May 13, 2022 | OPINION | By Tia Vierling
Disclaimer: The author of this article is the Chief Executive Officer of the Community Engaged Scholars
Colorado College students are here to make a difference. That’s what drives the students in the Community Engaged Scholars program, which the Collaborative for Community Engagement runs to support scholars in “sustained, informed, and deliberate community engagement.” Four students involved in the CES program exemplify the diversity of engagement and impact.
Kate Lamkin ’24 started off a community-focused undergraduate career with the Office of Sustainability team, noting that the CES program “offers connections to Colorado Springs beyond just being a student inside the college.”
Gillian Lasher ’23, a former CES and now a Community Engaged Leader, started in the same way, writing the college’s sustainability report and continuing to work with the CCE. As climate change continues to shape the world, Lamkin and Lasher have worked in sustainability to create positive change on a campus level.
Tom Byron ’23 has a different focus as a CES. “I’ve mostly done engagement in local politics,” Byron said. “I’ve worked on political campaigns, run voter registration drives, collaborated with local politicians and leaders, and recruited CC students to do similar work.” Taking a strong interest in politics for years, Byron has continued his efforts at CC, making strides towards increasing voter registration on campus and canvassing in the Colorado Springs area.
Andra Metcalfe ’22 had another unique experience with CES. Metcalfe “completed a semester-long community organizing program in Minneapolis. I learned about ethical, intentional means of community engagement and interned at a legal advocacy nonprofit focusing on renter’s rights.” After this experience, Metcalfe returned to CC and became a CES, continuing to engage in direct service and even interning at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and the ACLU of Colorado.
The diversity of CES experiences and focuses doesn’t stop at sustainability, political activism, or legal advocacy. Students also work in areas like youth engagement, queer rights, and support for houseless individuals. Students involved in CES commit about 10 hours each block to community engagement in whatever form that may take; they also attend skills trainings and learning opportunities and reflect on their experiences to become more conscientious citizens.
“The program offers a space for accountability,” Lamkin said. Byron added, “it means using my time as a liberal arts student to learn how to be a better citizen alongside academics. By working in the Colorado Springs community, I can build a deeper connection to the place where I live.”
Byron has seen the benefits of his work up close and personal. During one voter registration campaign on CC’s campus in partnership with NewEra Colorado, Byron and Alanna Jackson ’23 “registered nearly 100 CC students to vote in a single day.” Byron added that “we actually ran out of clipboards from the sheer number of people who wanted to register at once” — an image both inspiring and funny.
Metcalfe’s favorite experience as a CES stemmed from connecting with community through the pandemic. After driving down to the Springs to lead work on the CC Farm in conjunction with Food to Power’s compost program, Audra said, “it was such an incredible experience because at that time I was feeling so isolated from campus — being able to get together outside and do something meaningful with other students will always be one of my favorite memories from that year.”
The CES program continues to bring students together with community and with each other—to “break the CC Bubble” as Lasher puts it and develop a stronger sense of place and personal efficacy. As community activism and engagement becomes more important than ever, CES students are on the right path to make a difference.