Group builds connections through celebration, training, public forums
LIBERAL — The Inclusiveness & Civility Mover Team at Seward County Community College hopes to build on the momentum generated by a recent forum hosted by the City of Liberal.
“I&C has always been about making space for multiple viewpoints, and I see some exciting opportunities in our current community climate,” said I&C leader Rachel Coleman. “When SCCC students and alumni are voicing concerns right here at home, we want to support them, not just by talking about issues and amplifying their voices, but by helping in a concrete way.”
Coleman pointed to tenant difficulties and employment challenges as an example.
“Deputy police chief Brian Way set a great example for us in his response to Elizabeth Irby’s comments,” she said. “Yes, housing law and employment law are civil issues that the police don’t regulate. But like deputy chief Way pointed out, we can make a difference in our individual actions, and as a community, by upholding a higher standard than exploiting people who are vulnerable. It should not be acceptable for any of us to turn a blind eye, or wash our hands of responsibility. It’s about loving your neighbor. We have the power to expect better of ourselves and of each other.”
Community colleges have historically served as a source of civic leadership, said SCCC President Ken Trzaska.
“People used to describe it as thought leadership, but a better term might be community betterment,” he said. “It’s that ongoing focus on setting an example, speaking out, and examining ideas that might be challenging but ultimately strengthen the entire community.”
Amid the upheavals of COVID-19 and the upcoming U.S. presidential election, Trzaska said he hopes SCCC ’s inclusiveness efforts will spark positive change.
“The college could host regular forums, sponsor training for students who want to advocate for change, provide workshops for employers and landlords,” he said. “Our Business & Industry division is already bringing in a diverse panel of speakers, sometimes with the Chamber of Commerce, and it’s not a stretch to think about doing more of that.”
With the Liberal Area Coalition for Families as partner, Trzaska pointed out, the college has already established voter registration drives and transportation for students and team members on election days.
“With more people speaking out about issues that impact undocumented immigrants in the community, SCCC has a great opportunity to extend a hand of support, through ESL classes, citizenship classes, and one-on-one advising for academic and professional development,” Trzaska said. “The recent move of adult learning to the former Epworth building in downtown Liberal positions our instructors and team members in an ideal location to educate and empower Liberal’s newest arrivals and those who want to serve as allies. It’s an exciting time, and we should look ahead with optimism.”
Past I&C initiatives have included the annual Taste of Kansas multicultural potluck for the community on Jan. 29 (Kansas Day), inclusiveness training for students and team members, workshops for community members, and celebration of various cultural holidays.
“We aim to provide relevant and engaging events and training for people on campus and in the community, and we are always looking for new ideas and areas of need,” said Coleman. “This is the time of year we set goals, and we’re eager to welcome new members.”
To be part of the I&C team at SCCC, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 620-655-4077.