CMC’s Center for Civic Engagement builds community into CMC culture

Thanks to a grant from the Annenberg Foundation, CMC’s Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) opened its doors in September 2011, with the goal of providing an umbrella for the community service activities at CMC, and expanding the reach of those activities. CCE is headed by Amy Bibbens, formerly of CMC’s Office of Public Affairs.

Bibbens says the goal of the CCE is to integrate service into the fabric of CMC life and culture, and that it’s a perfect fit in the mission of the College. “I would love it if down the road there’s an expectation of students that this is what we do this is part of leadership to engage with the community,” Bibbens said. “We’re helping to bring out the goodness of our students. They’ll go out in the world as leaders, and we’re preparing them to do things in the right way and for the right reasons.”

The goal of the CCE this semester, according to Bibbens, is to increase individual opportunities for students who want to volunteer in the community.

“In the future, the Center will be able to connect students with opportunities in the community on an ongoing basis people who want to tutor, or people who want to work in a nursing home,” Bibbens said.

A key program of the CCE is the Alternative Spring Break, which offers students the opportunity to practice community service over spring break, March 10 17, 2012. One group of students will be based in a remote village inside Costa Rica on a sustainable farm. Students will work in the surrounding community, focusing on environmental preservation, sustainable development, and cultural exchange. A second group of students will travel to Johnson City, Tennessee to work with the Appalachia Service Project on home repair and improvement for low-income families in Central Appalachia.

Bibbens said the response from CMC students and the campus community has been very positive. She said the CCE received over 60 applications for the 24 available positions for Alternative Spring Break.

“The reaction to the Center has been tremendous. We had an open house at end of September and we had over 125 students here on a Friday afternoon.”

The CCE will also offer up to 10 sponsored internship programs during summer 2012, helping students intern with non-profits and citizenship organizations such as think tanks or campaigns.

During the school year, the Center has held a number of special events for students to participate in service projects, and has worked with several faculty to integrate service into the classroom. Projects have included providing a family shelter with food baskets for Thanksgiving, serving Thanksgiving dinner to homeless families, and working with previously incarcerated women in the community.

The Center is also planning a service-based Wilderness Orientation Adventure (W.O.A.!) project this year, engaging CMC alums and civic leaders in an urban service opportunity in Los Angeles.