in the Pikes Peak Region, but they are also working to build a national community. Over the weekend of October 4th, Colorado College sent two of our Community Engaged Fellows, Sunderland Baker ’23 from Thornton, CO, and Daniel Cortes ’22 from Albuquerque, NM, to attend the National Bonner Conference held at Centre College in Danfield, Kentucky. The Community Engaged Fellows at CC follow the nationally-recognized Bonner Program Model. The conference was, as Cortes recounted “A weekend during which members of the Bonner Fellowship across the country coalesce to discuss the mission of Bonner at the national level, the plans for Bonner to continue expanding, and really solidify the value systems of the Bonner Program.” The conference was not only designed to unite the Bonner Fellowships together, but to also promote themes of social justice, allowing individuals to work on developing their communities in order to further social change.

I was curious about the details regarding the conference, so I spoke to the two Fellows who attended. While speaking with first-year Sunderland Baker, I was informed about the large community of participating schools, he explained that “All of these schools have varying levels of engagement with the Bonner Fellowship; some schools have had the program for 20 years, others like CC only 3 years.” Sophomore Daniel Cortes further elaborated on Colorado College’s relative new relationship with the Bonner Fellowship, “It’s exciting, I think my favorite part of the program was really getting a sense of the depth and breadth of the program, recognizing that CC has 25 members in total in our membership, and we’re going to max out at 40, we won’t even reach that number for 2 years, but recognizing that we’re part of a much larger organization with almost 20,000 fellows was a really mind-opening experience.”

Sunderland Baker ’23 with Bonner Foundation President Bobby Hacket.

The conference itself contained a multitude of workshops and panels for the participating fellows. “Its central theme was social justice and action, where there was an emphasis on introspection of our own beliefs, areas of privilege, social inequality, etc. to enact change in areas we are truly passionate about” recounts Baker. “There were also individual sessions, where I tended to focus on more personal and institutional aspects of social justice and leadership. I attended sessions on how educational inequality and lack of inclusion shapes student attitudes and success.  However, the majority of my sessions focused on self-actualization, ways to create a healthy leadership/fellow ship climate, and how to positively negotiate with a group to get all opinions heard but work towards a common goal.”

Daniel Cortes ’22 with Bonner Foundation President Bobby Hackett.

While Baker focused on developing his leadership qualities Cortes meanwhile decided to focus on developing his financial skills. “I focused mainly on career related seminars. I wanted to develop my skills on how to engage meaningfully in this kind of work beyond college and learn how to be financially compensated for doing so. I gained a lot of resources in that regard learned about a lot of fellowship opportunities and graduate school scholarships available to help. I also learned about people doing engaged work. I really enjoyed learning about budgeting and how to approach financial planning engaged in this field of work. This one was specifically how to make ends meet which I felt was very valuable.”

Baker went on to explain, “I strongly feel that this experience was very valuable; I am accustomed to CC’s perspective on the Bonner program; it is new and emerging and we are still figuring a lot of things out. However, other schools are very well-invested and have established ways, and it was so insightful to see how they do things. I have gained a more holistic view of how various institutions view community engagement and social justice across the United States, and how nearby resources and access shape what each school can and cannot do. It begs a conversation on equity between resources that students should be afforded in college. It helped me ponder questions about educational equity and extracurricular involvement I never thought of.” To me, as it is for the CEF students, the inherent value of the National Bonner Conference is clear.

– Ben Greenly