College's Partnerships Build Strong Students, Communities

The mission of a community college is to provide students with access to the knowledge and skills needed for making positive contributions in an interconnected world.

It takes a village for us to be able to successfully do this and meet our students' diverse and changing needs. Our strong community partnerships help us to "do it all," from providing hands-on learning opportunities, to enriching our communities through the arts and culture, to providing residents with a host of resources and services to make investing in their education possible. Our partnerships strengthen our mission, deepen our networks and bind our communities.

This year, as Waubonsee Community College celebrates its 50th anniversary, we're taking time to reflect on and appreciate all the partnerships that make contributions to the many and varied aspects of our scope of services. This month we celebrate our strong collaborations with nonprofits and service organizations that allow us to expand the reach and depth of our impact on our campuses and in our communities.

In addition to providing opportunities for students to give back to their communities and learn valuable workplace skills, our nonprofit partnerships allow us to simultaneously teach and serve. For example, during this tax season, Waubonsee is again partnering with the Center for Economic Progress to offer free income tax return preparation assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Last year, we were able to serve more than 900 families and individuals and bring $1.8 million in income tax refunds back to the local economy. As an added bonus, many of our volunteers are students who receive class credit for this important hands-on learning experience.

Also important is the service created through the college's partnership with Aurora-based Association for Individual Development (AID). Recognizing the need for critical support services outside of campus hours, the college and AID created the Waubonsee Talk Line in 2014. The Talk Line is a 24/7 hotline staffed by trained counselors, and a perfect example of how our partnerships with nonprofits make us stronger. In addition to crisis counseling, AID has also provided internships for our students, and therefore, important real-world skills to complement what they learn in our classrooms.

To demonstrate our own commitment, Waubonsee faculty and staff are encouraged to serve on local nonprofit boards, committees and projects. Not only do they get to give back, but they also learn something in the process -- about themselves and about our communities.

Albert Einstein said, "Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach." Our nonprofit and service organization partners -- in so many ways big and small -- help us to teach through example, and help our students and our communities to thrive.