Students at Colorado College are often motivated by an overpowering desire to make a difference in the world and pursue various career paths accordingly. However, this need to ‘make a difference’ can often seem like a looming, vague narrative that doesn’t translate to anything particularly accessible. Enter the Community Engaged Scholars Program, established by Collaborative for Community Engagement Director Dr. Jordan Travis Radke in 2016.
This program is targeted toward freshmen and sophomores who recognize the importance of impactful community service. Dr. Anthony Siracusa, Engaged Learning Specialist and the current faculty organizer of the CES Program, believes that “everyone has a role to play in naming problems that we face collectively, that everyone has a role to play in crafting strategies to address these problems, and that everyone has a role to play in actually working on these problems.”
After enrolling in the program, students are given the opportunity to participate in a wide range of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak region community partnerships in fields such as political initiatives, social innovation, prison reform projects, refugee alliance organizations, environmental education, pollution control, tutoring for the visual and hearing impaired, and feeding the homeless and less fortunate.
“The opportunities and endeavors our students get involved with are as varied and diverse as the students themselves,” Siracusa said.
Siracusa explained that the program allows students to discover what issues they are passionate about and teaches them how to effectively contribute to existing community efforts. “[The program aims to] support students in holistic ways, giving consideration to their backgrounds and identities, their interests, skills, passions and struggles, and aspire to graduate students who engage in ways that are intentional, equitable, and sustainable,” Siracusa said.
Once enrolled on Banner, students are required to attend eight ‘learning opportunities’ throughout their time at CC, which are lectures, panels, conference presentations, discussions, or short courses hosted by campus or community organizations that help students to understand the causes, consequences of, and strategies for change in various fields. Before they graduate, they must also attend four ‘skill-based training sessions’, which are offered on campus to develop a student’s capacity to engage in the nonprofit world or social sector, be an active democratic citizen, collaborate, work on collective solutions, and work across lines of difference. These requirements build more than enough foundation to participate in the required 75 hours of purposeful community engagement per year, which can include any combination of service work across many disciplines. This sustained work is showcased in a portfolio awarded to students at graduation, which contains all of the community-based experiences that they have completed during their time at CC. CES students also receive the distinction of ‘Community Engaged Scholar’ at graduation, which is celebrated with a graduation reception and graduation stole.
Mikaela Burns ‘19, the current senior intern for the CES program and a member for three years, explained that community service has taught her two important things:“Engaging with your community through service is the best way to learn about yourself, your skills, and your values, and the people you meet while engaging in the community are always going to teach you something new,” Burns said. “You feel good, you learn new things, you go to new places, you meet people different than you, and you make a difference. Community engagement truly has made me feel at home in Colorado Springs, and I want other students to feel that connection.”
The first CES workshop of the year, entitled “So, You Want to Make a Difference. Now What?” will be hosted in McHugh Commons on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 3:30 p.m. There, students will have the opportunity to meet experts in a variety of change-making fields and learn how to get involved in impact-driven, community-based work.