The Office of Student Life and Development at Whatcom Community College held the third annual half-day conference on Oct. 11, known as Catch the Next Wave in the Syre Student Center.
“This conference is all about the many leadership and engagement activities at Whatcom,” said Mario Alem, president of the Associated Students of Whatcom Community College. CTNW featured student-led breakout sessions and a keynote speaker.
The keynote speaker, Luis Ortega, is the director and founder of Storytellers for Change, an organization that uses the power of storytelling in communities to create a positive social change. Storytellers for Change creates, shares, and listens to stories that inspire people, and uses them to create a place of belonging.
“For me, storytelling is the key mechanism, through which we don’t only develop an understanding of the world, but an understanding of each other, and our own personal journeys,” said Ortega.
Ortega focused on the importance of telling stories and listening to what others have to say.
“To be a human being is to be a storyteller,” said Ortega.
The conference was held with the intention to help educate students on the importance of being scholastically engaged, and how making connections helps them to succeed both academically and personally.
The first student-led breakout session included information about the ASWCC Executive Board and Student Government, the ASWCC Orca Volunteer Program, the Orca Food Pantry, the Student Recreation Center, the Intercultural Center, and ASWCC Clubs.
The second student-led breakout session included information on Orca Pods, social justice at Whatcom, the Whatcom Learning Center, Orca student athletics, campus security, and the behind the scenes of campus events.
Ortega, who lives in Seattle, came to Whatcom to teach students and share his passion for storytelling.
“I was invited to facilitate a session where students would have an opportunity to learn from each other through storytelling,” said Ortega.
Ortega invited students to share their own stories and experiences with others through a series of activities and sharing circles.
“I really believe that we need to create more opportunities for students, educators, and administrators to hear from each other. I think when you do more storytelling you have the ability to create a more empathetic, inclusive, and equitable education,” said Ortega.
Ortega asked the audience to reflect and share on personal journeys that brought them to Whatcom, making sure everyone had a chance to be heard.
“Make a commitment to listen more. I think it’s a simple, yet daunting task and we live in a time where we’ve forgotten how to truly practice that,” Ortega said.
The audience was asked about great spaces at Whatcom, and what made them great.
“A great space can be found anywhere as long as people are willing to create it,” said Ortega.
Ortega shared motivating stories and experiences that affected him and invited the audience to share challenges that they overcame on their journey to Whatcom.
“The job of a storyteller is to tell a story that makes us feel motivated,” Ortega said.