The deadline is April 15 to apply to be a Civic Engagement Scholar (CES) for the 2022-23 school year.
|Apply to Be a Civic Engagement Scholar|
The deadline to apply for a Civic Engagement Scholar position in 2022-23 is April 15.
To apply, complete the following three steps:
• Submit your resume and cover letter on the Civic Engagement Scholar Handshake posting.
• Complete the Civic Engagement Scholar online application.
• Sign up for an interview using the Google form.
Questions? Contact Assistant Director Moises Hernandez.
CESs are student leaders who work through the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) to coordinate ongoing community partnerships with Kalamazoo organizations that promote literacy, youth development, gender equity, food security and sustainability, immigrant rights, health equity, voting rights, the arts and more.
Independently or in pairs, scholars work with community liaisons and recruit and manage K students who participate as volunteers or through federal work study. CCE staff provides support while allowing CESs the freedom to shape and manage their program.
CESs also participate in reflection sessions with other scholars, and run reflection sessions for the K students involved in their programs.
With a wide variety of programs and community partners, the CCE offers diverse opportunities for students seeking a leadership role in engaging with the local community. Some shape students’ path after Kalamazoo College; all teach valuable skills. Read on for the stories of three current CESs and their advice to other Kalamazoo College students.
Reyna Rodriguez, El Sol Elementary CES
In her second year at K, Reyna Rodriguez ’22 committed through the CCE to volunteer at El Sol Elementary, a Kalamazoo magnet school with dual language immersion where all students spend half their instructional time in Spanish and half in English.
“I knew being able to speak Spanish to those kids was going to feel a little bit like I was home,” Rodriguez said. “I loved it. I grew up thinking I wanted to be a teacher and while I had steered away from that path, being in the classroom has steered me back into education.”
After spending the 2020-21 school year learning remotely, Rodriguez applied to be a CES for the El Sol program. In that role, she has recruited, educated, interviewed and submitted background checks on K students, coordinated their schedules with El Sol, and participated in and led structured reflections.
“I’ve enjoyed it more than being a volunteer, because I get to see more of the behind-the-scenes work,” Rodriguez said. “While I’ve been in school settings, tutoring and things like that, I never thought, ‘How is this possible that we can enter the schools?’ Seeing the logistics and rules the district has, like background checks, is going to be important for my future work.”
Observing different teaching styles in the classroom has also been a valuable experience for Rodriguez. A chemistry major with a minor in psychology, Rodriguez currently plans to take one gap year to work in an elementary school or continue her job in adult computer literacy before going into a master’s program for educational administration or leadership.
Leading the reflections was a learning process, from the big picture—finding ideas and researching—to the little details, such as reserving a room.
“My winter quarter, I led a reflection about social emotional learning,” Rodriguez said. “I talked about what I learned in my SIP (Senior Integrated Project), which was on some of the challenges that English learners were facing in virtual learning, and what we could do about that.”
Rodriguez has also led reflections on learning how Kalamazoo city government works, as well as other aspects of Kalamazoo and the Vine neighborhood, where El Sol is located.
“K students are residents of this community,” she said. “Do they know the local restaurants and local shops; do they support them?”
Rodriguez enjoys the structured reflections CCE staff puts on for the CESs.
“I’ve been able to appreciate that more because I know what it takes to lead them,” Rodriguez said. “I love the CCE. I feel like they’re a close-knit family. They’re definitely always checking in, respond quickly and are always ready to support us.”
For students interested in the CES role, Rodriguez said, it is important to understand there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work and to be organized and ready to help both the community partners and the K students who participate. She encourages all students to consider working with a CCE program even if they are not yet ready to fill the CES role.
“As long as you have a year of experience in the program under your belt, you’re more than ready to take a bigger step,” Rodriguez said. “Just be ready to make a difference in their lives and yours as well.”
Emmeline Wendel, Students for Reproductive Freedom CES
Emmeline Wendel ’24 spent her first year at Kalamazoo College virtual due to COVID-19. Learning virtually from Seattle, Wendel knew she needed to find ways to engage with other students and the K community. After looking into a few student clubs, she connected with Students for Reproductive Freedom.
“I found a bit of myself in that program because I’m adopted from China and was personally impacted by governmental family planning,” Wendel said. “I thought it would be a good way to look at the different intersections of my life and my journey and also learn more about a topic I’m passionate about.”
Wendel began attending the weekly virtual meetings, making an effort to engage and share her thoughts—something that did not come naturally for her.
“In high school, I wasn’t a very outspoken individual,” Wendel said. “It was only my senior year that I found my voice. One of my goals for college was to integrate and engage and get to know many students.”
Wendel’s passion for the topic helped her overcome her shy feelings, and the CES that year, Ruth Butters, took note and invited her to help plan a meeting. Eventually, Butters invited Wendel to apply to be her co-CES for the 2021-22 school year.
“I’m very grateful she reached out,” Wendel said. “I consulted with Ruth a lot about what the position was, what it would entail, the responsibilities, any advice she would give me.”
Wendel decided to apply for the CES position based on the benefits she thought it would afford both herself and others.
“I wanted to have the space to explore my own personal reflections, and also hear what others think and reflect on their thoughts and opinions and questions,” Wendel said. “I wanted both to raise my own voice and to be a part of the K community.”
SRF works with community partners OutFront Kalamazoo and Planned Parenthood as well as other student organizations to help educate students, facilitate discussions and host events.
“I’ve met so many wonderful individuals who are passionate about what they do and are making a positive impact on the Kalamazoo community and Kalamazoo College students,” Wendel said. “It’s inspirational to see how hard people work and it’s rewarding to make those connections.”
Working with the CCE has been a positive experience as well.
“I have really enjoyed working with my advisor, Riley Gabriel,” Wendel said. “They are super understanding and kind and communicative. We meet weekly to check in and see how SRF is going. I appreciate their support. I also often communicate with Alison Geist. They are both amazing coworkers and delightful to chat with, helpful with brainstorming and organizing logistics, and a lot of fun.”
Wendel has learned a lot from the CES role.
“One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to go into a community and listen and respect their boundaries, requests, decisions and community guidelines,” Wendel said. “I hope and believe Ruth and I are trying to support and spread awareness of the issues the community wants to have and needs to have addressed.”
The job has also improved her interpersonal skills.
“I feel like I’m much better at making connections than I was—talking with people for the first time, reaching out and using my voice in a larger community setting,” Wendel said. “I was very shy and didn’t like talking. I would engage through writing and art, not orally. I have found my voice through the CES role.”
Engaging and getting involved is key for all students, Wendel said, especially those coming from far away.
“For all students, I would really advise getting connected and engaging with the CCE,” Wendel said. “It has provided space for me to reflect individually, and also given me a powerful mindset in how community plays a huge role in many intersections of discussions. For out-of-state students, I highly suggest it. Being away from home can feel lonely at first. It has been really powerful to work together with passionate individuals and integrate myself into the community in a way that respects the community.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”
Ryley White, Woodward Elementary CES
Ryley White ’23 started at K in fall 2019 and learned about the CCE’s CAPS (Community Advocates for Parents and Students) program at her first K Fest. She quickly fell in love with the program, which provides tutoring for Kalamazoo Public Schools students who live at Interfaith Homes on the city’s north side.
“Having a chance to connect with the community, especially a community that I identify with, was empowering,” White said. “Sometimes as K students, we forget the power we have, and that’s the power to make change. Just being consistent with tutoring makes a big difference in those kids’ lives.”
The CES for the CAPS program, Aarzoo Qureshi, inspired White to apply to be a CES, a process that was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She spent her sophomore year taking K classes remotely while working at a childcare facility that provided remote tutoring camp for elementary students. In the spring of that year, White applied to be a CES for the CAPS program. The CCE staff, however, thought she would be a better fit for the Woodward Elementary program.
“I thought, I’ll take it, because there must be something they see in me that I’m not seeing in myself,’” White said. “I thought I would give it a shot and see how it goes, and I’ve loved it ever since.
“The CCE staff knows the community partners; they know the needs of each program, so people should go in with an open mindset.”
White started as a CES for Woodward in the fall of 2021. The fall quarter was heavy on recruitment at K events, working to rebuild the program after COVID-19 interruptions. White also instituted interviews with K students who signed up to participate, leaning on her childcare experience to discern if participants were a good fit for working with children. During winter quarter, White took the initiative to recruit more diverse K participants.
“The students at Woodward are predominantly African American,” White said. “We wanted them to see more representation of themselves. Currently, about 50% of our K participants identify as students of color, which is really great for the kids.”
In addition to recruiting K students, White communicates with a community partner at Woodward to coordinate scheduling, taking into account teacher needs and student availability, while juggling issues that pop up, such as snow days and COVID-19 contact tracing.
Leading and participating in reflections is a crucial piece of the program.
“The last reflection we did was about how COVID-19 has impacted education,” White said. “We watched a YouTube video from the Harvard Dean of Education talking about how remote learning has caused delays or additional setbacks. Then we asked our participants to talk about how they see this happening with our students or what they think we should do with this information moving forward. Structured reflections provide a chance to think about why we’re doing the work we’re doing and I think that’s critical. We probably all volunteered in high school, but I don’t think that we actually thought about the work we were doing and engaged meaningfully, which is something the CCE does very well.”
The CCE also promotes work-life balance, White said.
“The staff is really good at trying to get student workers to think about how we can be better leaders while also taking care of ourselves,” White said.
The CES role has taught White about setting boundaries and interpersonal communication.
“It can be awkward managing your peers,” White said, especially if there are issues with a student’s attendance or performance. “You have to be okay with setting firm boundaries because you have to think about what’s best for your community partner/program, and in my role, I also have to think about what’s best for the kids.”
The role has also honed her public speaking and pushed her to speak up and advocate for her program.
“I was never a huge talker,” White said. “I was kind of shy. In this role, you’re forced out of that bubble. If you want participants for your program, you’re going to have to learn to advocate.”
White has also benefitted from seeing and building connections between her psychology classes, her interactions with students at Woodward, her work as a certified nursing assistant and her plans to apply to physician assistant school after graduation.
“The CCE supervisors are so amazing and supportive,” White said. “If I have any ideas or have something I want to chat with them about, they’re always open to having those conversations. They’ll say, ‘That’s a good point. I didn’t think about that,’ or, ‘What do you think is the best way to go about that?’ Sometimes on campus jobs, you’re just told what you have to do and you just do it. This role allows independence and the ability to make bigger decisions that can shape how your program moves forward. The amount of independence and self-sufficiency you have is something unique to the CCE.”
White plans to serve as Woodward CES again her last year at K. She said students who are interested in the CES roles should talk with current CESs.
“Hearing the student perspective and getting a deeper understanding is more impactful than just reading the bullet points listed on the job application,” White said. “Even though this role can seem overwhelming, once you are a CES, you will see the flexibility and support that you have from other CESs and the CCE staff. You will know there’s a whole community of people who rooting for you to succeed and are more than willing to help you in various ways.”
Students should not be afraid to apply, White said.
“Get out of the K bubble. We’re here for four years, get out and connect with the community. There’s work you could be doing that’s so impactful and meaningful and it will change your life in ways you never expected.”