My civic engagement experiences have allowed me to develop a greater understanding of community growth, resilience, and adaptability which have been at the core of my learning and leadership development at Colby.
How have you been involved with civic engagement at Colby, and why is it important to you?
I first became involved with civic engagement at Colby the first semester of my freshman year at a community trick or treating event that took place in the downtown apartments. Volunteering to coordinate this event showed me the ability of the community to convene around shared traditions and celebrate together. I later had the opportunity to co-lead the civic engagement COOT trip and work closely with community partners at the Alfond Youth Center and Camp Tracy. This experience opened my eyes to the many outlets and opportunities for civic engagement and ways that I can personally address the needs within my community. In hopes to build on civic connections and expanding civic opportunities at Colby, I then began working with the Office of Civic Engagement to create Colby’s first civic service-based alternative weekend trip program. Programming this initiative allowed me to further think critically about community needs and ways to foster active interest. Now a junior, I am currently working to address a community need for wellness with the Colby Museum of Art in collaboration with local partners. These civic engagement experiences are important to me because they have allowed me to directly confront the needs of my community. The ability to foster connections with community partners has been profoundly impactful and has allowed me to develop a stronger familiarity with my environment.
How has civic engagement contributed to your learning and leadership development?
My civic engagement experiences have allowed me to develop a greater understanding of community growth, resilience, and adaptability which have been at the core of my learning and leadership development at Colby. Since my freshman year, I have faced challenges transforming my understanding of community in a setting drastically different from the one in which I grew up. Although I have met people with unique perspectives and backgrounds, many of which are contrastingly different yet parallel to my own, I recognize I am still no expert on navigating differences. I recognize that there is still so much more to learn to truly actively engage, organize, build relationships, and establish a presence within my community. As I become more involved within my community through civic service, I am able to draw connections in places formerly unknown and use these connections to provide a space for others to also actively engage. Civic engagement has the potential to transform personal perceptions of difference and allow you to turn towards the community in difficult times.
What is something you have learned about yourself as a result of your civic engagement experiences?
Civic engagement has allowed me to think critically about my position within my community and ways to facilitate meaningful connections with those working to serve my community. I have found that I learn the most just by taking the time to have meaningful conversations. When volunteering at Camp Tracy I was able to talk with community members during service about their concerns regarding their community, challenges they have faced inspiring active citizenship, and experiences growing up in the Waterville community. As I believe that the strength of a community lies within its ability to truly foster meaningful relationships and mutual connection with the surrounding environment, these conversations have allowed me to interrogate my ideas of community and ultimately reimagine my awareness of the importance of civic engagement.
Looking ahead, how do you imagine civic engagement will inform your personal goals and professional future?
Through civic engagement, I have learned that community outreach, civic service, and volunteering are fields that I am interested in actively exploring within a career and beyond. I have become inspired to work to actively foster a more equitable and inclusive community not by prescribing my own resolutions, but by developing a stronger degree of understanding and knowledge of the needs of my community. This summer I will be interning with the ACLU of Maine where I will be working with the volunteer engagement team to coordinate community events and fundraisers. I chose to work directly within the community at the Maine regional chapter of the ACLU because I wanted to further my understanding of social justice and advocacy efforts within the state of Maine and use this knowledge to identify areas of disparity and inform opportunities for change within my community and the greater Waterville area. I want to learn from those doing the work by listening to stories, histories, and pathways of advocacy that exist within my community, here in Maine. Through this experience, I aim to explore issues that actively impact my community by working with those directly involved in the fight against injustice for a more inclusive, accountable, and equitable community