April 1, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Tia Vierling | Photo by Daniel de Koning

The chill bit at my nose when I stepped into the brisk winter air more than two years ago. I hustled to my bike and clipped my helmet around my chin, pedaling hard until I reached Memorial Park. The wind lifted tiny waves from the top of the lake, and I took my place at a bench on the west side, brandishing a smile for the hundreds of people who walked past over the next few hours.

It was the annual Southern Colorado Kidney Walk, and I was manning a station. But to get there, I had to bike—and like the many people walking for a cause, that added a physical, active component to my community engagement.

Community engagement is a cornerstone of campus culture for many students involved with Colorado College’s Collaborative for Community Engagement. From Community Engaged Scholars to Community Engaged Leaders, students are ready and willing to be active in their communities. But this often has the unforeseen consequence of being active in more ways than one.

Take the annual Creek Week cleanup, for example. Students don hiking boots and long pants, ranging up and down Monument Creek to pluck the stringy remains of white plastic bags from tree roots or tug tennis balls from eddies. Normally lasting a few hours, a creek cleanup can lead to plenty of steps added to the day’s workout. Add on top of that lugging the bags of collected trash—sometimes including wet cloth or heavy pieces of metal—and you have the makings of an unintentional workout.

Other habitual trips with BreakOut, the primary club for student engagement on campus, engage more with an active life than one might think at first glance. The CCE’s years-long partnership with the Marion House Soup Kitchen was supported by early-morning Saturday treks from campus to downtown, volunteers chatting with each other on the way. Work with Habitat for Humanity, another longtime partner, often asks students to get their muscles working and hands dirty as they carry lumber or cover the walls with paint.

Most recently, the often-outdoors BreakOut trips to Concrete Couch, a local organization working with youth engagement and grassroots community building, offers hands-on opportunities to contribute to a new community park. Students help build mountain-biking trails, create soccer fields, and cart fertilizer or water to newly-planted trees—contributing their energy just as much as their time.

The opportunities for community engagement in the local area keep growing as pandemic restrictions loosen and the CCE moves towards renewing community partnerships. For those who have long been involved with the CCE and its programs, it’s a return towards the familiar. But for those interested in the CCE yet unsure about their commitment to a BreakOut trip or creek cleanup day, the novel opportunities could come with a new consideration in mind: getting active.

While “active life” might not be what you first think of when you hear “Habitat for Humanity” or “Concrete Couch,” maybe that can change. With community engagement, students can work towards a more active lifestyle and a stronger community at the same time.

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