Working for the CCE: Learning the World of Civic Engagement

February 20, 2012
Taylor Bonilla

When I first arrived at the steps of SSU, I was so ready to jump right into all the different volunteer opportunities I could find because I knew I wanted to impact my campus like I had done at my high school. I soon found myself stretched so thin I was exhausted. I used to think I could be a part of every area of the civic engagement world but due to my work at the CCE, I now know I will make the greatest impact by focusing on one cause.

Getting a job on any university campus is not an easy task, especially with so few job opportunities and the rivalry between college students who are trying to find a way to support themselves while going to school. Finding a job that works in the community with non-profits to promote civic engagement, public service, and activism is hard to find while being a freshman in college. During my Educational Opportunity Program Summer Bridge Orientation I learned about a student assistant job that had everything I was looking for in terms of working for a non-profit.

In the summer of 2010, I visited Sonoma State University for the first time, where I learned about a student assistant job during my Educational Opportunity Program Summer Bridge Orientation. I remember Merith Weisman, who is the supervisor for the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), coming to recruit the EOP incoming freshmen tow ork in her office. The CCE was only hiring two student assistant positions for the following year. I knew immediately after Merith's presentation that I wanted one of those positions. I was very optimistic and went into the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) office to hand in my application and talk more about fulfilling the requirements needed to perform the job. After I left Sonoma, I received a call weeks later offering me one of the positions.

When I accepted to work at the CCE, I had never heard of service-learning or community-based participatory research. However, I was excited to learn and gain as much information from this position and my supervisor in order to make a difference not only in my school but in my community. The CCE works together with faculty and non-profits to bring similar interests into play to benefit the university and the community. Academic service-learning differs greatly from internships and community service in many ways, such as by using the community experience in the class as a "text" for increased student understanding, using projects designed by faculty and community partners to meet a need of the community, and at the end of the course the students are required to complete a reflection activity to understand why their involvement made a difference for the common good.

I enjoy the work and responsibilities that the CCE provides me with.These days, it is difficult to find a job that you love while benefiting many people. Although my official title is student assistant, I manage the CCE's Google Sonoma County community calendar, where I post various community non-profits events. The events that I post can range from workshops to webinars to fundraisers. Along with the calendar, whatever I post there goes onto the Twitter feed which has increased activity for the CCE significantly.

This new resource we are utilizing has already shown great impact for the CCE and has made it easier for people to find jobs and events. As technology advances, so should the way we use it in order to provide services for the community.

I also assist this office by helping put on workshops, conferences, and meetings for faculty, students, and community partners. I am a member of the CCE Strategic Action Committee where I participate in implementing ideas from the Strategic Plan in the areas of community engagement, diversity, and sustainability. At the CCE, I have come to notice my skills are never wasted and are utilized whenever possible.

Working for Merith Weisman has been one of the best decisions I could have ever made, besides attending Sonoma State. The passion she displays working for the CCE spreads to the rest of the staff and makes us work harder. She pushes our abilities to the fullest. If we do not know how to do something, rather than simply giving us the correct answer, she encourages us to find the answer ourselves, challenging us. She really takes an interest in what I have to say about issues on campus and current affairs. Merith makes me feel as if my opinion is worth something and that I have the power to be the change I want to see in my life and on campus.