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What is the best way to solve a problem at the same time creating positive reinforcement, all the while producing a better environment and circumstance for all? Â Community engagement brings together people within a community with similar concerns and goals that otherwise would not know where to turn or could not accomplish with an individual attempt. According to The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Community Engagement on a collegiate level involves everyone; teachers, faculty, students, the community, and political figures. It broadens ones civic commitment and compels the community to become more involved in a mutually beneficial way ("Community Engagement Elective"). Generally, a community can get more achieved within a group effort by publically engaging a situation. This will bring about many individuals that agree or want the same things. The consensus has been that a community will feel more driven and have ownership in a common goal. The more people involved in a common purpose or goal the more that can be accomplished for the betterment of all ("e-Lead").
The United Way is one organization that provides a good source of community involvement. From childhood literacy, the high number of student dropouts, to stamping out hunger, the United Way has many community urgency difficulties that an individual can focus on and help eliminate. The focus of this report is on community engagement within campus life and the United Way does not fall short in this area. They have a section on their website that focuses on how to get volunteers and even give suggestions as to how a college can help bring students together, share ideas and become more involved ("Unitedway.org").
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The old adage "It takes a village to raise a child" rings true when it comes to community engagement. No one individual can do it all. The more who are involved, only comes to reason that the more ideas, opinions, educational backgrounds, and creative ideas will come into play to help solving and eradicating our social and economical problems that society deals with today ("Minnesota Department of Health" p 15).
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Some may ask, "Why should we become concerned about lifting others up?" Simply put, showing assistance to those who need help will ultimately provide self-reliance where there once was little or no resources to do so. It creates self respect, higher goals in one's life and lifts many burdens off a community as a whole. There is no one answer to solving a community problem. Education, aide in health, housing, and employment can be a good start but not one area is the solution (Loewen p.8-11). Autonomy is all encompassing and everyone can benefit from the effects of this. More funds can be allocated to other needs and more individuals can now also become contributors to uplifting others out of problems they once faced themselves.
So how can students help create a more sustainable community? RCCC has shown that there are numerous areas that have the capacity to show involvement. Students have raised money for Haiti survivors during our welcome back breakfast (" Rowan-Cabarrus Community College "). "The ENG232/HIS132 American Literature/American History class collected jeans for Haiti survivors" (Creeger). The campus has and continues to hold blood drives, diversity day and quit smoking events which creates a more healthy and informed community (" Rowan-Cabarrus Community College ").
The Community College also brings together a diverse group of individuals that are seeking educational enhancement to transition themselves into the working environment (Colleges for Communitiesâ€¦p.3). A Community College can and should bring together local employers with students that are interested in the fields that they provide. This connection is vital in keeping our community engaged with one another and educating not only students but providing potential leads to employers who are seeking employees who have an interest in the fields that they are seeking to fill. This type of proactive engagement has a positive impact on a community by providing the links of local human resources that are not tapped into previously. The implementation of Internships and Co-op's are just two ways that College resources can be utilized within a community. Options a community has to offer become broader for future graduates. This creates diversity in the workplace, all the while boosting a local economy (Colleges for Communitiesâ€¦p.3). Graduates can now be introduced to potential careers locally when before may have been focused on relocating for career opportunities. Community Colleges should and need to be aware of the mutual benefits of working closely with employers and other institutions on a local level (Community Engagement Elective Classification). The sharing of knowledge, resources and information produces a better student and a more informed future employee.
A Community College must also understand the benefits of working closely with the community that they reside in as a whole. Students, parents, employers, teachers and county and state institutions all have a role to play within the Community College experience. Information that is provided to a community will provide more understanding as to what teachers need to provide education, colleges need to run the institution and students require to obtain the degrees they are seeking. This line of communication can create a more adequate understanding to what laws needs to be implemented and what funds need to be allocated for a functional facility to thrive and prosper (Chadwick p.14-15).
The Minnesota Department of Health suggests that there are a few steps in order for a chosen community engagement to be productive.
Do in-depth research. Be very clear what the goal is and who it is that the engagement is to reach. What are the demographics, educational structure, and financial situation? Do as thorough of an analysis as possible. Has an engagement been attempted previously and was it successful? What could be improved or changed to implement better communication and a more productive environment (Minnesota Department of Health p.16).
Work within the community not outside of it. Become active at all levels of the engagement effort, from leaders to subordinates, inside the group or organization. A trusting relationship and open dialog builds confidence on all levels and promotes a positive course of commitment and dedication (Minnesota Department of Health p.16).
Remain flexible with ideas and goals. The Community Engagement is to bring together ideas from all within the community not renounce an already set belief and value system. A diversity of ideas should always be considered welcomed and received in an affirmative manner. It will set the dynamics within the group by working together and accomplishing goals as a joint effort (Minnesota Department of Health p.16).
As the above graph from the Sydney Department of Planning shows, there are also several ways a group can focus their engagement by which type of need one is trying to accommodate. A community may only need a passive involvement to bring about a positive group action. On the other hand it may be necessary for a full level of participation and education to accomplish the empowerment and ultimately leadership a community needs to achieve their goals. This is why an honest and open line of communication is a must for a Community Engagement to be successful.
Â As a Community College, in order to be successful, engagement must become an active line of communication with every means afforded to us. It could be technological; blackboard, texting, emailing, online classes, web sites, or face-to-face; tutoring, campus classes, campus civic groups, or advisor appointments. No matter what means chosen, colleges must listen to and observe students and faculty to always be aware of the most efficient way to communicate and inform. It is also important that students and faculty know that they are a part of the solution and have a say in the evolution of progress. No matter the choice, students should have a means to get the information they need in a convenient and practical way (Making Connections).