Civic engagement sees new ideas projects

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Classes and students are getting creative for their civic engagement requirements. Cody Liskh taught about cheese.

Liskh educated a local high school class about cheeses from France. He taught the geography of the country through different popular cheeses, but also how it’s made.

“I’ll know when we’ve fully integrated civic engagement into the culture at Pacific when people are excited about the projects without a class requirement,” said Director for the Center for Civic Engagement, Stephanie Stokamer. She noted that a change is happening.

Jacob Davis is bringing his background to his project, creating a youth group in Hillsboro.

Emily Jaeger worked in a chimp refuge this summer and created a blog about her experience for her project. Another student is coaching youth soccer locally.

And while students are getting more personal with their ideas working their passions into their projects, there are still improvements to be made with the attitude of students involved with civic engagement.

“I think there’s still work to be done, some students are rolling their eyes still,” said Stokamer. This year’s graduating class is the first to graduate with the requirement, so changes in attitude have been made since. Stokamer said things are looking up.

The Center for Civic Engagement is growing too, with ten student workers this year. Last year there were only six.

An assistant director, Bevin McCarthy was also hired.

“The thing that’s exciting for me is it’s really student driven,” said Stokamer. “We have a staff here that’s not just photocopying.”

Senior Jordan Kronen is heading Oregon United for Marriage Equality, a group will attend the Portland Farmer’s Market Nov. 23 to collect petition signatures.

“It’s more than just volunteering,” said Stokamer. “It’s activism.”

Food Rescue, a program where leftover food from events is donated to people in need, was reinstated this semester.

Nutrition classes are splitting up the responsibilities of the program. Each class has different teams such as food preservation, education and communication teams.

The center is also piloting Service Saturdays as possibly an alternative to day of Service, said Stokamer.

These more frequent volunteer opportunities allow the center to spread activities and events out over the year and really develop projects they want to work on.

Stokamer said the center wants to add social activism to special events, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

There are 20 classes that fulfill the civic engagement requirement, just in the fall.

Some classes focus on specific volunteer efforts and other classes allow students to pick their own project idea that meet the requirement.

Liskh’s presentation and the preparation for it counted for French professor Jann Purdy’s 300-level class, mentoring and tutoring in languages.

Another class is a little more specific. Social work Professor Jessica Ritter’s principles of social work class is working with HomePlate Youth Services, a nonprofit providing services for at risk youth.

English Professor Tim Thompson’s writing about disabilities class was just approved as a civic engagement requirement fulfillment.

Darlene Pagan is teaching Native American literature and her class is working with the Pine Ridge Native Americans.

Other students are hosting fundraisers for breast cancer research, the Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter and other nonprofits. Drives are also a hit this semester said Stokamer. Students will run drives to collect sports equipment, hygiene products and a food drive, where students are tabling outside grocery stores. The annual Gifts for Good craft sale has been picked up as a project. Some students are working with National College Access Network, an organization working to empower youth to achieve their educational goals, at Forest Grove High School.

To help students get involved and complete the requirement, new classes will be held in the spring along with the usual classes for civic engagement. Grant writing is predicted to be a popular offer, said Stokamer. Companion Animal Science will take spring break to visit an animal refuge. Regenerative Design will take students out to work with the B Street Permaculture Project.

“There’s an indication that there’s a shift,” said Stokamer.

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