At the Colorado College Collaborative for Community Engagement’s second annual awards night, a large buffet table filled the middle of the hall, and a mix of well-dressed students, community members, and professors mingled around candle-laden tables. Adele played over the speakers, while slides showing pictures of awards recipients — copies of the framed posters lining the entry hallway — shuffled on a large projector screen at the front of the hall.
It was a feel-good event, and the mood was festive. “I’m seeing a true co-creative collaborative effort,” said keynote speaker Victoria Stone, executive director for the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Coalition. Stone pointed out the growth in participation she has seen in CC-hosted events, like the Martine Luther King Jr. Day annual breakfast.
The CCE formed in the summer of 2012 as a merger of the Partnership for Civic Engagement and the Center for Service and Learning, two previous CC offices. The stated mission of the CCE is to “develop students into engaged citizens who invest their liberal arts education in the public good.” Various initiatives to accomplish this goal were on display during Wednesday’s Community Engagement Recognition Night.
“This is a celebration of community engagement in the context of diversity and inclusion,” CC President Jill Tiefenthaler said in her introductory speech.
During last spring’s “Semester of Listening,” members of the CCE surveyed groups around campus and in the community, ultimately talking to 500 individuals — including students, faculty, community members and residents, and staff members. Following the results, the CCE implemented a strategic plan for strengthening community engagement on campus, and presented updates at the awards night.
CCE Director Jordan Travis Radke listed common desires expressed during the Semester of Listening, including greater opportunities for faculty involvement, a greater sense of place for CC students, and tangible ways for campus members to get involved. Some of the CCE’s responses included hosting faculty conversation events, bringing a panel of community members to campus for New Student Orientation, and implementing the CC Week of Action, which included everything from food and clothing drives to anti-racism workshops and creek cleanups, respectively. While proud of the work they’ve done, CCE members realize there is more to be done.
“Community engagement isn’t just about us going out into the community,” Radke acknowledged. “We recognize that the work continues.”
Current CCE initiatives include a diverse range of projects, ranging from the CC Farm, which grows produce on a plot of land along the Tiger Trail, to the CC Refugee Alliance, which connects students and faculty with asylum and refugee seekers in Colorado Springs, to the Prison Project, which seeks to dismantle the current prison system and support current inmates, as well as several mini-grant and scholarship funds that CC students are eligible for.
Featured projects at the awards night included Enseña, a club whose members teach Spanish to elementary school students, COOL Science, which brings science demonstrations to local middle and elementary schools, and Community Engaged Leaders, a program designed to strengthen participants’ ability to solve complex social issues.
The CCE will continue to support and expand on these programs, as well as initiate future events that help to accomplish goals of the strategic plan, including learning from the community and further integrating community engagement with classroom learning and research.