If you are looking for a reason to be optimistic about about the ability of the generation of leaders to make a difference in our communities, one need look no further than Wenatchee Valley College.
Local products Matt Draggoo and Cameron Johnson, the past and current presidents of the WVC student body, have been on a mission to connect students more intimately with the community. When they look around the valley, they see opportunities to develop meaningful ties between the school and the community it serves.
They want to see the community show up not only for the school's athletic contests, but other programs as well.
Years ago, Wenatchee Valley College was more deeply connected to the communities it served. There were distinguished lectures on campus, the agricultural community was deeply linked with college and so was the athletic department. When there were important civic projects, the college played a leading role.
These days, with the severe funding challenges that face all community colleges, those connections don't seem to be as strong. One bright spot for the college has been its foundation, which has developed strong community ties.
On their own, Draggoo and Johnson took on the challenge of figuring out how to use student resources to best advantage in building student ties with the community. In talking with the leaders of the Grief Place, they identified a need for students to help out at Camp Erin, a Lake Wenatchee camp experience for kids who have suffered catastrophic personal loss. The women's soccer team and coaching staff volunteered and had a meaningful experience. They're on tap to volunteer again next year.
Other local ties are being developed. When the North Central Home Builders Association puts on its Tour of Homes in September, WVC athletes will be volunteering. Draggoo and Johnson see this as just the beginning.
Johnson notes that most of the students at the school are going to be in the community for years to come. What better way to build a stronger community than applying student energy to civic causes. They've tapped into the expertise of Draggoo's cousin, Braden Draggoo, a former Knight athlete who works at New York Life. Braden Draggoo has helped connect them with people and businesses in the community who are eager to assist.
"We want people to think of the college as their own," said Matt Draggoo.
I'm impressed by the initiative, commitment and passion these students are demonstrating to make a difference. They see the possibility of a more connected Wenatchee Valley College and are persistent enough to see it through. They'll make their share of mistakes and probably will ruffle some feathers along the way, but you can't fault their commitment to making it a better place.