May 14, 2021 | NEWS | By Eric Ingram | Photo courtesy of Eric Ingram

The pandemic that sent most of Colorado College’s students away from campus did not stop the Collaborative for Community Engagement (CCE) from launching the new programs they planned to begin this year.

Even while many students were taking classes on Zoom, the CCE launched their expanded “Issue-Based Coalitions.” These coalitions, based around issue areas like “Health & Accessibility” and “Racial Justice,” are groups intended to give students an on-ramp to becoming engaged in the community. This past year, the Collaborative facilitated nine of these coalitions.

Student Issue Organizers lead the Issue-Based Coalitions and facilitate connections between faculty, students, and community partners outside CC. Their goal is to create a space for continued education and learning and to coordinate community-engaged action.

Also, in the last academic year, CCE has launched a new student internship structure, a new four-year-long “Changemaker Curriculum” that teaches students about community engagement, and a new Introduction to Community Organizing adjunct.

Sophia Pray, the CCE’s Civic Leadership Program Coordinator, said that after such a busy period of starting new programs, the upcoming academic year would be a stabilizing year, where the CCE can focus on development and the sustainability of its existing initiatives.

However, even in a “stabilizing year,” the CCE will continue expanding and launching new programs.

Next year, they will launch a tenth coalition called “Arts and Media for Social Change.” This coalition will focus on creative means of addressing social issues and storytelling as a method of community engagement.

In its inaugural year, the student Issue Organizer leading the coalition will be focused on connecting with members of the community within and beyond CC, looking for ways to support and collaborate with different parts of the local community. The CCE hopes the new coalition will be able to work with on-campus groups like the Journalism Institute, Mobile Arts at CC, and Performing Arts at CC, as well as CC faculty and local non-profits.

To support this new coalition, the CCE’s student intern program will expand to employ 17 students.

“I think the most successful part of this year has been launching our expanded intern structure because now it’s not just CCE staff keeping this work alive. It’s all of our new ambassadors of the work, who then bring their friends in, and their networks, and their knowledge and expertise,” Pray said. “That’s been really exciting, and I think it will help us be able to sustain our lofty goals and to achieve them.”

This fall, the CCE is also hoping to start an “engagement fair.” Where a career fair allows potential employers to share what they do and what opportunities they offer to students, an engagement fair would do the same thing for organizations students might want to volunteer with. This event would allow students, especially those in the CCE’s paid engagement programs, to meet local community partners and create relationships with them.

Although this year’s Week of Action ended on April 30, the CCE plans to bring it back to its usual schedule later in fall 2021. The Week of Action is a week-long collection of opportunities for students to volunteer and engage with the local community. This year’s Week of Action included events like volunteering at the CC Farm, a Monument Creek Clean-Up, and the CCE’s annual Community Engagement Recognition Night.

The 2021-22 academic year will be the third for the CCE’s PEAK Inquiry Project, which matches specific needs that partners in the local community have to CC faculty, students, or organizations.

Despite the restrictions of the pandemic, the CCE has matched about five projects from the local community to groups at CC in the last year. In the coming year, the Collaborative intends to continue growing this programming and facilitating more connections between CC and its neighbors.

The best way for students to get involved with community engagement at the CCE is to join one of the Issue-Based Coalitions. The CCE’s website has information about all the coalitions and links to join the email lists, where students can receive and share information about getting involved with the community in whatever areas they are interested in.

“I can certainly say that one of the biggest aspects of next year that we’re looking forward to is just resuming in-person engagement work,” Pray said. “We know our students have missed it, and we’ve missed it.”

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