Monday, April 2, 2012

Douglas College Grows with the Student Co-Curricular Engagement Awards

By Toby Reeve

Douglas College is growing. And it’s growing in a way that is about to be recognized. Tomorrow night, Douglife will present the inaugural Student Co-Curricular Engagement Awards.

To explain what this is, I want to introduce you to someone. Her name is Sanaah Dodhia. And she is very busy.

As well as being a high-achieving Sports Science student, the Douglife student staffer and volunteer has contributed countless hours to the college community and beyond: running student orientations, helping plan Clubs Day and International Day, and teaching children dance, among other things. 

“I’ve always found myself able to grow better when I’m given the opportunity to grow in a smaller place,” she says. Involvement with “small things” led to involvement with the biggest events on campus. The once reserved student has blossomed through extra-curricular activities.

The same can be said of Douglas College. Just a few years ago, there was little life here outside the classroom. As a commuter college, the campus emptied once students got out of class. Now, the school buzzes with clubs, activities and events.

This is all thanks to the actions of people like Sanaah. And now, such actions will be honoured and celebrated.

The Student Co-Curricular Engagement Awards recognizes students who have gone the extra mile to contribute to the college and the greater community, to inspire others with their leadership, or to bring students together through club involvement — all to make the college a more fun, welcoming and experiential place.

In the last few years, the number of clubs has jumped from 3 to more than 30, with now more than 700 club members. The number of student leaders has grown from 60 to more than 200, with initiatives like the Zambia Global Leadership Program and the Student Ambassadors. And every year, hundreds of new students become volunteers. The overall increase in student engagement is huge, with the number of students getting involved more than doubling in two years.

These students have plunged into their communities and created ripples that touch others in ways they may not foresee.

I am one of those people swept by an expanding ripple. To begin with, I have a confession to make: for most of my time at Douglas, I haven’t been involved outside of my program. I’ve been busy. I’ve had to focus on my career. As a mature student, I’ve felt disconnected from the campus.

I’ve had a lot of excuses.

But now, as a writer for Douglife, I see what I’ve missed. I work with people who are dedicated to building community and improving student life. I experienced the vibrancy of International Day when on assignment. I was inspired to take better care of myself after interviewing people about the Biggest Loser Challenge. Gradually, I’ve started to feel like I’m part of a college community.

I see ripples reaching all over of the campus, and beyond, creating growth.

As campus life grows, space is made for communities within the larger college community. Lacy Morin-Desjarlais, a student in the Child and Youth Care Counsellor program and founder of the Pow-Wow Club, has noticed a change with First Nations students. “I always go to the First Nations centre and hang out there,” she says. “And I think this year there’s been the most students I’ve ever seen pass through.”

Nicole Leyland, a Hospitality Management student at David Lam, has a slightly different experience. “We’re kind of forgotten over there,” she says, referring to the campus. “But people are getting more involved. There’s a lot more opportunities and people are taking things into their own hands.”

Nicole has organized bake sales with her program, donating part of the proceeds to charity. This kind of volunteerism is being noticed outside the campus. “You can definitely see that the name Douglas College has more of an impact,” she says. “ People are like, ‘Oh, yah, those people are doing stuff’.”

Tomorrow night, a few of those people “doing stuff” will finally be recognized. Sanaah, Lacy, Nicole and Kyeonghee Yoon — an international student in the Hospitality Management Program, who is also highly involved on and off campus — have all been nominated for the Leader of the Year Award. No matter who wins, though, we all benefit from what these students, and so many others, have done.

Kyeonghee sums it up: “I helped other people to grow, not just myself. So it is a win-win situation when I get involved in the community.”

The Douglas College community is growing. And it sounds like I have some work to do if I want to keep up.