Connecting the classroom with the community

By Ryan Tipper

 

When a local community comes together to do good, there is usually a specific goal in mind. One of the driving forces behind Whatcom County’s active community involvement is Whatcom Community College’s Service Learning Club.
With an ever-changing member base, the club welcomes all who are interested in being a part of their experiences as they work to make Whatcom County a better place. From events such as Martin Luther King Day to Earth Day, and others in between, the club is constantly active.
“Each month we try to have some sort of community service event to participate in,” said Oscar Aguirre, the president of the club. “We will have a representative from the chosen event come and speak to everyone involved.”
The club holds an open meeting for current and interested volunteers and staff on the first Thursday of each month. During this meeting, staff members will discuss community needs in the area as well as highlight service opportunities that are currently available.
“It’s a way to get involved and learn about different perspectives,” Aguirre said.
Once an event has concluded, the members that participated will meet to discuss their thoughts about it and reflect on the experience itself. Because students can opt in and out of whichever event they are interested in, they can get a far more personal experience with each service.
In January, the Service Learning Club participated in a celebration of Martin Luther King Day. As part of the event, an essential needs drive was held to benefit local agencies within Whatcom county such as the Bellingham Food Bank, Bellingham Hope House, SeaMar Health Center, the Opportunity Council. This drive also raised awareness for an MLK day kick-off breakfast that took place before a poverty action march and a service project.
With events like Make a Difference Day in October, opportunities are waiting for students who are looking to be an active part of Whatcom’s community.
While this formula has worked successfully for the club in the past, changes are coming swiftly. Due to issues coming up in the early planning periods, the club leaders are looking to make tweaks to this system.
“We are at a spot right now where one person ends up dealing with all the paperwork while everyone else just does the volunteer work,” Aguirre said. “It’s just not the most sustainable that way.”
The club plans to have their restructuring goals completed by March of this year and hope it helps make the planning process easier and more efficient.
“We want to try hard to integrate our school with the community,” Aguirre said. “All the events we have had in the past and plan to have in the future helps us get that much closer.”


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