Jade Aubuchon, Chris Borja, Ian Martinez and Faizul Basit spent their Tuesday afternoon sharing ideas, discussing logistics and planning an all-day series of events to bring awareness to veterans’ issues.
The four College of the Canyons (COC) students are planning the event as the capstone project for their work as Civic Impact Scholars, an honor bestowed upon them by the California Community College Foundation’s Civic Impact Project this year.
“They have the opportunity to do this as individuals or as a group,” said Patty Robinson, COC’s faculty director for Civic and Community Engagement Initiatives. “They have chosen to do a group project and focus on veterans awareness week.”
The scholar program is part of Foundation for Community College’s Civic Impact Project, which began in 2016 with 25 pilot colleges who worked to engage students in local, state and national issues and promote lifelong civics-related skills, career paths and volunteerism.
Now, the Civic Impact Scholars program takes this engagement one step further by exposing students to career pathways, connecting them to a statewide network of students and allowing them to grow civic engagement activities on their own campus.
“We are lucky enough to have these four students selected,” Robinson said. “The goal is to start promoting civic engagement on community college campuses.”
On Tuesday, COC faculty members, COC students and Santa Clarita Valley community members joined the Civic Scholars at the Civic Engagement Steering Committee’s regular meeting to help the scholars organize and plan the upcoming events.
“What I’m envisioning is that we want to help our students and want to help our campus…. We really are about ‘Town and Gown,’” Robinson said. “To me, this is the perfect avenue and a way to create that community collaboration.”
The students explained that they chose to pursue a project surrounding veterans awareness after being inspired by Borja’s “22 a Day” display about veteran suicide in November 2016.
“I think we were all really inspired after seeing Chris’ display earlier this year,” Aubuchon said. “Veterans issues aren’t just in one part of our lives, it’s not just on the college campus or in the community; it’s all encompassing.”
Borja, a veteran himself, said the activities will bring awareness to veterans in the community.
“We deal with veterans every day of our lives,” he said. “It shows appreciation that I believe is lacking nowadays.”
During the day’s activities on May 19, the scholars plan on hosting an intergenerational veteran panel, a women veteran panel, a behavior panel, a keynote speaker, the “22 a Day” exhibition and culminating entertainment event.
“We’re working on the exact details of it right now but what we’re looking forward to having an intergenerational panel of veterans for them to talk about their experience during different wars from their perspective,” Aubuchon said.
The behavioral panel will focus on the topics of re-entry into society, military families, PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).
The group chose to move from a weeklong series of activities to an all-day summit in order to better involve the community and coordinate efforts on campus, following a suggestion from Bruce Fortine.
“As far as this group is concerned, you should be focused on what you can do at these two campuses [Valencia and Canyon Country],” said Fortine, a former COC Board of Trustees member who is working with the committee to organize on events. “We should focus on what we can do as a college community.”
Following a normal day’s class schedule, the group created subcommittees to organize speakers and panels, involve community groups and resources, bring in food trucks and entertainment and market the all-day event.
The committee, students and community members also discussed having attendees bring in some sort of item to donate to veterans and veterans groups.
The subcommittee groups plans to meet again in two weeks during the next Civic Engagement Steering Committee meeting to solidify plans.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_