If the “Colorado College Bubble” is a very real phenomenon, then the Collaborative for Community Engagement is doing everything it can to pop it. The CCE aims to connect the college with the community and to “advance the public purpose of liberal arts education” by providing opportunities to bridge the gap between the school and the Springs, such as through its “Experience the Springs” Block Break initiatives.
Niki Sosa, the community partnerships coordinator for the CCE, came into her position after working for nonprofits in both Colorado Springs and in Pueblo, Colo., her hometown. “At each organization, my role varied and allowed me to gain a lot of experience of how nonprofits operate and truly understand the value of volunteer support and the value of connections to higher e≠ducation institutions in the community,” said Sosa.
Her job now consists of “building and deepening our community partnerships … as well as exploring potential future partnerships with the CCE and CC. I support the partnership of our various programming in the CCE, provide support for short-term to long-term engagement opportunities and anything in between, advise students on community organizations and lead the planning of the Week of Action — formerly the CC Day of Service,” said Sosa.
Leadership Pikes Peak, a local nonprofit focused on civic leadership for the Pikes Peak region, partnered with the CCE to create “Experience the Springs,” a program designed to connect CC with the Colorado Springs area. “It’s an opportunity to explore and discuss the major sectors of the city and to meet community decision makers and industry leaders,” said Sosa.
While the program used to consist of two back-to-back days of local tours, it’s now broken up into two day-long experiences in the fall and spring semesters. “In the fall, students learned about the history of Colorado Springs, got some insights into the local economy, heard from military and public safety leaders in our community, and spent some time outdoors with the Catamount Institute,” explained Sosa. In the spring, CC students will meet with local political officials, learn about public education in Colorado Springs, speak with local experts on in issues of health and homelessness, and finish with the Care and Share Food Bank.
While there’s been a lot of campus-wide criticism of the disconnect between the school and the community, Sosa had positive things to say about the relationship. “I am still learning of the multitude of ways our campus engages with the Colorado Springs community and vice versa,” she said. “From students, to faculty members, departments, and on an institutional level, there are so many partnerships and collaborations taking place.”
The CCE wants the CC community to know how many opportunities there are to engage with Colorado Springs, whether during a Block Break, a longer break, or when school is in session. “[I enjoy] hearing about a great connection between a student or a class and an organization and getting updates on the work they’re doing together,” she said. “The CCE has programs to support student engagement in the community through programs, workshops, trainings, events, activities, student groups, etc.”
Sosa hopes those who want to “apply their passions and what they’re learning here at CC to have an impact on the community” will visit the page on the CC website or to stop by the CCE house at 1008 N. Weber St., near the East Campus apartments.