From crisis shelter to council president

By Andrew Edwards

After travelling the country and moving from crisis shelter to crisis shelter having been displaced by domestic violence, Charles Pope has developed a unique perspective on life which he now brings to Whatcom Community College as president of the student council.

“Basically we were living on whatever resources we could get,” Pope said.  Pope’s family first moved to Connecticut after his mother met a man who lived there. However, they were forced to leave after he quickly became abusive. 

Having sold everything to reach the East Coast from San Diego, Pope’s family had no choice but to move from one shelter to the next, travelling to many different states, from Minnesota and Texas to North Dakota and Alaska.

“You go into a kind of chaos survival mode in that situation,” Pope said.  “You don’t really care about a situation as long as it’s safe.” 

Finally settling down in Bellingham gave Pope a chance to reflect on his experience, he said, and this led to him becoming a very philosophical person.

“I feel like school is really just a playground for life, and whatever you do here is going to be mirrored in the real world,” Pope said. 

While academics are an important part of the college experience, and the main reason people enroll, Pope said, there are many other ways that attending school can educate and give students direction.

“Learning, on the academic side, is a lifelong endeavor,” said Pope.

 To get the full value of the college experience, students should take advantage of opportunities to broaden their horizons and worldview, he said. 

Becoming involved in student government is a good example of how experiences can often be better learning opportunities than just attending classes, helping students realize what they want out of their education, Pope said. 

Pope initially intended to major in philosophy, but he developed an interest in politics through taking a leadership role.  “Once I got into it I realized it was just naturally something I always did,” he said.

After joining student council last quarter, Pope said he realized that council needed more direction.  He was elected to the position of council president for this academic year. 

“One of the big things we want to do is get students more involved on campus,” Pope said, through promoting clubs and scholarships.  Council is also working to provide students more resources, he added, like the new book rental program.

“Students don’t know about all there is” available to them, and council’s role is to make them aware and build a close-knit campus community, said Pope.  To make that happen, council will work more closely with faculty to improve communication between departments and students, he said. 

Pope encourages students to be more engaged with the student council, since “the role of council is to represent students.”  Council works directly with the campus administration and the board of trustees, which control Whatcom’s budget, so students are able to influence the direction of the college, he said.

“You can see the way our democracy runs in a nutshell,” said Pope.

“I think my ultimate goal is to keep refining Whatcom,” Pope said.  “There are lots of little things that will have a huge effect.  Something big is going to happen on this campus, and I’m excited to be part of it.”


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